Global Agenda is one of a few new science fiction-themed MMOGs that have been announced recently. Developed by Hi-Rez Studios, the title blurs the line between FPS, MMOG and strategy game, delivering something that is a fun amalgam of the three even if it lacks a lot of the depth found in any one facet. As such, Hi-Rez has named their game a "spy-fi" MMOG.
The game wrapped up its open beta a bit ago, finally going live on February 1st. As an indie title, it's utilizing Steam for content delivery and the Unreal 3 engine as its technological backbone. Since Global Agenda is a fusion of several genre archetypes, it's probably best to explain what the game actually is.
Global Agenda is set in the 22nd century following a severe global disaster. An authoritarian government known as the Commonwealth has taken control of the planet, ruling the remaining population of a billion with an iron fist. In the course of the game you play an Agent, a genetically engineered super soldier who was created under the Commonwealth's control to deal with rebellions but instead was "freed" and given a chance to fight against them on your own terms.
The game features four classes: assault, recon, medic, and robotic. The assault class is your typical general DPS/tank character, recon is your rogue, medic is self-explanatory, and robotic is a hybrid pet class with a supplementary support role. As I tend to migrate towards healer roles in MMOGs I found there to be some balance issues with my survivability compared to the other classes, but I suppose this is probably intended. Compared to other games, Global Agenda pushes grouping as a necessity rather than a begrudging option tacked on after the fact.
After buying the Global Agenda box, the base game itself becomes free to play. The base game includes competitive PvP maps and a series of PvE "missions" for groups of four or more. The PvP maps are essentially instanced skirmish fights across five "modes" and twenty unique maps, pitting teams of players against one another for experience points. The PvE maps have you fighting Commonwealth NPCs in linear "missions" for experience and resources to be used in crafting. The bulk of the game is accessible for players who just buy the boxes, from a level cap of 50, access to the auction house, and player "agencies" for your guild fix. However, for players who subscribe to the monthly fee, a whole new mode of gameplay unlocks called Conquest.
Conquest opens a persistent game area for "Alliance vs Alliance" territory control and ongoing content updates. While the gameplay in the regular PvP and PvE maps come off as a bit repetitive and superficial, Conquest is really where it shines as massive groups of players fight with one another over territory and limited resources, raiding bases and control points to further their sovereignty. To "win" an AvA map requires substantial effort and coordination from player alliances, necessitating cooperation beyond a shallow involvement. Hi-Rez suspects that this will serve as a sufficient "end game" for interested players, although they promise more co-op content updates as the game continues.
For your character itself, each class has access to three skill trees the likes of which we've gotten accustomed to from World of Warcraft and Warhammer. These are dependent on your class and augment things like the medic's healing skill or the robotics' gadgeteering. You accumulate skill points as you level up and have to complete missions for experiences points to do just that. But beyond this mechanic, there's not a lot to be found of the "traditional" MMOG stereotypes. There's no real quests, no expanding story or drive pushing your character's progression, just the ever repeating struggle for territory and resources.
I've found the combat pretty interesting, although I've consistently had issues with matchmaking; in the PvE maps the game really seems to enjoy pairing me, as a medic, up with two other medics and a DPS class. I don't know if it's a lack of players in the queue (though I doubt it, as queues have always ended pretty quickly for missions and I've rarely had to wait more than a minute before I'm in one) or just poor logic in the matchmaking scheme, but I'm sure I don't have to explain how difficult it is to complete a timed mission with only one player doing decent DPS. Similarly, in PvP matches I've always been shoved into teams against players significantly stronger than I was.
However, even though I suspect it will get repetitive fast, I did really enjoy Global Agenda. The combat isn't shockingly new but it was fun and familiar, and the MMOG mechanics worked to create something that was refreshing and enjoyable. Conquest is where the game really shines and a monthly subscription is going to be mandatory for anyone who wants to see the game as anything but another generic third-person shooter. Visually, the game is very pretty, although its character customization sits somewhere above World of Warcraft but under Aion in terms of total control. In the end it's an interesting release in a genre that tends to be pretty derivative, and anyone who favors PvP games will find a lot in Global Agenda to enjoy.
Score: 4 out of 5.