Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a great anime that gave a look at a cybernetically enchanted elite tactical force, named Section 9. Building on the characters introduced in the Ghost In the Shell manga and the movie, it was an anime that was ideal for a game interpretation. It is surprising it has taken this long to see it in the universe, but from what I have seen of the game so far, it is treating the source material with the respect it deserves.
Taking elements from games such as Counter Strike and meshing it with ideas seen in World of Tanks, First Assault Online is an interesting game. You select your operative out of a selection of characters from the anime, each possessing unique abilities, advantages and playstyles. You slowly level up your character with abilities, and the weapons they use. As you go up in level, new abilities will be unlocked, with the ultimate goal to be a walking weapon, taking down anything that crosses your path.
Taking the core concept from Ghost in the Shell, everyone you play as is cybernetically enhanced to different degrees. This makes your operative a human weapon in a way. From the abilities they use to the way they deal with combat and damage, it all works and makes sense within the universe Neople have built. Utilizing unique abilities ranging from Heat Seeking, Camouflage and inferred vision. Each skill helps augment your playstyle in a new way, all feeling very different.
Even with the best game design concepts, it is all about how you play that makes the game work. Within First Assault Online, it was engaging to try out the different operatives and decide on what worked best for my playstyle. Initially going for the stealth option, I quickly discovered it will take some practice to master that class. The more assault tank-like characters, were far easier for the new player.
Within around 15 minutes of playing, the core mechanics of the game were fully understood. For the most part, the UI of First Assault was very intuitive in telling me what I should be doing and where I should be going next. I never felt at a loss for mission objectives or abilities I had at the ready.
In the three modes tested, Team Deathmatch, Terminal Conquest and Demolition, it was the latter two modes that showed how First Assault added something to the online genre. These modes forced you to work as a tactical unit, each member taking on their given role to ensure you would emerge victoriously. It was made very clear early on, when a team did not work together, and people went on a lone wolf style of play, things fell apart quickly.
The Demolition mode especially shows what First Assault can offer the FPS community. It was a fast-paced mode that emphasized teamwork above all else. A great team here will make or break a match, and this is where sharing skills and playing to each classes' strength came into play. One team takes up the role of attacking and setting up a bomb, and the other team works to stop them. The only issue here was, the attacking side seems to have a slight advantage in play, although this could still be a balancing issue.
Graphically, the game feels rather standard to what you expect out of modern shooters. If there were no Ghost in the Shell characters running around, it would blend into the crowd. That being said, they have done a great job in modeling and making each member of Section 9 feel fleshed out. They all have a unique look and are unmistakable for their anime counterparts.
Map design look and feel serviceable to get the job done, but do nothing that has not been seen in other online FPS games on the market. They have the feel of the anime, seeming to take place in a future world, but beyond that they do not leave many memorable moments. If you are a fan of the anime, there will be sections and concepts taken right from the scenes of the show. Places such as PSS9, Downtown Dejima, and Cyber Ward will all be seen in the game, giving a much-needed connection to the show.
As with any online shooter, the monetization plan will help determine if it is worth jumping in and spending time with the game. According to the developers, all things that can be purchased can also be earned in the game. Things such as Weapons Mods, Body Modification Chips, Character unlock and skins are all planned to be for sale, with many of them being able to be earned with GP, the in-game currency. Although, it seems that better equipment makes things a bit easier, even with the starting gear and a level of skill, you could easily take out someone who has the best gear but no ability in the game. It appears to be a game that rewards dedication and ability over overpowered weapons. That being said, the full game will need to be experienced before I can say for sure if the monetization strategy hinders the overall experience.
Hitting Early Access this week, First Assault Online feels like a game I could personally get into. I love the anime and enjoy a good online shooter. The core experience feels polished, and the overall style of gameplay is easy to pick up, even for short sessions. It feels built for the anime fan that loves FPS style games. If Neople manages to lock down a good monetization strategy and keep the updates coming, it could be an online shooter to check out, especially if you are a Ghost in the Shell fan.