We are in the shadows. We control the news, the military, the government and science. We make money flow or stop at our whim, and we’ll save or shatter the world according to our singular visions. It is all in service of our Agenda.
Developer: Exordium Games
Publisher: Exordium Games
Release Date: Sept 2016
Played: Single player campaign.
Purchase At: Steam
Source: Review Copy provided by Publisher
Agenda reminded me of Plague Inc. a game where your battleground is the world map, where your aim is to spread around the globe. The difference is, instead of being a virus, you’re an international conspiracy seeking world domination, which sounds really cool. I’m a big fan of megacorp dystopian future settings and this reminded me a lot of that, so at the very least the premise hooked me.
To achieve your goal and fulfil the agenda, you need to expand your power in key areas: Money, Politics, Military, Science and Media. But you have to be careful, the more your spread out, the greater the chances of gaining unwanted notoriety and exposure.
Speaking of exposure, this central mechanics is also Agenda’s biggest flaw. It’s interesting that you can gain exposure, but the game forces it on you. Every month that passes, in-game that is, the exposure rises and there’s nothing you can do about it. Aside from that, every mission failure—because your regional operations have a success chance that depends on your regional power—increases the exposure by a random value.
The inevitable rise in exposure completely breaks the logic of the game, as your control over a region doesn’t help in any way against the exposure. In our world, just controlling the media helps a lot in keeping the story as you want it. Sure, as time goes by the effectiveness lessens, but in the short-term, it is a practical measure. And you can argue the same for every control scope in this game, yet they matter very little.
At 25% control over the world and every new quarter after that, you get perks that help in dealing with notoriety, but the benefits don’t make up for the drawbacks, leaving you in a losing position almost every time.
The fact that a chance at success also leads you close to a game over is a horrendous flaw. If the missions have a chance at failure, there shouldn’t be a penalty for them failing, because you’re penalising the player for something that is entirely out of control. Because the sad reality is that to gain the regional power that’ll give the missions a greater chance of success you need to run more missions.
That in itself is bad enough, but what really kills this game is how utterly mind numbing it is. Every game in the world has some form of repetition, but as long as it’s fun, we don’t really care. With Agenda, we have the bad form of repetition, the one that drags the experience to a halt and makes everything boring.
For every game you play your actions will be the same: open branch, run the same missions over and over to build regional power, then run the second mission in each category to raise the zone’s strengths until they become an ally country. Then you open new branches around the world and repeat the same steps all over again.
Even with random zone conditions, from uprisings to economic crashes, there is nothing else you can do. It’s a wasted opportunity. Every country could’ve had a different scenario, a new condition to win them over that let you use your resources in fun and intriguing ways, but the developers went with the simplest option of all and made it an unsatisfying game.
Worse still, you can “lev el up,” and gain new perks but these add new missions that don’t really matter as they do very little to make them more attractive than the standard two you have. And further skills down the line just give passive bonuses…with drawbacks. Why would I want a military bonus when it’ll lead to more exposure?
The game features a very limited soundtrack, one that you’ll have heard in its entirety in record time, as there are very few tracks, adding another layer of shattering repetitiveness to Agenda.
I do like the UI though, it’s pretty slick and simple to use, though it could’ve used another layer of refinement to deal with most of the unnecessary actions, such as clicking on every mission to complete or click a button to resolve them all. Why not do that automatically?
Agenda has an interesting premise, but that’s as far as it gets. It’s a shallow experience at best and a wholly boring one at worst. My only recommendation can be: stay away.
1/5 – Oh Hell No!