TSA’s Top 100 of 2011 – #42 The Agency

Some agents get left behind enemy lines, covert operatives abandoned by their handlers, governmental organisations disavowing all knowledge of their spooks’ very existence. Other agents never turn up to the safe-house to begin with. SOE’s The Agency is currently unreachable on all secure channels.

In development for as long as we can remember, the mythical spy-MMO has been dogged with countless rumours of cancellation and a general aura of secrecy. Such surreptitious skulduggery usually intimates two possible scenarios. One: the game is awesome and its designers want to blow away the gaming public with a riveting, immersive, perhaps even ground-breaking experience, the secretiveness necessary to bedazzle us when its full form is finally exposed. Or, two: it’s in serious trouble, and, keeping with the nature of its content, can be regarded as a spy left out in the cold; his or her country prepared to cut their losses and bury the operation for fear of losing face or, worse still, retaliation.

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Optimists that we are, we’re not going to take Sony Online Entertainment’s continued silence about The Agency as an augury of impending ‘knowledge denial’ but as proof that the best spies are the ones that don’t telegraph their movements to the wider masses.

On paper The Agency looks a real winner. We’ve been waiting for the MMO domain to expand beyond its safe borders of fantasy and science fiction for some time now, and with its persistent online world inhabited by two warring spy factions, The Agency may finally fulfill our childhood dream of becoming James Bond or Jason Bourne.

Sporting different yet often comparable skill-sets, having two opposing espionage cabals means there is natural tension in The Agency. The United Network of Intelligence and Tactical Experts (U.N.I.T.E) are the Goody Two-Shoes of the international spy scene. They combat terrorism, rogue states and other nastiness around the globe, utilising their superior access to technology and mastery of subterfuge to get the job done as clinically and professionally as possible.

On the other end of the secret agent spectrum is ParaGON, or the Paramilitary Global Operations Network. A rag-tag brigade of mercenaries, private armies and similar people of a generally unsavoury disposition, they’re the rough and tumble alternative to U.N.I.T.E.’s by-the-book mentality. They don’t really care if you’re part of any so-called Axis of Evil. If you have access to currency, that’ll do for them.

Missions can be completed solo or with a group of agents teaming up together. There’s also a large emphasis on interacting with the universe’s cast of Non-Player Characters, whether it be beating them at a game of Texas Hold’em to get their attention or using your charisma to enlist the AI controlled population on a mission to blow something up.

It’s impossible to tell how The Agency is going to fare. MMOs in general are a dime a dozen these days, often succumbing to a quick and painful death upon release when their target communities fail to embrace their specific charms. A spy MMO is completely unproven ground. It might sound awesome, but how many picked locks and swilled vodka martinis does it take before boredom sets in? Add in the unknown quantity of a console into the mix (though it’s also set for a PC outing), and this could be an elaborate death scenario our plucky hero/heroine may be unable to escape from. We find out next year.

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6 Comments

  1. I am The Agency’s #1 fan
    or is that only
    hmmmm

  2. Doesn’t sound amazing but I remain open-minded. It sounds like it would be quite hard to make a ground-breaking game out of it. The best bit of info on it is the acronyms. How do game developers come up with things like “The United Network of Intelligence and Tactical Experts (U.N.I.T.E)”. This does actually make it sound a better game as it shows that some effort has been put into it. Could be either good or repetitive. Only time will tell.

  3. All this talk of MMO was getting me worried – until i realised you were talking about The Agency and not Agent! :)

  4. I gave up waiting for this game because Sony didn’t give us any decent information.

  5. APB’s put me off any MMO console-type games (I know its not on console but it was a console type game) people just dick around and you have to practically give up your life & live in them if you want to get with other people to play the game how it should be played.

    It will be interesting to see what Sony can do though although it does appear development has dragged on, which is never a good sign (unless it was just announced too soon)

  6. Was never a huge fan of MMO’s but this sounds interesting.

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