So, a long time ago I was lucky enough to get into the Alpha of Global Agenda. Back then it was very simple, very messy, hardly a game worth looking at let alone playing, and I left it, quickly forgetting about it and moving on. However Steam recently started advertising it all over it’s front page and it reminded me that I still have access to it. With the game now in late beta, less than 3 weeks away from launching, how is it?
Long and short of it is: Not good. Taking into account nothing but game play, ignoring the (many…) balance issues and technical quirks, the game feels like little more than UT in third person. The ‘MMO’ aspect is none existent and I’m honestly not sure how they can get away calling it an MMO at all. If this is an MMO so was Steel Battalion, so was Chromehounds, and Mech Assault 2: Lone Wolf, STILL IS an MMO.
What I find very interesting mind you is that HiRez Studios, the chaps behind Global Agenda, are pushing Conquest mode as their big thing. The reason you’ll want to play a subscription… That screenshot over there to the right is the Galactic Conquest map from Mech Assault 2, the game mode is called Conquest and is a meta game where groups of players, usually 10 on 10, play to fight for a system.. That is an original Xbox game, has no subscription plan, and is superior to GAs game play in that I can choose to pilot a ‘Mech, go it on foot in an Elemental Armour or perhaps support everyone else from the Air. Global Agenda offers only one option, go on foot or GTFO, see that Mech in the picture up there? That’s AI controlled.. Chromehound’s Neroimus War was the same game play, as was Steel Battalion’s. NOT ONE of those games had the cheek to call themselves an MMO, and not one charged a monthly fee to access the (considerably more fleshed out…) Conquest modes.
Essentially, what GA does differently than any other games is that it adds a class based infantry system. You can choose to play one of four roles: Assault is the heavy weapons guy of Global Agenda, has all the big guns and is supposed to have the most staying power of any class. In my experience the slow movement and weak weapon damage when using your special weapons simply gets you killed faster than any other class. The Robotics guy is a support class, and is essentially the Engineer. He can deploy shield walls and gun turrets, and interestingly enough his basic assault rifle does more damage than anyone else’s. He can also build very powerful turrets and I found I had the most success with this guy. Next up we have the medic: Guess what he does.. And finally, Recon… and here is where I feel the game falls flat on it’s face. A game that is supposed to be all about team work and co-operation has a class made for solo play… longest range and hardest hitting gun of any class. Can cloak and sprint at the same time. Gets an even better sprint on top of that and also gets more ways to kill than any other class. This will have the most players at launch by far…
This brings me on to my real point: A game like Global Agenda should take the route of the many Conquest style games before it and simply do away with classes. Let the player determine their role by their choice in gear and armour. Exteel, a game with almost exactly the same game play as Global Agenda pulls this off superbly, to the point where I prefer this much older, and Korean game over the prettier and shiny Global Agenda. Players are not stupid, and the hardcore competitive crowd GA is aimed at will use any and all tools they can to win. This means the majority will be running around as Recon and exploiting weapon builds and as soon as HiRez fix one, they’ll all move to the next Flavor of the Month. It’s a never ending battle every class based shooter has to deal with, and one that is easily avoided. Do not push away creativity, do not force the user to select a class and then stick to it. Let them experiment, let them change what they’re doing. In Exteel a player simply has to change their weapon and they can switch roles, but a dedicated player will spend hours in the hangar, fine tuning their mech parts to perfect their build for the role they enjoy without feeling like they’re locked to that choice too harshly.
Is Exteel perfect in this regard? No, far from it, however it is in my opinion a vastly superior and infinitely more fun game than Global Agenda is at the moment. I very much doubt GA will stay in it’s current state for long, and i’ll be sure to keep an eye on it, and keep you posted, but for now, do yourselves a favour and go play the original and balanced Conquest games, or enjoy some free mech action with Exteel.
This is the first in what I hope will be a series dealing game design, player experience, balance and hype. Stay tuned for me!