Anyone who makes it through this lengthy review of Global Agenda gets an anti-TL:DR cookie. You all love cookies, yes?
Character Creation: Bottom line, it’s present only so it could be listed as a feature on the box. Sure, you can make a character, play with some sliders to make it “yours” but it is all for naught. Once you enter the game you’ll look just like every other character. When you do get fed up looking like every other member of your class, and believe me, you will, you’ll have to plunk down large sums of credits for new gear skins and dyes to really diversify yourself.
Opening & Lore: Your character comes into existence during the (optional) tutorial mission. The introduction video and eventual escape from a gigantic test tube is voiced with the background of how all player characters came to be. The bit of lore is interesting, but it’s just a taste of something greater. Something that’s never shown in the game again.
There’s actually quite a bit of well-written history and backstory for Global Agenda. The catch is that struggle between the Commonwealth and the players isn’t documented in the game anywhere. And that’s why the title feels soulless. There’s no greater story thrust in our face at every turn to remind us why we keep fighting, who we are fighting for, and who we are fighting against. To get a lore fix players have to head to the official website and read tales and history that should be presented in the game in some fashion.
User Interface: To call Global Agenda’s User Interface clean would be an adequate description. It’s not minimalist, but far from busy. The HUD is laid out like most other combat-based MMOGs – hotkeys set to the number bar – but there are only eight buttons located at the bottom of the screen. That’s not the “default,” that is all there can be.
Each button corresponds to switching to or using equipment. Furthermore, the equipment is the same across all classes. Meaning that ‘1’ is always your melee weapon, ‘2’ is your ranged weapon, ‘3’ is your specialty weapon and so on. The mini-map, party frame, personal frame, chat window and buffs are relegated to the outskirts of your viewing screen. This leaves players a wide-open targeting area with a single distraction; two small bars displaying personal health and energy.
Global Agenda is a third-person shooter at its core, and the User Interface is designed with that in mind. It’s just not perfect and the lack of customization doesn’t help. The major point of contention comes from the Medic class. Medics quickly learn to hate the UI due to its frustrating auto-targeting of friendly players. Hi-Rez Studios touts the lack of tab targeting as one of the title’s defining features, but the design decision (and PR talking point) is one that medics whine over constantly.
Obviously, a medic does not point its gun at the thing it wants dead, but the player it wants to save. When there is a group of players in a tight area, as there often is, a healer will invariably fight with the auto lock-on function of the gun. It’ll hit the wrong player, stick to players with full health instead of half health, or lash someone far away when the person jumping in front of the gun is the intended target. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your assault bite the dust because the Healing Beam decided Mr. Cloaked Recon was more important.
Quests & Grinding: There are no quests at the moment – Hi-Rez Studios is planning to do its own thing – making grinding the only option. The grind in Global Agenda isn’t like the repetitive monotony in other MMOGs. Not entirely at least. The only way to gain experience in Global Agenda is by completing missions, PvE or PvP. Again, you actually have to complete the mission; a disconnect or crash results in wasted time and lost XP. Talk about frustrating.
The way Global Agenda awards XP is through perks and bonuses at the end of missions. Kills, assists, damage, healing, and other statistics are analyzed and calculated to award contributors. Every player gets something, the skillful get the most. Therefore, XP per hour is based solely on personal skill and teamwork.
Dungeons: The PvE missions are the only thing in Global Agenda comparable to your average dungeon. There’s only four strict PvE missions, with a fifth assigning two party members to be assassins on the other team. Only having four dungeons may sound like an incredibly small number, Hi-Rez manages to keep things fresh by adding dynamic elements to each dungeon.
Maps and layouts remain the same, but the Commonwealth adapts to the invaders by mixing everything else up. Mob count, pathing and placement changes per deployment. Complicating matters is the addition of (generally) easy-to-avoid platforming obstacles – fire pits, poison rooms, and magmafalls. That’s until shit hits the fan after a party member hits an alarm, spawning two helbots on top of you as you attempted to tip-toe around a flowing river of lava. Let’s not forget the rotating team of boss mobs, each with their own unique abilities and attacks.
Believe it or not, Global Agenda’s missions are challenging. It’s actually quite amazing when you consider how stupid the AI can be. The Commonwealth’s guards may hide or cower in plain view and they often die to the traps in their own facilities. Very stupid. Yet, the proof’s in the pudding; 50-70% completion rate is the going norm for a PvE victory, according to information from the Player Search.
PvP: PvP is a fickle beast in the eyes of many a player. There’s the group that loves it, the faction that hates it and the people who are indifferent. This fissure is generally caused by the idea of ganking, or one player dominating another because of level or gear differences. That doesn’t happen in Global Agenda.
The PvP system is designed so that everyone is capable of participating in all battles. Two medics of the same skill but drastically different levels will heal on the same level. That’s because the system rewards higher level players with gear that increases the versatility of a character, rather than its overall power. There is simply no need to artificially boost or lower the abilities of a character to allow guildmates or friends to play together, because levels are relatively meaningless. PvP is all about personal skill and teamwork, not time spent.
Player combat, either individually, as an Agency or as an Alliance, is the core experience of most players. Players train for it, level from it and learn the ropes of the game from level 1 to 50 by murdering their fellow gamers. Your basic random team PvP matches have a solid range of scenarios to participate in, ranging from payload and escort to king of the hill and assault missions. The game offers nothing innovative to the idea of squad-based shooting, it just executes the staples well.
Unfortunately, the much touted feature of Alliance vs Alliance combat is not on par with standard PvP. Large alliances have had a huge advantage over smaller ones – newly introduced Theft Missions notwithstanding – and these guild monopolies have even worked the system by allowing people to take territory, just to take it back for bonuses and perks. It’s doubtful anyone expected a new mechanic to be perfect at launch, but there are some clear shortcomings to the system. For instance, why bother having an attacking team load into a mission if there is nothing to stop them. No players, no automated system, nothing in their way. Player time is wasted, unless the defending Alliance quickly forms a group and joins before being too far behind. It is a very annoying and frequent occurrence.
Polish: The core gameplay of GA is polished, period. Shooting works, PvP is well balanced and PvE isn’t full of bugs. Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues outside of shooting. Hell, walking looks painful. Crafting is annoying, and not worth the time or credits it takes to max level. The mail and auction house system are archaic and the specialization trees are uninspired. Even basic grammar and fact checking has been overlooked. “You team has 90 percent” and an audio warning of “10 seconds remaining” when there are 30 seconds left are just two examples of facepalm-worthy slips.
It is plainly obviously that the gameplay was completed first. Everything else was put on the back burner until shooting was deemed fun and enjoyable. That’s actually a good thing though, because the game isn’t broken, just rough.
Technologically speaking, Global Agenda delivers a mediocre buffet of buzzwords and choices. Graphically, the game looks like your typical Unreal Engine 3 game, meaning average. Our ears fair no better, receiving a soundtrack and voiceover work that failed to move me in any direction. There’s a generally acceptable ping for everyone and the game contains enough sliders and tweakable settings to support a wide range of hardware. The one downfall is Window mode. Its implementation is poorly executed with a hidden and locked mouse (hit enter to chat to bring it up, or alt-tab out) and persistent sound.
The offering is a lot like Old Country Buffet – there is a lot to chose from, but none of it is better than average.
Uniqueness: Global Agenda is a merger of Team Fortress 2, Tribes and EVE Online with a multitude of various MMOG staples sprinkled on. I can’t name another MMOG that’s even close to that menagerie (PlanetSide would be the closest).
Overall: 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. Two patches have been released to address bugs and tweaks. Each also included requested features, such as repair kits, and additional content, like new Alliance vs. Alliance maps and mission types.
Players looking for something different would be naive to pass up on Global Agenda. After all, how many recently released MMOGs have had people talking about how well the company has supported the game and its subscribers?
Now if only Hi-Rez Studios would release some sort of trial to tease you with. Global Agenda is now available for $39.99 from Amazon and has a slightly lower than normal subscription fee, should you chose to subscribe instead of the single-purchase method, of $12.99 a month.