Hi-Rez Studios' massively multiplayer shooter Global Agenda launches next month, so I've spent the past couple of days tooling about in the beta to see what's what. Let's take a tour, shall we?
Recovering from a global disaster in the 22nd century, Earth has fallen under the rule of the tyrannical Commonwealth. As advanced technology opens up new areas of the planet for habitation, the Commonwealth and a collection of independent agencies vie for control of this new land, using genetically enhanced soldiers. You are one of these soldiers.
The game is essentially a third-person shooter with role-playing elements mixed in, meaning combat is fast and responsive. Where other MMO games have a mouse pointer, Global Agenda has a crosshairs. That's how action-oriented the game is.
Check out the images - in order - below for a look at what it's like becoming a part of the Global Agenda.
The first step in getting started with Global Agenda is selecting a class. You have a choice of the gadget-centric Robotics class; the self-explanatory Medic; the sneaky Recon; and the tough-as-nails Assault class.
Once you select your class, it's time to get customised. The character creation starts off pretty basic, but there are plenty of options to make your face distinctive once you start digging. Then you'll play, get a nice helmet and never take it off.
Note that you'll never actually choose a name. Your account name is your character's identifier, so all four of my characters are named Kotaku.
Once you create your character, you are given an option to go through a tutorial. In it, rebel forces break into a Commonwealth facility to rescue you from conditioning. In the process, everyone but you dies. Hope you were worth that.
You start off barefoot and equipment-less, gaining a jet pack, melee weapon, a gun, and finally a suit of armour as you progress through the tutorial mission. It's entertaining at first, but after a couple of times you'll probably want to simply skip it, plunged into the main game as a level 5 character.
My main character is an Assault class. I get a few shields, some threat generating powers, and really big guns. I'm a big fan of the missile launcher.
Medics can go in two different directions, specialising in either healing arts or poisoning their foes. According to the game's general chat, poison Medics are somewhat feared.
The Recon class is all about being stealthy and swift, depending on what sort of skills you take. They are highly mobile, can disappear from view, and favour the sniper rifle as a means of offing enemies from afar.
The Robotics class can fill many roles. They can create turrets to damage enemies, machines that buff and heal your fellow players, shields, drones and all sorts of nifty electronic gadgetry.
Here's the equipment screen. You have a set number of points to assign powers and equipment to, in order to maintain a balance. Players can swap out equipment depending on what sort of mission they're entering, and when more than one of a class is present on the same team, players can coordinate equipment in order to maximise efficiency.
This is the Dome City hub, where players gather to use the Mission Kiosk. The city is circular in design, with the Mission Hub in the centre and various other areas taking up the outside of the circle.
The VR arena is where you go if you just want to shoot at other players without worrying about accruing experience or acquiring credits. It's a great place to hone your player-versus-player skills before heading out into the field.
The Market area contains places to buy armour and dyes, an auction house, and a place to work on your crafting skills.
Crafting seems to be confined to creating augmenting items for your weapons and armour - implants and the like that add to your stats.
Armour is level-locked, with varying level requirements based on your class. For instance, if you want to look as pretty as my Assault character, you'll have to reach level 10 first, while Medics can purchase new armour at level 5.
The Tech sector of the city is home to a place where you can manage your skill points. Much like World of Warcraft talents, you have a certain number of points you can use to customise your character further, gaining additional points as you level up.
Unlike World of Warcraft, you can change your skill points whenever you wish, maximising your effectiveness in different situations.
This is the mission screen, where you can take on basic player-versus-player missions, as well as four-man team player-versus-environment missions. You'll be seeing this screen a lot, as it seems to be the main way to gain experience points and credits.
So far I've only unlocked two PVP game types and two levels of PVE missions, and the PVE missions are extremely repetitive. Hopefully we'll see more additions on that front as the game progresses.
Here I am with a group of four during one of the PVE missions, letting them down by stopping to ALT-tab to paste this screen into Photoshop. Bad Assault class!
And here we see the Conquest map. Conquest battles take place at specific times, and while I've become part of a fairly massive Agency, I've yet to participate in the defence of our territory. Nice map though.