Global Agenda E3 2009 Hands-On Preview - Page 2

Updated Wed, Jul 15, 2009 by Ethec

Territory control might not be new to MMOs or FPSs, but control on a grand scale by agencies and alliances is fairly unique (the only other example that comes to mind is Perfect World). I saw an early version of the territory control hex map that shows who owns what and what remains to be conquered. You’ll make a territory yours by running missions as an agency and gathering enough resources to build your own domed base and later by capturing the area from other agents. The more territories you have, the faster you’ll gain resources through the facilities your agency builds, and the more territory you can conquer. Or maybe you turtle up and pour those resources into defense.

Assuming all goes as planned, it’s grand strategy meets MMO levels of player organization meets FPS, just like the Total War series fused grand strategy and the RTS. But like any domination game, there’s a tipping point after which it’s only a matter of time before one alliance becomes unstoppable. I asked Todd what Hi Rez was doing to mitigate this or at least make sure that tipping point doesn’t come too soon. This was the leading thing that Hi Rez wanted to get right before going into closed beta, Todd said. As far as a little bit of a balancing factor, different “open” hours are associated with certain territories. A newbie agency might want to go after a zone with fewer open hours and less resources, for example. There is a win condition, and Todd explained that if one agency does dominate, they’ll enter the actual lore, get a host of bonuses, the peasants rejoice at having a new protected area to colonize free of Commonwealth rule, and the fight moves into new areas. In alpha, this usually results in the winning agency having a target on their head on the next go-round.

To gear up for some PvE action next, I went with a better jet pack and mines, hoping to use a common sniper strategy of going vertical to deal death from above while protecting my back with mines. My weapons required no ammo, drawing energy from the same pool as the jetpack. Todd explained that, as an alternative to my strategy, I could deploy a decoy, go stealth, and find myself a good ambush position. I was soloing an instance designed for a group, so naturally I didn’t last too long. The game uses a projectile-based damage system (unlike many online shooters, which only check if the enemy is in your reticule when you click to cause damage) and learning to “lead” enemies when sniping was a fun challenge.

The map had a fair amount of verticality to it; you drop down on new encounters like the final boss and had better be ready. Two mechanics worthy of note: a “rest” mechanic that allows you to heal faster but with less defense, and a time-wide “boost” that comes from killing lots of enemies without getting yourself killed. For recon, this boost allowed me to run faster and see enemies behind walls. And while GA is a skill-based game, you gain experience and level your combat skills by killing enemies and completing missions, not by repetitively using skills. Todd noted that Hi Rez is considering a skill based system for crafting, which only makes sense in the repetitive gristmill that is tradeskills.

We were on the attack in the Metal Arms PvP instance, set in the Himalayas. It was a pretty straightforward capture point-style instance. and enemies were displayed with a faint red outline making them easy to spot. The map was an excellent size for the team sizes; the push and pull of capture-point combat easily rivaled what I’ve experienced in Team Fortress 2, and the ubiquitous jetpacks add a new dimension (pun intended) to standard shooter gameplay.

Bottom line: we played several in-development persistent world shooters at E3 2009, and GA seemed to offer the best mix of originality and pacing for players that reside more on the MMORPG side of the gaming spectrum. Unlike many of today’s shooters, gore and gut-wrenching displays aren’t a part of GA, and this is an MMO you can definitely play without worrying about the "wandering kid" factor.  When I had to run to my next appointment, I certainly wasn’t finished playing. Todd anticipates that Global Agenda will be in closed beta this summer, and after getting a taste of the game, I can barely wait.

Global Agenda Free Agent

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