Making their jump from Dungeon Fighters Online, Neople’s gone ahead and thrown down the gauntlet and shown off their newest game, a Ghost in the Shell shooter. How is it? Well for an Early Access game, it is fine. That’s it really, fine. The game is set to a free-to-play title when it is out of Early Access, however, if you’d like to participate in the game, you can purchase one of several packs. They start from the ‘Recruit Early Access Pack’ that’s selling for $4.99 USD where you’ll get a weapon skin, to the ‘Elite Early Access Pack’ which costs $29.99 and you’ll receive 2 operator licenses, three weapon skins, one character skin and over 1 million GP which is the in game currency. If you decide to wait until the release to play the game for free, you’ll have access to only Motoko Kusunagi as your operator.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – First Assault Online; or for the sake of keeping it short, First Assault, is a first-person shooter that’s set in the Ghost in the Shell universe. Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk world where cyberterrorism and warfare is rampant. It is an Anime series that draws upon themes and philosophies including ‘ghosts’ which is the universe’s way of suggesting a persons humanity and soul despite being completely fitted with robotics, and the greater evolution through Artificial Intelligence. It’s a great series to watch, but does the game do the series justice?
Well, I’d say no. You see, First Assault isn’t drawing on the immense deep lore and world of Ghost in the Shell. It’s using the world and its characters and fitting it into a world of gun-play. While guns and weaponry aren’t a stranger to the series, the game chooses instead to focus on that aspect instead of a full blown Ghost in the Shell experience. So I would honestly not suggest this game for people who enjoy the Anime yet dislike jumping into first-person shooters.
With that aside, let’s talk about the game for what it is. As Neople’s first little foray into a shooter title, the shooting feels satisfying and despite slight issues with ballistics and discrepancies with aiming, the gun-play is actually really good. As you play the game, you’ll eventually unlock new weapons and weapon mods to tweak various stats of weapons to customize at your own preference. This sort of customization definitely helps with getting the player comfortable with their weapon including correcting some recoil, accuracy and more.
Another feature that I’d argue is what setting the game apart from other traditional shooters is the skill system. When you begin playing, you’ll get to choose from several of the members of Section 9. Who are all the same technical-wise but have different skills that make them unique. For example, Major Motoko Kusunagi, the series protagonist has the ability to activate her thermal-optic camouflage which renders her partially invisible. Just a quick note, the invisibility is not 100% transparent, so it’s not too difficult to see an incoming enemy. Meanwhile, Paz has the ability to activate hyper-speed which gives him a huge speed and jump boost as he charges in and out of battle. Now, the most interesting part of this feature is that when you obtain enough ‘intel’ which is gained by killing enemies or waiting a bit, you can unlock ‘tier 2’ of a skill. For abilities like Paz’s and Motoko’s, this allows them to give allies the ‘tier 1’ version. This allows other teammates to enjoy the advantages of other squad members.
When it comes to graphical aesthetics, this echos back to my feelings that this game is more for first person shooter fans than Ghost in the Shell fans, the current rotation of maps don’t have many qualities that give it the cyberpunk aesthetics that you’d expect. There is one laboratory facility that’s got some interesting features such as ‘think tank’ shells and other bits that pay homage to the series. However, the other maps feel too generic with not a lot going on. Quite a few choke points to engage in, but other than that, the aesthetics don’t draw out the environment as much as I’d hope.
Now, seeing as this game intends to be free-to-play, let’s talk about the in game currency. This currency can be received by simply playing the game. Or, if you’re jonesing for more cash fast, you can put down real life currency to purchase some GP. In the game, GP is used to purchase nearly everything; weapons, weapon mods, licenses and the like. Fortunately, you can gain GP reasonably quick with the help of boosters you gain from a roulette wheel after each match and ranking up as well as simply doing well in matches. Aside from that, the GP grind might become tedious as you try to save up for certain weapons and weapon mods that you unlock. Speaking of, to unlock weapons and mods, you have to play the game enough times to earn enough ‘TP’ which allows you to unlock them. To clarify, unlocking does not mean obtaining. You’ll need to use your GP to purchase these weapons AND their mods after you unlock both over time.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – First Assault Online is a serviceable shooter. Heck, it’s got potential to be more. However, with the game being only multiplayer with tutorials, and the levels not meshing with the aesthetics from the Anime series, the game has little fan service. So if you’re hoping for more lore and story about the world in this game, this isn’t for you. However, if you want to test out the water and try out a game with some good old fashion shooting, you’re more than welcome to give it a go! The Australian servers in particular are a bit barren, but that’s the price the team has to pay if they put a price lock on Early Access. It’s a hard sell, but if the team can keep polishing the game, add more new creative levels, and keep showing that the game is by no means a pay-to-win experience, there’s a chance this game could see a lot more praise. I love me some cyberpunk and the Ghost in the Shell series is an old favorite of mine; I’d love to see it done justice.