Global Agenda, from fledgling developer Hi-Rez Studios, is something of an odd beast in the MMO world. It's not quite a persistent open-world MMORPG, and it's not quite simply a competitive online shooter. As a mix of both, with a payment model that reflects its hybrid nature, Global Agenda is something of an intriguing market experiment. But the question of what kind of game it really is doesn't quite matter as much as the one you're probably eager to know: is it any good?
I recently had the chance to dive into the beta, and while the big bullet point feature called the Conquest System was not available for testing this past weekend, I did get a fair amount of time in with the PvE Missions and the PvP Missions. Both are instanced chunks of content intended to be the quick and casual methods of character advancement in Global Agenda's grander scheme of things. But let's back up a bit and give you some background on just what Global Agenda is all about.
As the game's official website states, Global Agenda is certainly an MMO... it's just not quite what you may be used to from the genre. When you buy the game, you needn't pay a subscription, and with your one-time purchase you can keep playing the base multiplayer game until they turn the servers off. But by paying the required thirteen dollars a month, you can open the range of what's available for you to enjoy tenfold.
Auctions, crafting, achievements, additional gear and character customization, and most importantly the world domination campaign are all gated by the subscription. There is no open world to traverse, killing NPCs and other players, all the while picking up quests via yellow exclamation points and learning about an overall narrative. Global Agenda's gameplay is entirely based on instanced content with a hub called Dome City serving as the main player congregation area. No matter if you're paying or not, all players will be able to interact, play with, and against each other via the PvE and PvP missions that come with the initial purchase of the game.
The setting is 22nd-century Earth and a global disaster has allowed a tyrannical organization called the Commonwealth to take control. The population of the entire planet is under a billion people and there is a shortage of habitable land. The future tech in place allows limited regions of the planet to be cleansed and fighting breaks out over these areas and their control. Players make up the Agencies (guilds) and Alliances (guild alliances) that fight both against the tyrannical Commonwealth and each other over these pieces of land and the accompanying resources. The backdrop of Global Agenda sets a bleak future for mankind... even in the face of extinction we're still busy fighting each other. But I'll be damned if the war at hand isn't fun.
Upon logging in players will be greeted with a fairly extensive character creation process in terms of visual options. After settling on a bald, square-jawed and bearded fellow, I picked one of the four available classes. Assault is your standard tank-like class, with lots of firepower and hitpoints at their disposal. Recon is all about stealth, speed, and quick deadly attacks. Robotics players specialize in defense with things like turrets and shields at their disposal. And lastly the Medic is the lifeline of any team with powers that focus on keeping his or her teammates alive and fighting. After going with the straightforward choice of Assault I was treated to a quick (and pretty entertaining) cinematic and thrust into the tutorial.
Without spoiling the story of your entrance into the world of Global Agenda, you start off barefoot and in a skintight suit without a weapon to fire and no armor to deflect the fire of the enemy. Like a bite-sized version of a console adventure game, as you progress through the tutorial you'll pick up a melee weapon which does considerable damage when up close to your enemy, a jetpack for evading and speeding up travel across the maps, a standard-issue assault rifle, your first suit of armor and your class-specific weapon. For the Assault class this was a rather lethal mini-gun. You'll also have at your disposal a timed reusable temporary shield, an accuracy boost item and grenades to supplement your base instruments of destruction and defense.
Equipment in Global Agenda seems to be handled a little differently than most MMO players might be used to. You're not going to go about killing bosses for loot or set pieces. And while you may get crafting components from PvE missions to help make certain pieces of equipment, the vast majority of your gear will come from either unlocks leveling or purchasing from vendors. What's more is that save for the melee weapon and jetpack, each item at a player's disposal uses a set number of item points. At level 7, I had 15 points at my disposal to assign to each item. There are four different ranks of each item and each rank requires a point. Being that I fell in love with my mini-gun I assigned it the rank of four in order to give it the highest damage output possible, and had 11 points left to disperse between my other equipment. Three went to my assault rifle (I was playing a primarily offensive class after all) and the rest I split pretty evenly between other items.