Yesterday morning the Global Agenda servers were taken offline to apply the first part of the absolutely huge Sandstorm patch. Once Steam notified me that the game had been updated, I jumped in to see if all the PR fuss from Hi-Rez Studios panned out.
- The game seems to have received almost a cartoonish polish. Everything from DirectX 10 implementation to the new menus feel more inviting thanks to new color palettes. However, I’m not sure if it fits the universe.
- The token system forces players to select a spec and stick with it more. This happens because you have to buy all of the good weapons, or collect them as random drops. You’re no longer awarded them for hitting level X. Adds a bit of thought and strategy to the game.
- A truckload of people returned to the game for the patch. Guild members were actually online, dozens of matches were running for PvP and PvE and Dome City felt alive. Here’s to hoping it sticks.
- Players can actually gain loot from playing, not just crafting pieces. Had Hi-Rez Studios created a more robust crafting system, this wouldn’t have been needed.
Click the read more button for the rest of my initial impression of Sandstorm, including what Hi-Rez Studios missed. Click it, dammit!
- I instantly noticed the addition of DirectX 10 support. Even if the Unreal Engine remains a generation behind (we’re on DirextX 11 now), the engine tweak makes the game pop more.
- All of the skill trees are presented on one sheet. Very clean and easy to use.
- The most used UI menus – character, personal stats, gear – have been cleaned up as well. They are simpler, brighter and far more attractive.
- The class statues in the new class vendor shops are awesome.
- Skill trees remain bland, boring and, well, just underdeveloped. They need to be redesigned so players will be awarded points throughout their careers, and with some inspiration to the names and choices.
- Only teams of two or less are allowed to queue for a PvP mission. WTF?
- Alt-tabbing still causes the game to crash if it’s in full screen mode. I alt-tabbed to start this post and could not get back in. Oddly, alt-tabbing works fine when in windowed mode.
- Bosses in PvE missions are still bugged. Adds constantly respawn and you can be pulled through the protective barrier.
- Right and left clicking while not targeting anyone with my BioFeedback Beam still drained energy.
- Agency UI, including AvA maps, was not redesigned.
- Chat UI remains cumbersome, frustrating and lacking basic customization features.
Global Agenda has two things going for it, it is original and the core gameplay is enjoyable. The next most important thing is that Hi-Rez Studios has already shown that it is willing to do what it takes to whip the rest of the game into shape.
The description holds, but Global Agenda is no longer just an original shooter with MMOG features glued to its sides. Sandstorm has made GA a much more polished game as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, it still needs work, but Sandstorm Phase 1 was indeed a game changer.
I look forward to playing a lot more this weekend. Expect another report. Until then, bask in the gallery of Sandstorm shots below.