When we last left Firefall, it was in the beta and I was labeling it “Firefail” in a moment of supreme cleverness. Basically, an early tutorial quest that required me to pick up a handgun wouldn’t complete, and a later re-attempt at playing the beta found me unable to download the final 0.04 MB of the file.
This time around, everything worked and I have spent ~13 hours across last week getting a feel for the game.
Firefall is a F2P 3rd-person shooter MMO, vaguely reminiscent of Mass Effect + Borderlands. You play as an ARES pilot, a sort of mercenary with the ability to swap in and out of battleframes, which are themselves the equivalent of classes. Different battleframes have different abilities and primary weapons, and each battleframe levels up independently of each other. At certain levels, you unlock Perks which can (usually) then be applied to your character no matter the battleframe you are wearing.
There are story quests of sorts you can follow in Firefall, although the main thrust of the game has more to do with random, open-world questing than normal MMOs. For example, a 15-minute story quest and a 2-minute quest to repair a generic Thumper generally give the same amount of XP.
The open-world part of questing is emphasized by the literal open-world: aside from needing to click on towers to push back the “Melding” – and the level-based mobs, a huge change from the early beta – you can generally run anywhere. And the world is absolutely HUGE in this game. Huge and vertical, even. Considering every battleframe has a jetpack (of differing quality), this lends itself quite nicely to exploring.
As always, there are downsides. Although the world is huge, it also feels relatively empty. Part of this is literal emptiness, but part of this also comes from the vast distances between quests and the cash shop-based restrictions to moving around. For example, you can purchase a cash shop vehicle right away, or wait until level 25 to get one with a cooldown. Technically you can craft 1-time use transportation solutions (Gliders) too, but it’s generally easier to just turn on auto-run inbetween waypoints as you browse Reddit on your phone.
I like how you have one character that swaps battleframes rather than a stable of alts, but in practice everything ends up feeling more restrictive than less. If you’re playing Assault, I hope you enjoy your grenade launcher primary, because that’s the same weapon you’ll be using forever. If you swap to Engineer for a change of pace after 12 levels, suddenly you’re going to need to hoof it back to the starting zone and kill level 2 mobs again, assuming you even have low-level weapons to use. Since the story missions aren’t particularly rewarding, the end result is you repairing Thumpers 200 times just to get back to where you were in the first place.
The shooty bits are fun for fans of shooty bits, but… it’s hard to describe, but there’s some essential element missing. “Substance” is the best word I can use to describe it – you feel like you are shooting at ghosts all the time. There is technically collision, mind you, it’s just that the enemies never feel like they belong anywhere or behave particularly rationally. On some of the random missions you will walk into a room that is filled with 30+ enemies and get mowed down without understanding why the room had 30+ dudes in it. Was it intentional? A bug? Was it actually a hidden group quest? I actually survived that cave, but mainly by abusing the poor AI rather than any sort of fancy shooting on my part.
Overall, I don’t anticipate playing Firefall for much longer. The game is F2P and it does seem like you could get a lot of gameplay in legitimately without feeling too much like a 2nd-rate citizen. Hitting level 40 (the cap) supposedly gives you the ability to purchase one of the 10 cash shop classes, although you can technically get them off the AH for in-game currency as well. That said, it’s hard to imagine hitting the cap and playing the same routine missions again and again, this time with a different primary gun.
So… Firefall. Certainly not the worst F2P game I have ever played, but there are better options.
Bring It, 2014
The normal sort of thing to do is look back on what 2013 brought us, but ain’t nobody got time for that. And 2013 sucked anyway. Let’s see what’s in store for next year, yeah?
For as much as crusty old bloggers harp about Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online, I find it amusing how not a one of them (that I am aware of) has mentioned The Repopulation. What is it? Why, according to Kotaku it is the love child of SWG and UO. MMO? Check. Open-world sandbox? Check. Build your own towns? Check. No levels or classes? Check and check. Can just be a crafter all day, or dancer, or street performer? Ayep. Hell, they even claim you can seamlessly switch from hotkey MMO style combat to an action-oriented 1st/3rd-person shooter perspective. It’s a veritable pantheon of Jesus features.
Apparently the game is already in Alpha from a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, although they are giving it another $50k Kickstart for some reason or another. Closed Beta for backers starts in March. The end result will be a F2P MMO that sells “memberships” in tiers for a one-time purchase, which is perhaps the most novel business model I’ve seen yet. In fact, I think that was the last undiscovered videogame payment scheme. Achievement unlocked.
It’s a thing.
Elder Scrolls Online
Also a thing.
EverQuest Next: Landmark
If Landmark ends up being anything more than a commercial disaster, it will be in spite of having the most vague, nonsensical marketing strategy I have ever witnessed. I mean, watch this promotional video. That was uploaded on December 6th, 2013, so it’s not from back when they didn’t know how they were going to cover up the EQN delay.
That being said, I am always keenly interested in anything that allows players to freeform create things in game spaces. I’m not talking about building a house somewhere in UO or other nonsense. I’m talking about actually being able to craft something that can effectively be used as a portfolio of game design. Hell, I still have all 11.6 gigs of Portal 2 installed because I imagined that one day I would get around to building my own puzzle as an example of level design. Did it happen? Nope. Could it have happened? Yep. PlanetSide 2’s Player Studio deal apparently had some budding designers banking $5000-$8000 in a quarter, for crafting the equivalent of hats and camo. Landmark will have the same sort of system in place, on a much larger scale.
So, Landmark is on the radar. I’m not convinced that it will actually be a “real” MMO in terms of it being entertaining to play the non-crafting bits, but who knows? Certainly not SOE, that’s for goddamn sure.
Not a thing. Seriously, it’s Borderlands 2 Online minus a PC version. Which means I’m not playing it.
I hadn’t even thought about this game since I ran into a bugged quest back in July. Actually, I take that back. I had an entire post ready to go entitled “Firefail” and it was to be accompanied by this picture:
Basically, I tried patching the game and got stuck at the last 0.04 MB. I truly did try everything, including a full uninstall of the game client and a redownload.
As it turns out, I might have dodged a bullet there. Apparently, the CEO of the game studio was fired after having spent millions of dollars on high-end camera equipment and, no joke, converting a tour bus into a mock-up of in-game transport. That bus job cost $3 million from an MMO game studio’s coffers. Oh, and I guess apparently the CEO announced that he unilaterally cancelled all PvP in a forum post? You can read a sort of insider view of the dirty laundry in this (verified!) Reddit thread.
WoW: Outlands 2.0
Probably a thing.
First Impression: Firefall (Beta)
Downloaded the Firefall open beta client yesterday because, you know, Press™.
For those not keeping track at home, Firefall is… well, hell if I actually know. Without looking it up, I’m assuming it’s a F2P MMO set in an open-world, over-the-shoulder Borderlands 2 with bugs taking the place of bandits. After looking it up, it seems the devs want to emphasize the fact that it is a skill-based action shooter with sandbox MMO elements. Apparently the world is a not level-restricted, but the highest-ranked “dungeons” will need full groups with crafted gear. Which sounds like roundabout levels to me, but let’s play along.
One of my biggest fears with new MMOs – or any game which expects me to be playing for 50+ hours – is losing on the character select screen. How am I supposed to know which class will be the most fun months from now? And even if I luck into the best class for me, how will I know it won’t radically change (or get nerfed) years later? So, right away, Firefall got some major brownie points with me once I understood that a “class” means a Battleframe, which you can swap out at pretty much any time. Need a healer? Jump into your healer suit and go play.
Loincloth starting armor tropes aside, I think the whole Battleframe direction is pretty clever. Not only are you allowing people to play whatever role is necessary at the time, having independent frames means a player has to “level-up” multiple times while still allowing for quick catch-up. In other words, it’s horizontal progression. PlanetSide 2 has this same sort of thing, where you might have to purchase various levels of Flak Armor for each class (which is expensive with Certs), or you can just focus on playing Light Assault or Medic and save your currency.
In any case, from the extremely limited amount of time I spent playing, things seem fun enough. They certainly looked good, at any rate.
Some people might not like the sort of cel-shaded motif here, but this sort of thing has never bothered me. If the game runs better and has more options for crazy effects, then I will “sacrifice” ultra-realistic graphics any day. Plus: everyone has jetpacks, right from the start.
I can’t give much more of an impression beyond the above, as I was unable to progress past the second “quest.” The first quest was to follow a waypoint, and the second was to kill some bugs and then return to purchase your sidearm from a vendor. Unfortunately, either I am completely oblivious (possible) or the the game was bugging out for me (likely) seeing as how no menu would appear after interacting with said vendor:
Since the mouse controls your aim, I know that I successfully clicked ‘E’ on the vendor because the crosshair disappeared and an actual mouse pointer appeared. But no menu. I tried highlighting the guns in the background, clicking on every on-screen icon-looking thing, reloading the client, and finally restarting my computer. Open beta is open beta, but I was left feeling pretty disappointed all the same. Hell, I couldn’t even submit a ticket because that interface wasn’t showing up either. I could probably submit a bug report on the forums… or I could go play some other game that works instead.
While I was clicking around, I did notice something particularly interesting:
That’s right, you can move shit around your screen and I think resize elements right from the start. It might seem like a small thing, and it arguably is small, but it begs the question of why some MMOs *cough* require you to download 432 mods to do the same sort of things. Artistic restrictions? General laziness? More of this sort of thing, please.
I might check back in on Firefall later to see if the problem resolves itself, or I might simply wait until release. Until then, feel free to try it out yourself.