MAG is an interesting game. It’s part MMO, part RPG, and three parts FPS. It’s also the only game of it’s kind on the market, which makes it immediately interesting to a huge swath of players, myself included. I was able to playtest it for a few hours today and went from being disappointed to having a great time within the first hour. It’s one of those.
Let’s start with what MAG is, in specifics.
*NOTE*: Skip to the end of the article for my overall impressions. Right below the cut are the nuts and bolts of the game.
The Basics (or, how it works)
At it’s core, it’s a large scale first person shoot in the vein as the Battlefield series. It boasts the largest amount of concurrent players of any shooter, nay, any console game period, to come before it, up to a total of 256 in a single map.
There are four game modes, with only two available from the start. The first two, Suppression and Sabotage, each feature 32v32 battles. Suppression is large scale death match and is pretty much just for training, Sabotage is infiltrate and hold. The next two, Acquisition and Domination, are unlocked as you level and feature 128 and 256 players respectively, split into two teams. Acquisition is an attackers/defenders map that sees the defenders escorting a munitions truck to an extraction point. Domination has each team battling to capture certain areas of bases around the map, much like the battlefield series. This map allows you to use vehicles and destroy parts of the environment in order to succeed.
The game features three factions, each at war with one another in the “not-to-distant future” conflict known as the Shadow Wars. I won’t go any deeper into story than that, because it’s pretty much absent. In an “online only” FPS, that’s really not a big deal though. They give you the context and send you to war. Most shooter fans will be satisfied at that since, let’s face it, most are playing for the action more than the story.
What I really find interesting about this game is the way the character progression system works. You level up, like in other shooters, but the way you advance your character is totally non-linear. You can arrange your loadout as you see fit and switch after every death. That’s the boring stuff, though.
What’s cool is the way you earn skill points after every level to spend on new abilities and weapons. It’s a lot like a talent tree. If you enjoy machine gunning, you can put points in increasing accuracy with a new grip or special site. If you want a better sidearm, you can toss your points there.
It’s right in line as an MMO in this way, expect war-game specific. Well done.
Going into each map requires strategy and coordination if you want to win. You’re not going to get far if you’re a fan of rushing in, guns blaring. But, more importantly, why is this the case?
There are two facts that will prevent you from being a solo hero:
One, the maps are big. Really big. If you go it alone, you’ll be shot down within seconds of breaking away from the pact. If you get lucky and get behind enemy lines, you might get a kill or two, but it’s a suicide mission at best, and calamitous at worse, since it may get any followers killed too.
Second, with this many players, it’s a little bit of a cluckpluck. There are people everywhere. One of the things that gets repeated about the game is that “you don’t matter.” Well, you do, but when 31-127 are on your team with you, replacements are all over the place. Since that also applies to the other team, you can see how it’d be hard to escape their line of sight.
It’s not uncommon to die with no idea of who shot you. It’s alright though. Death is a part of any shooter, you just get back up, go back out, and find better cover. If you’re lucky, you might be able to sneak around and pick of the sniper who just killed you. I love doing that. Payback’s a bitch, suckas.
Okay, so the meat and potatoes of what I think. The game is fun, yet, Call of Duty it is not.
The graphics aren’t as good (but they’re far from bad… think early PS3 release) but, then again, there’s no way CoD could support this many players without being unplayable with lag. It’s a necessary drop and one that you’ll only notice for a little bit.
Likewise, it’s rough around the edges. There’s no animation when you look down the barrel of your not-as-realistic-as-CoD gun. Sometimes you’ll run into weird terrain glitches where you won’t be able to hop over something you think you should be able to. Also like FE, these can largely be ignored for the sake of gameplay. Honestly, I stopped noticing them and got immersed in the action.
A lot of people doubt whether or not MAG should be considered an MMO. Most of those people haven’t played it because, if they had, they’d see the intrinsic connection the character progression system has with other, more mainstream MMOs. I had my doubts going in, I’ll admit, but it’s 100% MMO, although not an MMORPG in the traditional sense.
As for lasting appeal, I’d put it right up there with the other big shooters. There’s nothing separating it’s replayability from the big-boys and, as a plus, you can switch sides when you’re done and see what it’s like working with the other team.
As of this post, I’ve only played Suppression since I just got the game today. The learning curve is low enough where I went from getting trounced in the beginning to topping our my squad by the time I was done. I’m planning on sticking with this one (I find it more addictive than the other big shooters because of the progression system).
In short, if you’re an MMO fan that also likes competitive shooters, you’re probably going to love this game. If you’re just into MMOs, this may not be the game for you. At its core, MAG is a larger scale Battlefield with an MMO progression system. In my opinion, that’s pretty damn cool.