Global Agenda is disappointing, offering fun but quick-to-stale gameplay amidst an unfinished fps-mmo hybrid wannabe.
Eventually, it broke me. I knew I had to be on the ground floor of this exciting new game.
This was a grand mistake.
If you're reading this, you've probably made a wiser decision than I. You've decided to research the game before buying it based on sheer indoctrination and marketing propaganda. Sometimes things are exactly as they seem. Sometimes games are every bit as awesome as they're advertised and a whole lot more. But I assure you that this is not the case with Global Agenda, and I'm here to tell you why.
What is Global Agenda?
At the heart, Global Agenda is an objective-based multiplayer first-person shooter. However, Global Agenda promises to be a LOT of different things. Most notably, developers HiRez and small marketing team tell us that it is also an "MMO", talking a lot about our individual character(s), crafting upgrades, buying and selling components, interacting with others in large cities, shopping and co-operating on so-called "PVE" missions (another typical buzzword when discussing MMORPG games referring to a team of people working together to fight computer-controlled AI enemies, typically in an "instanced" level isolated from the rest of the game population). Also, and perhaps most exciting of all, they speak a lot of "conquest" mode - for an additional monthly subscription fee of $12.99 USD per month, you can run an Agency (the "guilds" of GA) and form an alliance with other agencies, co-operating to claim, defend and attack hexes of land on a large war map which can be upgraded with defenses and facilities during your ownership and used to collect resources and build things over time.
Global Agenda's classes and gameplay are interesting enough, although the PVP multiplayer match maps are generally an uninspired series of windowed boxes with some sort of background graphic implying that it's part of some city or some remote part of space. Anyone familiar with Team Fortress 2, it's gameplay and classes will generally feel right at home. There are similar game modes and map types, vying for control of control points or struggling through enemy defenses while pushing a payload down a defined track towards an end point and a new addition (my personal favorite) involving a player-controllable robot that must reach the enemy fortress while being supported by it's own armaments and backing teammates. Unfortunately, despite having a giant robot with dangerous mechanized claws and automatic projectile weapons, the objective more or less requires you to run away from your enemies if you want to win, completely undermining the fun factor. Global Agenda's matches are a lot of fun, but the fun wears quickly. It is not nearly as polished as that of some of the competition on the market and the very limited number of maps (uninteresting ones at that) really put a damper on the attention span. Strategy also tends to revolve around setting up defenses and staying put for an entire match or running to a capture point and standing there until it's over, the game isn't very conducive to advanced strategy or rewarding creative tactics. Much of the time, the only excitement comes from wondering how much XP you've earned for the match towards your next character upgrade.
Every class has it's own unlockable and customizable set of skills and weapons, with a skill-tree reminiscent of most modern RPGs and MMOs to specialize your character's abilities around specific tactics. Once you reach level 30, which can come about in a couple of days of rigorous play, you've unlocked all of the useful abilities and equipment for your character and every level after that is merely for show - potentially allowing you access to new cosmetic upgrades. This includes new armor and helmet models, and the purchase of dyes which can be used to color the armor any way you like. Unfortunately, no matter how long you spend decking out your character's appearance though, most people will only see how fearsome and powerful you look while inside of "Dome City", as custom dyes for other players during missions/matches is turned off by default in the options. You appear in bright oranges and blues to everyone, helping everyone forget they're playing a game released in 2010.
The so-called "PVE" content can be interesting but grows stale quickly. You form a team with 3 other persons and enter an instanced level where you fight computer-controlled robots and bosses and the like. Admittedly, these PVE missions seem to have more inspired level design than the multiplayer versus matches. They're laden with interesting traps and challenges, and of course plenty of enemies ranging from weak robot to invisible assassins, self-healing tough guys and giant mechanized robotic spiders that pull you away from your team and right into the danger. There is a time limit to clear through it all and reach one of several bosses placed at the end, each requiring it's own strategy to efficiently defeat. These missions range from very easy to very hard, and you can select the type you wish to do. Most interesting conceptually is the "Double Agent" mission type, where 6 players are matched up, 4 go in as a team, and 2 of them work on the enemy team, working with the levels boss and resident AI minions to keep the opposite team from finishing the level. It's a very neat concept, but we quickly see that it's just the same old formula with the addition of the potential for player spawn camping. PVE missions are, however, a source of rare blueprints and crafting materials. One may find this interesting, but this is where the game's veil of perfect mediocrity starts to crack and it's true colors start to pour out.
Every time you defeat something, you have a chance of picking up materials or blueprints. With these, you can craft upgrades to boost your character's attack, defensive or healing abilities (among other things later on). It takes awhile to accumulate enough components to construct any of these things, and unfortunately, the more you use them, the closer they become to being broken. They all have a durability rating on them, and there is no way to repair the items, and they will usually break down while you are collecting materials to build your next upgrade... creating what at best could be described as a plain and simple vicious circle. You could of course try your luck in Dome City at the auction house, where other players post components for sale. But between the auction house's buggy interface, poor search function and the crazy prices (as a result of the general lack of economic structure), you'd probably be wasting your time. There is also an NPC to trade components with in Dome City, bringing about the possibility of relief. But apparently, despite the sign hanging above his head, and his verbal insistence that we need to do business with him, he has no interest in doing business with us. You cannot interact with the NPC in any way. Which brings me to the heart of Global Agenda's problems.
Dome City is where you spend your time in Global Agenda when you are not in the thick of a multiplayer battle for glowing orange ground circles, or fighting repetitious hordes of robots. It is where you form your teams, agencies and do your shopping, reset/reallocate your skill points, among other less significant things. The first realization one may have when exploring Dome City is the sense that maybe the advertising squad mislead you a bit. On the website for GA itself, it mentions that the game all takes place on a single server host system, suggesting that you will at all times be a part of a world containing thousands of different players. In actuality, when you log in, you're placed seemingly randomly into one of several dozen exact copies of this city. You'll notice that you're in "Dome City #26" or something similar, and that you have to visit a transportation center to travel to another city that is exactly the same in every way to go see your friends. There is no world beyond this city. This is it. You hang out in this city, and then you go do missions against players or AI minions.
What's much worse, however, is that upon exploring the city, you quickly realize that there is nothing there. You can purchase decorative armor, that serves no purpose apart from altering your appearance, more expensive decorative helmets from a seasonal vendor (who, by the way, informs you that you "suck" every time you speak to them) consisting of things like a giant undetailed brown minotaur mask, or a shiny silver minotaur mask for much more money. You can retrieve and send mail from the shipping center of course, or reset your skill points to respend them as you see fit. You can also buy your dyes in Dome City to color your armor, as I previously mentioned. But you must know about the "secret" vendor in order to buy several of the colors. That is, there is an invisible NPC selling dyes along side the other ones that you can only discover by pressing the button to interact with an NPC in a particular empty space. An obvious mistake or bug that's been present since the game came out a week and a half ago. There's also a place to manage agency application or recruitment and a place to buy simple facilities for agencies participating in conquest mode. The rest of Dome City is filled with stairways and platforms that lead nowhere in particular, and shops that are not open, with giant signs advertising services and products that are obviously intended to be a part of the game but were never finished in time for the release date. These stairways, empty spaces and closed shops account for a good 60% of the city. A very shallow experience to say the least. And yes, this is a commercial, publicly released game. This is not a review of a beta version. I don't really understand why large contingents of the gaming public always insist on granting some sort of grace to new games, exclaiming things like "It just came out, give it time!" - I take my gaming and fun-having seriously and the fact remains that they took my money for something they never finished. Would you be OK with buying an advertised brand new, fully-equipped automobile only to discover that was missing it's steering wheel, windshield, one of the side windows and a couple of the seats? Is "it's new, give it time!" an excuse worth hearing? An extreme example, but I hold to my sentiments. It's a poor attitude that serves only to bank on the hopes of disappointed gamers.
The most interesting and conceptually engaging component of Global Agenda, at least on paper, is easily the Conquest mode. Also referred to as "AvA" or "Alliance vs Alliance. Generally speaking, the basic idea is to get as many friends, strangers and minions together as possible, form agencies and alliances and dominate the world, as laid out on maps with hex-shaped grid locations to occupy and fight over. The problem with Conquest is in it's execution. In order to participate, not only do you need a lot of people, you need a lot of people that are willing to play every single day at the same time. While requirement for commitment isn't a game flaw into itself, the game design that went into Global Agenda's Conquest specifically demonstrates a lack of thorough planning and design refinement. Essentially, your crew has to pick from one (or all) of several "zones", each of which is open for a couple hours every day (each with it's own specific time). The idea is that you pick a zone that lines up with your team's availability. Then you form "strike teams", consisting of up to 10 players each and can contain any mixture of strangers or agency members. (Needless to say, if you have to fill empty slots with strangers, be prepared with strong words of leadership as they ultimately have no motivation to be there - they're only helping your agency gain land.) What takes place next is a lot of waiting around while the strike team leaders place "bids" on hexes on the map with agency credits - much like a simple auction process. The winner gets ownership of the hex if it was empty (hexes are only empty at the start of a campaign, campaigns last 45 days and the first one started Feb 2nd 2010), or else they gain the rights to attack the hex. Then the hex owner receives an alert that they're being attacked and have 5 minutes to assemble a 10 man defense team. If nobody is available to come to it's defense, the hex is lost to the attackers. You can improve hexes through research and building upgrades and owning other hexes in proximity and different things of the sort. Shields can be present preventing the outright attacking of a hex without another hex with missile launching capabilities to bring down the shield being in range, essentially creating a top-heavy system where the first ones to the punch can hunker down and sit on a chunk of the map for a long time without the threat of many attempted attacks by random outfits.
In short, you're required to have at least 8 to 10 people free for every hex you own in each zone for periods of 2.5 hours, sitting around and ready to respond to defend a hex within 5 minutes. Every single day. On top of which you need additional members to go on the offensive, unless you want to run the risk of being attacked while fighting another battle elsewhere and not being able to respond. You of course need enough credits to fund the bidding process and acquisition of constructions and goods for running your facilities and maintaining your land. All this fantastic responsibility for a mere $12.99 USD per month, on top of the $49.99 to purchase the game.
There is one other thing worth mentioning, as one final eye-roll inducing gesture. You may have seen all those fantastic advertisements talking about how their are no elves in Global Agenda. The not-so-subtle attempt at appealing to bravado and distancing themselves from the majority of current MMO games even appears in the FAQ on their website in the form of "Are their elves in this game? No." It turns out that even this is misleading, as in a grand stroke of irony, they decided to give everyone who preordered the game a celebratory Elf mask - complete with a pale red and yellow hood that doesn't match anything else in the game. These are permanent pre-order gifts and in walking around Dome City or playing some matches, you'll quickly realize these goofy elves are EVERYWHERE.
In a few words, Global Agenda will not live up to any of your expectations. Every word on their website is stretched to it's limit, giving me the impression that the site itself is going to violently shoot of my screen if I scroll through it too fast. It will not offer you the experience they promise it will, the best of it's content will entertain you for a week of heavy gameplay and some later stop-bys to play the typical multiplayer matches. If you have an extreme amount of patience and a few loose screws, you might be able to enjoy some of the conquest mode, perhaps by way of joining one of the large existing alliances. I'd say one could buy it exclusively as a multiplayer FPS game, but there are plenty of smoother competing games that offer better-of-the-same for less than half of the price. (I'm looking at you, Team Fortress 2 and 9000 source engine games!) Without a doubt, I was burdened with more excitement reading about the game before it came out than actually playing it.
Global Agenda has a lot of potential, maybe check it out further down the road to see if they've refined it a great deal. But for now, sorry fans, the only thing "massive" about this game is the amount of buyer's remorse I'm experiencing. I want to love Global Agenda. I've tried really hard to.
Goodluck HiRez and Global Agenda, you're going to need it.
Everyone else, You've been warned.
PS: For your amusement -
PSS - Update June 2010:
After numerous attempts at getting in touch with HiRez' customer service and support team, all I've managed to get out of them was a notification that they've closed my support tickets without writing/speaking a word to me. They sent me a lovely invitation to fill out a survey based on the customer service interaction that I never had. I filled it out, though I imagine it will end up in the trash with the rest of my emails and support requests.
Do not buy this game.