Frefalling into Firefall

Another game I have been enjoying lately for a myriad of reasons but in which I probably won’t play for longer then a week because there is just too much cool stuff. I swear I like every game in it’s own way sometimes and it’s so hard to split my time accordingly, it only partially has to do with the novelty factor but more to do with trying out different mechanics. Broadening my horizons and reaching for gaming enlightenment… Pffft.

I usually try to prioritise my gaming based on potential fun, present and future accordingly. Although if that was the case I would probably be playing more Planetside 2 (which I haven’t loaded up for 2 weeks now) as it is a rather amazing and free(ish) game. Firefall is not as good as Planetside but it still rates pretty on my potential a meter. It is another game that is still rather incomplete but is kind of a must play just to enjoy the experience for as long as it takes you to be bored. It has a decent concept behind it and we’ll built mechanics as a foundation.

In essence it is the PvE version of Planetside 2.. Just one of the lite versions though. There is a wide world out there (well it is small right now but I think there adding more content before release) and it is entirely up to you to make your own fun… No guidance, no beginner rails, just strap yourself in and dive in.

More pew pew

More pew pew

Well review over I guess.. Unless of course you like word Spam then by all means continue.. and by golly this is a lot of word spam.

The Beginning

Like Planetside 2 this game could do with a begginers tutorial to all the mechanics, it isn’t as complex but there are many different parts of the game that are rather confusing when trying to figure it out for yourself. What’s there in no way helps you play the game.. it is not even the basics and there are no videos to fall back on, even the player created guides could do with a trim.

What it does try to teach it doesn’t even explain well or at all. It shows you all the different tools in the starter area but it could have gone into far more depth such as changing around equipment and such, what can go where, where to get the pieces from, and what the flipping he’ll do these stats mean. The little tutorial about using a thumper is pathetic as well, it doesn’t tell you the keybinds needed to bring up the new equipment, equip and how to use. I think I was fumbling around for something like 30 minutes randomly clicking things and pressing every button, I know I’m dense at times but so is the general gaming public I’ve found.

A nice day for a picnic.. or maybe a Thumper

A nice day for a picnic.. or maybe a Thumper

*In case your wondering you press c to bring up a quick item menu which is actually rather easy to use and feels very intuitive. Also o for the social menu is a good one to know

There is very little guidance from here either and it is a figure it out for yourself time which a sadistically found rather fun. It encouraged exploration right from the start, I was looking at the large map seeing fancy icons and wondering what the hell it is.. So I went to find out. I went everywhere, I killed anything, mined all around the place, clicked on everything, and attacked things i probably shouldn’t have. At first it was by myself but you quickly find others and are naturally attracted to bring around others so I did.

It was just fun being in a new untainted world to explore where I was pioneering for my own knowledge.

Combat

Firefall is a game of skill coming first, I know that gets spouted a lot these days but is a close fit. Usually with these ftp models you would see some sort of segregation between the have and have nots but while there is a difference between the first timers and the elite it really isn’t enough to make it that distinctive.

It has a leveling process with a tech tree for the different classes suits but for the most the new pieces I got were more just a bonus rather then upgrades. A couple seconds off a cool down skill, a new skin, better jump jets but not enough that would completely alter how I play with the class. I never thought I was more powerful, it was just a “huh that’s cool” kind of feel.

There are a lot of different options for advanced with your battleframes, each gives you a chance to upgrade a long a certain path and even fill in an entire tree. The choice though is where to specialise in the end, each tree type leads to a different upgraded battleframe of a certain focus, for me it was to focus on healing skills or on a more offensive class. And from Tier 2 the choice becomes a big point in how you want to progress since upgrades cost quite a bit of experience

Firefall Dragonfly TechAs with an fps your relying on twitch skills, accuracy is important and is rewarded. Ammunition can become rather scarce at times, it drops from enemies occasionally and ammo recharge stations are shared and rather minimal so getting the most out of a magazine means you can keep shooting for longer, and keep killing. You can make your own portable ammo packs which I would definitely advise but these can be chewed up rather quickly and you really don’t want to be burning through your resources supplies to make them.

Health is more but also less then you would think, you can take a few hits rather easily and standing to face a lone mob or pair of critters is easy enough. But thet rarely come alone and a pack of enemies can take you down ridiculously fast.

It all really encourages movement as there are different mob types that all have there own style of combat which if you get to know are mostly avoidable. Most mobs will either shoot where you are or where you are going to be making strafing and changing directions important in any fight. Knowing when is the harder part and requires a lot of timing and a little luck.

Also have I said before how much I love jet packs… Well I do, they are one of the most amazing mechanism ever. EVA!! , maybe a close second to grappling hooks. It allows so much more freedom of movement in and out of combat, being able to traversing the landscape in this fashion is honestly a blessing. It can help you get somewhere faster and gives you a great view of your surroundings.

FirefallClient 2013-02-02 15-02-30-87

It isn’t as hard to master as a game like Tribes as your not moving at supersonic speeds but it is enough to add another dynamic to combat. The extra plane of movement means you are able to avoid the critters easily as well as incoming fire to an extent, finding little crevices to jump too is a good way of getting a needed breather to either heal up or run away.

Ultimately with better movements and aiming you can stay in the field longer and when getting anywhere in particular can take a long time to run to it’s to your advantage.

It helps to also have an awareness of your surroundings, some monsters spawn away from you and then attack while others will even try to flank you. In team fights you really should be taking account of where everyone is, alone your a target but together it is much more efficient. In large fights it gets very hectic, enemy fire will be all around you, enemies will continue moving and all that time your team mates will be jetting around in the air above… it is great to be apart of.

The different classes work surprisingly well when coordinating together, the tank has a bit more health and mows enemies down with a gattling gun, another sniping, engie for turrets to protect the flanks and my heals backing it all up. It feels like a really well formed trinity system in fps form. I was entranced with something similar in the resistance coop mode so this is familiar but far more fun since it is open ended.

World

My initial thoughts were it feels entirely bled out in terms of colours and textures. During that initial flight in when the game starts it is a terrible scene with long environmental load times, alt tab out and it all needs to load again. It was not a good first impression and coming from modern games it feels like a step back into the future. But once you get into it, running around, exploring you generally just start absorbing the environments and it is quiet lovely.

It has its own stylized aestehtic, not as wild as borderlands but the style it has kind of suits it in many ways. It has a cartoon feel but in a good way kind of like a road runner universe but with a lush setting. While the scenery is a mostly temperate jungle there are many different parts to it that make it feel worldly; a long pristine beach area, rugged mountains, forests, and everything in between. While I would maybe like a little more differentiation in environment types it is still rather cohesive.

Firefall jungling

Welcome to the Jungle

It is never going to have block buster visuals and that is really quite ok, too many games focus on graphics and end up being a soulless but pretty experience. The style here works if you let it and for a much smaller company with less budget you make allowances and here they wanted good fps combat, and great response time and they got it.

One great way of exploring the world and getting around are the gliders situated in many of the outposts. While at first I was crashing these nearly every time but if your not retarded it shouldn’t take you too long to be flying around. It offers a brilliant way to learn about the world, the twist and turns of certain canyons and will get you much ore familiar with certain parts like large rock outcrops that act like guide posts.

You can also craft your own personal glider pads for yourself or groups to use which makes for one of the first big goals. I was lucky enough to get a very knowledge person to take me traveling and showing me the sights who used one of these personal pads to take a couple of us high up onto a special scenic point, I forgot to take a picture but I got the distinct feel of vertigo from that height.

There is just so much to explore when you first start that it will keep you busy for quite a while. Even after that there is enough to entertain as the many events can change regularly, and things like finding the best miming spots takes time. The primary play style of the game is run around and see what happens and if you let it, learn about it, and utilise it’s different functions you will have many hours, days and maybe even months of unstructured content.

Stuffz to do

At first there really doesn’t appear to be much to do around the world. There is very little structure and guidance given on where to go and what to do. It is hard at first to get used to this but once you start just aimless roaming around it is rather engaging. You can be doing anything and everything just about straight away without restriction, while some content needs items to start you can join in regardless of having them if they have already begun. It is a nice compromise in a way as it let’s everyone join in but leaves things as a goal to work towards.

There are many things that can be done alone if your careful. The lesser thumpers are easy enough and a good way during you initial foray to get a little experience with the systems. There are a few mission you may find which are easy enough as well, or you can just go about massacring the wildlife.

Please keep all arms and legs outside of the designated area

Please keep all arms and legs outside of the designated area

But it is a lot more fun together, Yeh yeh most games are better with a group but it begs repeating as people are still heading into mmo’s for a solitary gaming experience. There are much higher rewards for the larger group events and more mobs to tag and kill, and these events are everywhere. A sea of enemies, a GW2 event system turned up to 11, they keep spawning and keep taking territory moving from the outer to the centre. You needn’t group though as from what I can see you still get a certain credit to any event, you will miss out on the resources from a thumper though but it is still fun to participate in.

Why go it alone though, it feels like a big but underpopulated world and a sense of feeling isolated at times when running alone. When I was out and about exploring I found myself naturally gravitating towards the class markers on the mini map. It’s a world where you don’t want to be alone, and where others give a bit of comfort not to mention it being far more efficient to level or farm with others. Now I’m not sure if this feels will change in the future as the population right now is rather small, I think it will.

Fighting by Flare Light

Fighting by Flare Light

If you do want to make a group it seems simple enough and worked with how you aim in a certain way. Using the social menu (o) and clicking on the right option sends an invite to the person you have targeted. Only the group leader can invite though which can make this system cumbersome but you also have the option of using chat commands.

Overall I say don’t be afraid to group up, for the most part the community has been helpful and friendly, small communities of tend to be like that. The one thing you should know is to write down any names you have friended as names for me were being randomly deleted.

Crafting

Crafting is not the completely shallow experience I was expecting, hell I wasn’t even expecting crafting at all so what is here actually surprised me. It isn’t some convoluted and complex affair but nor is it a simple after thought, it has many different options and paths to explore and interconnecting pieces. It makes you use a lot of different resources to combine and make what you want.

The surprising thing it does do is give you many things to work towards, goals related to progression that is either about gear upgrades or unlocks for certain harder content group content. That may sound weird to unlock content through crafting but it’s rather well done. For instance the resources gobbling Thumpers have different tiers you can craft, with each tier mining more resources but also luring in more and harder groups of enemies. Throughout the world there is also certain points that require crafted what it’s and bitsies in order to start that event.

There are also a few other interesting craftables like the fluff pieces of personal gliders which are great to have, there is no real advantage in having them but they kind of let you experience more of the world in a different way. Consumables also play a big part of gameplay and you will be crafting a lot of these over your playtime and they come in different tiers as well, mostly the cheap ones will do but just remember to keep these well stocked up before you go out hunting. It is all actually kind of well designed, for an mmo and a shooter it is amazing, rather then just an afterthought or time sink it is a very valid and vital part of your gameplay.

Tinkering in the Battle frame Garage

Tinkering in the Battle frame Garage

The crafting is where Red 5 aim to primarily make their cash shop dollars. Everything you craft takes time, with higher tier and complex items being a lot more. While you can just leave it crafting while you go about your business you can pay to speed up the progress and get the item immediately. It isn’t as nauseating as it could be though, one funny thing I really don’t understand is that any item will only cost you 1 red bean (the currency type) to complete regardless of the time it would have required and that comes to around 10 to 20 cents I think. Maybe this gets more for the really complex crafts … maybe.

Customisation

The options here are extremely limited, like I mean the most basic thing you have ever seen in your life.. the point where you think why even bother at all and I guess thats where the cash shop comes in.

But what’s there really isn’t that good either.. does it really matter when your primarily in a first person view. I don’t know how well they will be able to sustain the game based of this small part of the game considering. The prices are considered rather high by some of the community so that might be a part of it as they usually run for around $5 with some quite a bit higher for something rather simple.

But once again who cares, the character models are but ugly anyway and in the grand scheme of micro transactions I would much rather have a case shop connected to appearance options the fundamental tied to gameplay like weapons in Planetside 2.

I played my entire time without spending a cent and I never felt like I should buy something, everything I kind of needed was already there. Red 5 have to make some money here in order to sustain the game and if a few cashed up people want to buy a pair of sunnies I’m ok with that.

PvP

I have no idea.. I have yet to try the PvP modes of Firefall as the rest of the game has captivated me and that says a lot as to its potential.

The PvP does look very interesting though, the twitch combat and jet pack enhanced maneuverability will make it fast, fun, and frenetic. The nature of the classes and group co ordination also has me rather intrigued as I don’t think I have played a competitive fps with such a feature being so prominent. I am going to get my ass handed to me but I’m still guessing it will be a lot of fun.

They aim rather high with the PvP as well with aspirations of being an Esport, I honestly don’t think it will be a ble to draw a a big following as an Esport. It doesn’t have the fast paced nature of Tribes and its ridiculously high skill ceiling or the large following of games like Counterstrike. And then there is the question of which market are they actual going for, an mmo or shooter as the mechanics are a mismatch of them, good for PvE maybe not so much for competitive PvP.

Where to Now

It has already given me an entire weekends worth of fun and I plan to have a few more big play sessions this weekend, if the power hadn’t gone out I’m guessing I would have logged a few more hours during the week. It is weird to get this feeling as from just getting an overview of the games mechanics and a simple first impression the game doen’t appear that good. It is entirely simplistic in it’s aims.. kill moar stuff but once you get involved in the world it has its own charm.

Dance Dance Revolution

Dance Dance Revolution

It is the well thought out sandbox elements that will keep you returning and the personal goals you make which keep you playing. The one thing though is that regardless of your personal progression and aims for the future your still pretty much utilising the same events, shooting the same monsters in the same way. Planetside 2 can sustain itself based on having the same mechanics the never change because it is more dynamic due to it’s pvp nature and while the events do have a dynamic nature with how they spawn and the way they change the world it falls into similar patterns.

It is still definitely worth a bit of your time just to see this new and interesting concept in play, an mmo shooter with dynamic events and a warm blooded sandbox heart. Red 5 have done an amazing job considering there relatively indie nature and small team for an mmo. I look forward to seeing how this game develops into the future and how other mmo’s may take certain mechanics and iterate upon them.

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  1. Pingback: MMO Update: Firefall, Guild Wars 2, The Repopulation, Wizardry Online, and The Secret World « Game Delver

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