Saturday, August 6, 2011

Brink: Agents of Change DLC Impressions

Earlier this week, the Agents of Change downloadable content pack was released for Bethesda's class-based shooter, Brink. The pack includes two new maps, two new outfits, two new weapon attachments and five new abilities, and I spent some time with each new element to see if Agents of Change is worth your time. Note that I didn't say, "worth your money"? Agents of Change is currently free to download for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC owners alike, though Bethesda has announced that they plan to charge ten dollars for it once two weeks have passed. The only cost now is about five hundred megabytes of storage space. If you're still playing Brink actively, then the download is a no-brainer, but is it worth going back to the Ark if you've already moved on? Read on for descriptions of each shiny new element and how it fares on the battlefield.
First up, let's talk maps. Labs and Founders' Tower both take place in the well-manicured, Security-occupied areas of the Ark. In Labs, the Resistance is on a mission to steal a sample of Arkoral, the ivory-white substance that forms the floating structure of the Ark, and Security must stop them. In Founders' Tower, Security goes on the offensive as they try to break into the Resistance-occupied spire in order to prevent an explosive act of sabotage. Labs is the weaker of the two, and the two hotspots, both located in large indoor rooms with balconies offering elevated vantage points, feel overly similar. There's a lot of doorway combat in both of these areas, and not a lot of ways in or out, which makes the map feel limited.
Science is different when you use a machine gun on the new Labs map.
Founders' Tower covers more ground, providing a more diverse combat experience. Security first infiltrates through a labyrinthine courtyard with a lot of different levels to traverse, then enters the tower proper for one of Brink's most vertical environments. Each floor isn't very spacious, so there's a lot of climbing and descending aided by an abundance of ramps, scaffolding, and construction material. Light characters can find a bunch of sneaky routes, which keeps the defenders on their toes and discourages pitched firefights. If you happen to spot a character in skinny jeans and runny clown make-up, don't worry. You haven't run into an Insane Clown Posse concert, you're just spotting one of the new outfits. Likewise if you see a crisply-dressed bobby (read: British police officer) who looks like he's about to issue a citation.
The Founders' Tower map boasts some nice landscaping work which you can just go ahead and walk all over.
Weapon Attachments
The next two videos feature the new weapon attachments and abilities, respectively. After each video, I've included Brink's description of the item in question followed by a brief evaluation of whether it's fit for battle or best left on the customization shelf.
You don't have to name your bayonet, but if you do, I suggest Mr. Pointy.
This replaces your normal weapon melee strike with a much more powerful stab. You'll no longer knock enemies down, but will do significantly more damage.
This Bottom Attachment can be used with assault rifles and submachine guns only. It certainly does pack a more powerful stab, and melee kills with this pointy prod yield a juicy squelching noise. It won't kill on the first hit unless your opponent is weakened, but it will, contrary to the description, knock your enemy down. A second hit is always fatal, and players who like to sprint in for the kill and slide-tackle opponents should find this useful. Those who prefer to avoid getting close because of the occasionally finicky melee mechanic should give this a pass, as it negatively affects your gun's stability and equip speed.
It ain't pretty, but every bullet that hits the Weapon Shield is a bullet that didn't hit you.
Weapon Shield
The Weapon Shield can protect you from direct enemy fire, but does not provide complete protection.
This Bottom Attachment can only be used with assault rifles, so Light characters can't make use of its mild protective powers. I found it came in handy during mid- to long-range firefights when I was crouched and shooting it out with another player. It definitely helps even the odds when trying to take out someone at a machine gun emplacement, but it is a huge drain on your equip speed.
Agents of Change brings one new ability for each category (universal and individual classes), but you have to be Rank 5 to use them. If you haven't maxed out at level 20 yet, you're going to need to get there before you can unlock these new additions. Agents of Change also raises the level cap to 24, giving maxed-out players a bit more room to accrue abilities.
There's a whole lot of ability-ing goin' on.
Tactical Scanner - Universal
Tactical Scanner allows you to see class indicators for up to 4 buffs on enemy players when aiming at them, rather than just their health, allowing you to prioritize your targets more efficiently. Please note, if the enemy has more than 4 buffs, the Scanner will not reveal the additional ones.
This is a small aid at best. In addition to seeing enemy health bars and class icons, you now see smaller class icons lined up underneath the health bar indicating what buffs the player has. It's tough to decipher the small icons in the heat of combat, and only slightly easier if you're sniping from longer range. But even if you aren't dissecting who has what buff, seeing a bunch of icons lined up over an enemy's head can make you a bit more cautious. If you're the kind of player who doesn't need reminding, however, there are better ways to spend your credits.
Napalm Grenades - Soldier
Napalm Grenades blanket an area with fire which will damage all enemies who try to pass through it. The napalm will last for a short time and then burn out. There is a Cooldown period between successive uses.
As any good Soldier knows, throwing firebombs at your enemies is a fun and effective battlefield pastime. Unlike the Molotov Cocktail, Napalm Grenades don't knock your enemies down. Instead, they do damage on explosion and leave nasty little fires burning on the ground. These fires are helpful for temporarily blocking doorways or scattering an enemy advance, but they burn for a disappointingly short amount of time (possibly making you yearn for the sticking power of the Operative's Caltrop Grenades).
Field Regen Unit - Medic
Field Regen Units, when deployed, will automatically increase the Health regeneration rate of any teammates nearby.
This is a great support tool and easily the most powerful ability Agents of Change has to offer. The Field Regen Unit creates a cloud of increased metabolism vibes, helping any friendlies nearby heal faster and stay alive longer. Parking this bad boy near a contested entryway or in the middle of an allied sniper nest gives your team a significant edge in combat, and opposing players would do well to grenade any FRUs they see. This ability definitely earns a spot on your directional pad for its support capabilities, and the harvest of experience you reap for a well-placed FRU is a nice bonus.
Pyro Mine - Engineer
Pyro Mines can be deployed like landmines but deal increased fire damage to enemies.
With a Turret, Landmines, and the new Pyro Mine in his directional pad, the Engineer has the capability to make the battlefield a lot more dangerous. Once these mines explode, the result is similar to the Soldier's Napalm Grenade. A damaging fire blazes strongly for a few long seconds, but then is over too soon to confer a real tactical advantage.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - Operative
The UAV allows you to place or remotely control a small spy drone. Any enemies the UAV sees, your teammates see. You can also remotely detonate it.
Tiny little helicopters have found effective roles in many recent shooters, but the one in Brink is only so-so. Once you activate it, the little guy just sits there until you take remote control. Once airborne, any enemies you see will appear on your team's radar. It doesn't handle very well in flight, and you can't manually change the altitude, so you are left hovering at about head height without the ability to surmount obstacles or fly up to a second story. Whoever heard of a helicopter needing to take the stairs? The one redeeming feature is the remote detonation ability, which can easily kill an enemy or two if you are close enough. Also, there's no Cooldown period on the UAV, so you can find a safe place and keep spawning little flying bombs until you run out of supplies.
Despite the uneven quality of the abilities, Agents of Change does provide some nice new toys to play with in Brink. If you're at all interested in revisiting the Ark, you should download this pack soon, because it's only going to be free for the next two weeks. It's definitely not worth the ten dollars they are planning to charge for it, but if you've got some free hard drive space and a hankering for parkour gunfights, Agents of Change is a good bet.
BONUS: Achievement/Trophy List
Science Maven - Win Labs as both factions in Campaign mode
Towering Achievement - Win Founders' Tower as both factions in Campaign mode
A burning Thing - Kill an enemy with a Napalm Grenade
Pyromancer - Kill an enemy with a Pyro Mine
Remote Control - Kill an enemy with a UAV
Mutual Support - Have a Field Regen Unit buff more than 3 players simultaneously
Ark King - Reach Level 24

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