The Hierarchy: A New Role-Playing Spy Game from Serious Business

Role-playing games on Facebook tend to be copycats of a single theme — Mob Wars being the classic example. Innovation in these RPGs tends to be in the form of storytelling and static visuals, as well as a few improved usability elements. Such is the case with a just-launched game from Serious Business, called The Hierarchy. Known best for its game Friends For Sale, the company takes gamers into the depths of a spy vs. spy world with this latest title.

Players start out in Berlin with a contact from a mysterious character called “Foxhound” (yes, like the group of agents in Metal Gear Solid). Apparently, someone is trying to kill you and thus you’re on your way to find out how and why. As expected, players do so by completing “Assignments,” or missions. Each mission must be repeated a certain number of times to receive a level of 100% mastery, and once three missions have been completed, players can fight the “boss” of the current tier of assignments. Upon defeating each boss, a new target is revealed, and it’s business as usual until the player reaches a level high enough to unlock the next chapter of the story.

Perhaps what is most curious about this game, however, is the fact that it is very, very solo friendly. Thus far, there have been no requirements for extra “mob members.” Does this take away from the social aspects of the RPG? A little, but the game does still have the player combat that these games are known for, and the lack of a “mob size” requirement allows the player to move at the pace that suits them, rather than forcing them to wait around for others to join their mafia so they can proceed through the story.

Another interesting difference is the equipment. This is also not required for completing missions, but takes more of the MMO approach by simply boosting your character’s stats (armor, attack, and agility). That isn’t to say other text-based RPGs don’t do this, but here items don’t feel quite as critical – at least not in the early levels.

Each mission also earns you secondary abilities, such as tracking, infiltration, and hacking. However, as interesting as these sound, and despite the fact that when you first create a character, it can specialize in such areas, there doesn’t seem to be any real use for them. Perhaps it is more prevalent in later missions – affecting win and fail rates – but there is no visible location to see what your level of skill you have in these areas, suggesting that they simply do nothing. On paper, it sounds like an idea that would add some very interesting game play, so hopefully, the developers will do something more with it.

Overall, The Hierarchy is a pretty solid RPG. It isn’t anything that is going to revolutionize the genre, but it does mix enough new ideas with old concepts to keep things interesting. The story works, the solo friendly play adds for good pacing, and it has some potential for new game play depth with secondary statistics (even if it feels unused). If you like trying new RPGs, this is one to check out.

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Publish date: October 2, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT