A shooter and an RPG? in an MMO? They must be mad!
Trying to combine genres is something that has been going on since video games began. The idea of trying to tap into more than one market is a sound one from a business point of view. But in practice, combining two video game genres successfully is quite difficult and these games would more often than not end up irritating the very market they were trying to reach.
Imagine, if you will, trying to combine two well established genres, the shooter and the RPG, and then making the game into an MMO. This seems to be the holy grail amongst the Massively Multiplayer market at the moment and the few that have been released have met with only limited success.
However, earlier this year Hi-Rez Studios unleashed Global Agenda on the world. The game ran a successful marketing campaign which centred on the fact that it was an MMMORPG/Shooter hybrid and that the game world contained no Elves, effectively pointing out that the game is nothing like World of Warcraft. So far as unique selling points go, I’ve seen worse.
Set within the future reality of 2155, the world is now pretty much owned by a massive world government that appears to be a bit heavy handed with it’s ruling techniques. But, as with all stories that start in this manner, there is resistance in the form of a number of independent factions. These factions strike back at the global government with elite operatives that have been trained in advanced warfare and kitted out with the latest tech. It is one of these agents that the player becomes.
The character creation process offers the player a number of different ways to customise their avatar and make them as unique as possible, which is always nice in an MMO. There is nothing worse than heading into a public area and seeing a myriad of clones running around. As with most MMOs worth their salt, you get to choose form a variety of different classes for your character. In Global Agenda we have four, each with a very distinct role on the battlefield. The Assault class is your standard, heavily armoured bringer of pain. Used to being right in the thick of it, they are quite happy to take the brunt of any damage dished out. The Medic will spend most of their time healing the Assault class players, but are capable of dealing some damage too. The Recon class are lightly armoured, able to turn invisible and use stealth to take out their enemies most effectively. The final class is Robotics. These guys offer the support with a selection of offensive and defensive gadgets, such as force fields and turrets.
So, Global Agenda comes across primarily as a shooter, which is no bad thing. There are a lot of RPG elements thrown in, such as the skill trees that each class has and the leveling up system. But the gameplay is unmistakably a shooter. A third person shooter at that, with the camera hovering diligently just behind the players avatar. From the very beginning, within the tutorial, the player is treated to what is quite unique amongst MMOs, excitement. I am not saying that other MMOs are not exciting, it’s just that the whole “click monster, click attack, repeat” thing simply requires that the player A. knows what they are doing and B. can click a mouse. Global Agenda offers a shooter experience where the player will be hiding behind scenery and actually taking aim at their enemies and firing. There is just more skill involved. Anyone can click a button with a mouse, but being a crack aim whilst hurtling through the sky with a jetpack takes a fair bit of practice.
Anyway, either with a bunch of friends or alone, the player can take missions in order to get themselves some sweet equipment upgrades and level up. This is why we are here, after all, and leveling up is so very important when it comes to the other common MMO aspect, which I will discuss soon.
Whilst the missions on offer are relatively simple to follow and complete, they do tend to lack a bit of variety, which is a shame. Playing through these missions is essential, but certainly seems to be the weaker aspect of the game. The lack of variety and sheer amount of time that a player would have to invest to reach any serious level, is certainly enough to put some people off.
The other aspect of the game, Player Vs Player, is where Global Agenda really comes alive. Playing PvP is a huge amount of fun, but at the same time it can be incredibly frustrating. The truth of the matter is that most people playing PvP are really damn good at the game. The objective based match ups offer a real chance for strategy, but no matter how strategic your thinking, if your character is not the best they can be and your shooter skills are not up to scratch, then you will be spending a lot of time on your back, enjoying the futuristic scenery. It can be incredibly harsh, but still loads of fun. Add to this the chance to help your agency with the capture of territory in an ongoing struggle with other agencies, and you have a damn good reason to keep playing.
Upon first release, Global Agenda was offered as limited free to play, with certain aspects of the game only available to those who subscribed. This has all changed with Hi-Rez deciding to take the Guild Wars approach. Now the player buys the game and will have to buy all future expansions. But they have access to all content and there are no subscriptions. The game has even, just recently, been released in boxed form within the video game shops of the UK.
Global Agenda seems to have all of the boxes ticked for all of the genres that it is trying to incorporate. For the shooters there is a well implemented shooter mechanic, and enough weapons to keep everyone happy. The RPG fan gets to level up in a meaningful way, with skill trees and masses of equipment/loot to collect. And the MMO gamer, we have a decent community, plenty of missions and a strong PvP component.
The game is not perfect. As I said earlier, variety seems to be the major sticking point in the games road to success. But playing an MMO is not like playing other games. With other games you get the finished product and, barring patches, what you see is what you get. With an MMO, you get a work in progress. As time passes, and as long as the players keep coming back, these games can only improve in both quality and content. Global Agenda has the potential to become a great game, with bit more polish and additional content. But it has made a brilliant start and if you are a fan of MMORPGs and fancy something a bit different from your usual fare, or a shooter fan who wants a bit more depth, check the game out. It may very well be just what you are looking for.
It seems that the good news just keeps on coming. Up until Friday 24th September the cost of the game can be reduced to just Â£13.12 by entering the code “LongLiveShooterMMOs” as a way of encouraging former players of the now discontinued APB to join the Global Agenda community.