E3 2007: On Assignment With the Agency
This week at E3, I finally got a chance to see Sony Online Entertainment’s upcoming MMO, The Agency. Slated to release on the PC and PS3, The Agency is a first (or third) person shooter that takes place in a persistent online world.
Players will choose between two factions for their character to join, either UNITE or PARAGON. UNITE is the high-tech, glamorous, James-Bond style spies that you might know from the movies, while PARAGON is a collection of ragtag mercenaries using castoff equipment. The two organizations are not enemies, although they are rivals. In fact, certain objectives that both organizations deem important will result in players of both factions being tasked to work together.
One major difference between The Agency and other MMOs is the complete lack of a traditional class system. In its place, SOE is using a system that they have dubbed, “You are what you wear.” How does that work? It’s actually fairly simple. Based on what equipment you have equipped, you could be a combat, support, or stealth specialist. Regardless of this their equipment, players will improve their skills based on how often they use them.
In addition to the basic gameplay, SOE is also including a feature they’ve dubbed ‘PvP Anytime.’ It will allow players to jump into a combat scenario directly from the menu. However, it’s not solely combat. There are also a number of minigames, including gambling. Gambling in a spy game? Delicious.
The last thing I want to mention is that once a player has gained enough experience, he will be granted Non-Official Cover (NOC) status, and will effectively be starting his own agency. Once this happens, players can recruit NPC operatives of their own, each of whom can be assigned tasks ranging from spy missions to obtaining weapons and gadgets. These operatives will actually communicate with you outside the game as well as in game (this is an option that can be turned off). For instance, an operative assigned to obtain a vehicle might email you when he’s procured it, and an operative captured while spying might text message you asking for the ransom to be paid to release him. It’s just one more way of drawing players into the game.
All in all, The Agency looks fairly good. It’s still a ways from release, but if they are able to maintain the gameplay hook they have now, it could be a very interesting title at release.