PvP is a funny thing. Essentially, it is a glorified game of tag. There are variations on the theme, of course: freeze tag, Marco Polo, or Hide-and-Seek. Most of us have had the pleasure of spending a summer evening playing it with our friends. I know that when we played it, we added the dimension of The Woods (as they were known) and all that hiding in those woods on a dark summer evening implies. It was intense, I remember. Once, I hid under a pile of leaves for 40 minutes, scared out of my mind, while my buddy tried to find me.
Good PvP can be like that, but bad PvP can ruin your evening. Bad PvP, like a rainstorm during a campout, usually ends with one or more participants taking the event way too seriously. But when you spend a few hours in good PvP, running around shooting at strangers, throwing mines at each other and getting shot down by automated turrets, your heart will race and you will realize that you have had a smile on your face most of the time.
Before I get ahead of myself, I have to say that I have been PvPing since Ultima Online. I sucked at it then and I suck at it now, so for me to enjoy it, the PvP must allow for permanent noobs like me to participate -- not to do the most damage, but to at least survive with pride intact. I have played the recent "hardcore" PvP games Darkfall and Mortal Online, and I have to say that their form of player-to-player combat usually comes off as more silly than fun.
For example, I stood in the middle of town during the Mortal Online beta and started to get pushed around by another player. See, in town, players cannot be attacked (if they are, they can simply say "guards" and the attacker will be destroyed), but players can push each other -- literally. This player decided he wanted to shove me off the edge of a cliff, but I decided he wasn't going to do that. I parked myself inside a tent and watched as he followed me. I requested that he leave me alone since "I was on the phone and AFK." He looked around, believed that I was indeed on the phone, and attacked me. Needless to say, I hit enter and my character yelled "GUARDS!" -- he was dead within seconds.
"To cap off the evening, we all jumped into the Arena to sling laser beams at each other. I could hear the developers laughing on the voice chat -- it felt a lot like a summer evening game of tag."
Darkfall, in all its attempts to be "realistic" with its full loot and open PvP, forgot to make death realistic. More than anything, it's annoying when you die in Darkfall -- you suddenly feel very much like you stumbled upon a LARPer combat session gone angry. All of this strange player interaction is wrapped, ironically, inside one of the best PvE environments I have found.
Global Agenda is not trying to punish you as a player. It is not asking you to watch out for inconvenience. It's simple and to the point: log in, shoot stuff, respawn, shoot more stuff. Tucked discreetly into that request are many gameplay details like skill trees, stealth, giant robots, and jetpacks. If you played Tribes back in the day like I did, Global Agenda will feel very familiar. Not stale, nor a copy, but familiar.
I decided to go for a stealthy character, being that my aim is usually off. I wanted to hide out and possibly contribute to one or two kills, rather than attempt to go hand-to-hand for the highest kill-count. My armored avatar soon had the ability to disappear in front of his enemies, to find a nice spot to shoot from. It worked pretty well -- I killed a few players and didn't feel completely worthless.
It helped that I had prepared myself by working through a series of PvE missions that were intended to raise me to level 16 or so. I was warned to avoid PvP until level 20, so I chugged away at killing PvE robots and mutant humanoids until I felt comfortable. My wife enjoyed the PvE combat as much as I did. She loved jet-packing from fight-to-fight while I picked off robots from a distance. The game looks great as well, and ran wonderfully on both of our setups.
I cannot say that installing the game went so well. I had many issues, in fact, and had to deal with support more than a few times. Luckily for me, they were eager to help. I eventually had to download the trial version from Steam, a decision that has caused issues of its own. (I am not a fan of Steam's forced startup with games that you already own.) But the technical issues with installing were really the only issues I had. There is the minor issue with having to restart the client after adjusting certain basic game settings, not something that one can do while inside a firefight -- but it's definitely not a game-breaker.
In the middle of my week I was asked to help out with organizing a Massively Mob event. Players were going to join up with developers to play the game, and it was my job to help organize those players into groups. I had to message players and ask them their in-game names, and the developers would hand out group invites from there. The players were mostly patient and polite about the whole chaotic thing, and I am still hearing comments about how much fun players had. In the end, we literally had hundreds and hundreds of players show up. It was crazy, busy, and a little bit of wonderful. To cap off the evening, we all jumped into the Arena to sling laser beams at each other. I could hear the developers laughing on the voice chat -- it felt a lot like a summer evening game of tag.
Will Global Agenda stay on my hard drive? Yes and yes. My wife even wants a copy! I would suggest downloading the trial and giving it a look, but be sure to go out into the brand-new Sonoran Desert to level your character through the series of PvE missions I mentioned. Get a group together -- the community is very friendly! -- because some of the missions and bosses can be rough. During my time, I didn't spend time on crafting or Agency vs. Agency combat, but luckily the game sits tight on my computer, waiting for my return.
For an independent game, Global Agenda is very slick and easy to play. It's no breeze, mind you, and you will possibly question your abilities as a gamer at times, but try out some of the different PvP missions and group PvE quests and the variety will keep you smiling.
Next week we are going to look at an old favorite of mine: Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online. My character name is Beaugh and I am on the Cerberus server, so add me and let's tame some demons together! Now, go log in!
Each week Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. Some of the games will be far out of your gaming comfort zone, and some will pleasantly surprise you. We will meet each Tuesday and Friday night at 9 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. CDT), followed by this column the Sunday after. I welcome any suggestions for games, either in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter me @Beau_Hindman or follow me on Raptr!