Monday, February 1, 2010

Global Agenda: An Overview

In this post I’m only discussing the gameplay outside of Conquest, a mode that costs you a monthly fee but adds impact PvP to the game.

When you log into Global Agenda and pick a character, your character appears in “Dome City”, which is essentially a 3D lobby for setting up PvE missions, PvP matches, and Conquest. The game is in 3rd person, but in a dead-on camera orientation instead of an over-the-shoulder orientation.

The Player Character

  • Health. The standard measure of life. The game tells you how much life you have and lets you know how much damage you’re taking per shot by scrolling numbers above your head. Damage and healing numbers relevant to you scroll above the appropriate character.
  • Power. You don’t reload in this game and there are no ammo limits. You have a pool of “power” that you expend to fire different weapons and burn your jetpack. When you’re out of power, you can no longer fire the weapon or use your jetpack. Power regenerates when you’re not draining it.
  • Melee Weapon. There is no choice of melee weapon—at least from what I’ve seen. You always have one available to you, though.
  • Ranged Weapon. Different classes get different kinds of basic weapons. For example, medics can either use a standard assault rifle or a shorter-ranged poisoning gun; Recons can use SMGs or assault rifles; etc.
  • Specialty Weapon. Each class gets a unique selection of specialty weapons. Recons get sniper rifles, medics get their healing guns, assaults get rocket launchers and miniguns, among other weapons and gadgets.
  • Off-hand Abilities. You can equip three off-hand abilities. You can trigger each of them roughly once a minute. They offer class-unique effects, deployables, and area effects on friends and foes.
  • Jetpack. Everyone has access to a jetpack at all times.
  • Boost Ability. Each class has a boost ability that they can use after sustained excellent play. The effects of the boost are different for each class, but usually it’s a big help to your teammates and can alter the tide of battle.

The game features four character classes: assault, medic, robotics, and recon. The classes are vaguely similar in concept to Team Fortress 2 classes. Each class has three skill trees that you put points into as you level up the character. Characters do grow vertically in this game—though it’s a game of skill.

  • Assaults have high attack and defense. They use grenade launchers, miniguns, and rocket launchers to deal lots of damage. They have shields that allow them to become temporarily invulnerable to different kinds of damage.
  • Medics heal friends or use DoTs and debuffs to aid their allies in dispatching foes. They can either use their off-hands for improved healing and buffing, or they can gain access to poison auras and grenades to debuff and sap their enemies’ health.
  • Recons use stealth, sniper-rifles, mines, and bombs to sabotage enemies’ defensive positions and reap havoc on any lone player they can pick off.
  • Robotics kill and heal through the use of drones, turrets, forcefields and "medicrates”. Robotics are a utility class that offers tremendous strategic potential.

Player vs. Player

Without paying for a subscription, you can play five PvP modes and five difficulties of PvE missions. To play these modes, you queue up in Dome City much like you would for a battleground in World of Warcraft. The game then attempts to fit you with a relatively balanced team. Usually it does a good job. Occasionally the queue is just too unbalanced for the automatching system to deal with and you get lopsided teams—I’ve been happy with automatch so far, though.

The PvP modes are

  • Control. Teams vie for control over three points on the map. The team who controls the majority of the points gets victory points. The first team to a set number of victory points wins.
  • Demolition. Mot calls this “reverse CTF”. Each team has a “robot” that a player can man. The first side to get their robot to the other team’s base three times wins the match.
  • Breach. One team attacks and one defends. The defenders attempt to prevent the attacking side from capturing three critical points—one at a time. If the attackers can’t claim the next critical point within ten minutes, the defenders win.
  • Scramble. A critical point appears on the map at “random”. Teams fight for control of the point. When the point is captured, a new critical point appears a few seconds later and the process repeats. The first team to capture four of these points wins the game.
  • Payload. Two teams struggle for control of a cart on rails. The attacking team tries to move the cart to the defending team’s side of the map. There are two checkpoints along the way past which the defenders can’t push the cart once they’re reached by the attackers with the cart. If the defenders prevent the attackers from pushing the cart to the next checkpoint in 10ish minutes, the defenders win.

Player vs. Environment

[I initially wrote "enemy" instead of "environment" absent-mindedly. Thanks to Randy for pointing it out to me.]

PvE missions consist of four-man instances. I haven’t played enough of these to have a good idea for what variations occur. Generally you and your team fight your way through an mob-populated locale and face off against a random boss at the very end.

Players gain loot through PvE that can be used to craft. I’m not sure exactly how crafting fits into the game, because crafting didn’t seem to be doable outside of Conquest in the beta. I’ll report back on crafting at some later time.

Experience point gain seems to be balanced between PvE and PvP missions. Because you have a signfiicantly higher chance of success in PvE, the XP rewards are noticeably less.

Unique Issues and Features

  • You don’t jetpack around and shoot people at the same time. You need to switch to the jetpack in order to use it, so you can’t fly and fight at the same time. This creates an interesting mobility dynamic and gives a lot of room for player skill to show.
  • No reloading and no ammo! Power is tied to using any equipped item (aside from boosts and off-hands). This creates some unique trade-offs: do I jetpack away with my remaining power or try to kill my opponent? If I try to kill him I won’t have any juice left to jetpack away easily. This kind of opportunity cost built into the game adds a unique tactical dynamic.
  • A variety of off-hands leads to several unique and viable character builds. Every class has at least two viable builds.
  • You can change your build within a match. You aren’t locked into your character build when you enter a PvP match for the entire match; if you’re in an equipment zone, (basically, your “dropship” where you spawn by default) you can freely alter your character build.
  • Cooperative and competitive game modes keep gameplay interesting and diverse. Tired of PvP? Get together with your friends and take on the challenge of a PvE mission. If you’re tired of facing dumb bots, queue for a PvP match and enjoy a challenging match within a few minutes.

I will post more commentary on the game as the mood strikes me. It seems like not many of the bloggers I follow and that seem to follow this blog have been covering Global Agenda, so this overview post can act as an introduction to an otherwise unfamiliar game. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in a comment.


Andrew said...

This is actually a game I'm fairly interested in trying out one day, if I can clean up my single player game commitments. It looks to try to bridge the gap between traditional shooters and MMOG's, and its pricing model is downright brilliant in this regard.

I hope it succeeds.

We Fly Spitfires said...

Y'know, I really want to play Global Agenda but the whole requiring Steam thing put me off a little. I want to own a boxed copy!