Global Agenda First Impression

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February 2 saw the release of two MMORPG.  Both have subscription fees, both offer PvP and PvE content, they include guns and are set in science fiction universes.  The similarities pretty much stop there.  Cryptic Studios’ Star Trek Online is geared to satiate the hungered trekkies out there, while Hi-Rez Studios hopes to appease the Team Fortress 2 crowd.  The main content, philosophies and core mechanics couldn’t be more different.

Global Agenda starts players off in an optional tutorial that explains the basic features of the game, squad-based third person shooting.  The developer used this normally boring ordeal to explain the world, how the player came into existence and their reason for being.  It’s a creative way to introduce players to a game, one that tackles two problems.  First off, it details the absolute basics of the game – movement, jumping, crouching, etc.  Things that MMOG players know.  Thanks to the interactive story running alongside the tutorial players are not bored to tears.  I rather enjoyed learning about the world as I was making my escape.  Too bad I haven’t seen any interesting blend of gameplay and story since.

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Pros:

  • Gameplay polish – Too many MMOGs are being released with all sorts of bells, whistles, trinkets and garnish, but no meat and potatoes.  Global Agenda has offered polished gameplay since the closed beta period.  PvP combat is fast, accurate, relatively lag free and well diversified.
  • Mission briefings – Mission briefings are exactly what they sound like.  Short, non-interactive descriptions of the various PvP locations that a player may find themselves a part of.  The briefings not only describe the objective(s), including a fly-by, but why the scenario is an important asset to claim.
  • Timed missions – It doesn’t matter which you enjoy more, PvP or PvE, both types of combat are timed.  This may annoy some players, but it definitely gives everyone a sense of urgency to finish the goal.  Players seem to be a lot less likely to stand around in PvE, and far more aggressive in PvP when there’s a clock winding down.
  • Bit-sized gameplay – The combination of instanced and timed mission along with Global Agenda’s own matchmaking system means that gamers can get in and out of a play sessions very quckly.  Global Agenda is a title that is easily digestible in small bits, and easy to level without a guild.  That makes it a good game for casual players until level cap.
  • Payload – As characters level up they unlock additional items to equip on their character.  Gear only offers small upgrades, so a player’s defensive and offensive skills are paramount to the success of a mission.  The diversification is as extreme as a few teched out items, or a jack of all trades character.
  • Semi-dynamic encounters – In damn near every MMOG, running the same dungeon gets boring as soon as the players learn the ins and outs of pulls, encounters and line of sight abuses.  The developers at Hi-Rez Studios mix it up a bit by changing the positions, mobs, pathing, level layout and even bosses for each instance.  Traps and environmental damage make dungeons even more replayable.
  • Stable server & quick support – No MMOG launches without its issues, some game breaking, others just tedious.  Global Agenda’s launch was relatively smooth.  Little to no lag, no queues and with enough population and level distribution to carry out any mission in the game.  That being said, there were small issues present.  Most of them were quickly hotfixed and patched the week of release.
  • Diverse PvP arenas – Global Agenda launched choke full o’ PvP arenas.  Players can join a good range of scenarios including payload, attack and defense, king of the hill, objectives and escort.  And soon we’ll be able to decide what we want, instead of it being random.

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Cons:

  • Stupid AI – The artificial intelligence for the PvE NPCs is atrocious.  Robots can easily die before reacting.  They may hide or cower in plain view and they’ll die to the traps in their own facilities.  Sorry, but these robots and elite assassins should know they’ll get squished or melted in their own facility.
  • No world or universe – The Mission Briefing feature I touted above would make you think there might be a universe, but there isn’t.  There’s no where to walk around and take in the sights.  Even Dome City, the game’s home base, is incredibly boring.  There’s lore sprinkled in from the website and a dash in the PvE system, but the briefings will deliver the majority of context the game has to offer
  • Ranges on guns – Global Agenda’s successful ad campaign lambasted the cliches of most MMOGs, but the game has some itself, including range.  Various, but not all weapons, have undisclosed range limitations.  It’s incredibly annoying when a weapon is fired and it doesn’t reach the intended target.
  • Uninspired specialization trees – One way to specialize your character is through skill trees.  By selecting one tree over another a class can change quite dramatically.  For example, a medic, your typical healer, can morph into a healer that can deal a dangerous amount of poison damage to the other team.  The specializations are nice in theory, but the talents within them are uninspired.  Want to heal more, then select Beam Heal Boost (+4% healing), or Jetpack Power for addition flight (-50% power cost).  Then move on to Beam Healing Boost II (+6% healing) or Power Pool Increase (+50% power pool)!  It’s not only a lack of interesting spells, but a lack of spells in general.  In fact, if you ignore the tiers of spells, then the healing tree only offers seven unique options.
  • Lose of XP – Losing XP as part of a death penalty is one thing, but losing it to a disconnect or crash is another.  If a player is dropped from a PvP or PvE match for any reason they are sent back to Dome City.  Their place in the battle isn’t reserved for when they return, and it isn’t filled either.  Because Global Agenda awards XP upon the completion of a mission, getting dropped means you’ve been robbed of whatever XP was coming to you.  It doesn’t matter if you left in the first ten seconds, or the last, nothing is awarded.  I’ve been stripped of XP around a dozen times now.
  • Crafting – It’s clunky, time consuming, expensive and unfriendly.  Thankfully, Hi-Rez is already working on an overhaul.
  • Non-unique characters – Compound the boring skill selection with few cosmetic options and you have many characters that look exactly the same.  There are costumes available, but few players bother to pick them up due to costs and because the outfit isn’t that different.
  • Poor windowed mode optimization – One of the loading tips is that the game runs in Windowed Mode.  It does, it just doesn’t run all that well.  The game will sit on top of the taskbar, you’re forced to alt-tab out of the game to capture your mouse, it has uninspired taskbar art and defaultly spouts its sound whether the window is active or not.  I can’t find a way to stop the sound either.  All of the issues are minor, but they need to be addressed.
  • Bad auto-grouping – The various auto-grouping techniques employeed by the multitude of MMOG developers have often been hailed as one of the best features of their respective games.  Hi-Rez Studios’ effort is not in that category.  I understand that getting people in a mission quickly is the utmost priority, but I am willing to wait a few minutes to avoid three medics or three recons in the same foursome.
  • Tutorial – The introduction was great, but that’s all it was.  There’s far more complex features, tactics, abilities and choices that are left unexplained in Global Agenda.  The title needs additional tutorials to help new to intermediate players morph in to powerhouses..

I’ve yet to get in to a solid guild/alliance to really dive into the Alliance vs Alliance part of the game.  I was lucky enough to partake in some AvA matches with developers and players during beta, and it was fun.  Essentially, AvA battles are large scale PvP missions against pre-made groups.  I’ll have more on AvA for you as I gain more experience.  To me, half the fun in AvA is making the tactical decisions on the hex grid.  It forces the leaders to be true officers.

The core of Global Agenda offers a well polished, fast paced battle against player combatants or not-so-smart NPCs.  The game shines when you’re in the heat of battle against other opponents.  The rest of the title is lacking in comparison.  That being said, Hi-Rez Studios gave players two months of free play while the company works out the kinks.  I’ll be around for at least that long.

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Check out the rest of our Global Agenda coverage here.

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