Why I like Firefall

*sorry for the same post in rss feeds, it was going to be for something else but that’s all ruined now.. RUINED I TELL THEEEE!*

My interest in Firefall has grown and fallen over the last few months dramatically. The concept behind Firefall is a grand one, so grand in fact that the way the team is at the moment in terms of time, money and resources I don’t think they will reach it until well off into the future but the key part here is that they still seem to be working towards it. There vision for the world hasn’t changed that much over the years they’ve been developing, they have a solid definable vision they are working towards in terms of events, progression and story that is slowly being realised piece by piece. It’s exciting to see.

If your after learning more about this vision check out the Extra credits videos on the stage 5 or red 5 on Youtube.. here’s Part 1Part 2, part 3part 4part 5. When a game is being supported by the Extra Credits crew you know it has the potential to be amazingly awesome. Mark Kern has also been rather vocal in a MMORPG.com interview recently about casual ethos that has infected the development and design of modern-day mmo’s. It struck a chord with many people, myself included as it discussed many of the problems we as players have been discussing for what seems like an eternity. Surprisingly what he said about his product is pretty much true, Firefall is about the Journey more than any destination and I’m glad it is trying something different in this regards.

They are also doing a few other things in different ways that you might not expect from a game company. They have the prominent sci-fi writer Orson Scot Card, author of the (politics aside) excellent Ender’s game series penning the story for a Manga, they are far more vocal than you would expect on the forums and host a regular live discussion every Friday, and have even begun creating there own sort of gaming channel with some shows that are actually interesting and amusing.

To me it is a game worth supporting on principle alone at the moment but luckily I don’t just have to sell the game on that as there are a myriad of special little gameplay reasons why I love Firefall and will continue to play it into the future.

Dynamic World

World is the key difference here as nothing ever seems to happen within a vacuum. The have iterated on the dynamic events system that has become quite popular since the release of Guild Wars 2 but have made it something more resembling the ambition of the original idea. I never really know when, where or how difficult the events will be, there are no static points where events are guaranteed to plonk down and it can pretty much happen anywhere except in the towns themselves (actually I did witness a tornado plowing through one today catapulting the npc’s around).. but these are subject to attack as well.

A virtual world to explore
A virtual world to explore

There is a territory control system in-game that utilises the watchtowers and towns, the chosen enemies will often try to take these points and and control them. these then become staging points for more attacks. It is up to the players to capture and protect these points. The towns also have the ability to be upgraded for a reward which gives them bonus’ like extra defense, ability to purchase items and such, and depending on the level upgraded too you can even unlock new areas to explore.

Due to the way resource gathering works it also makes the world worth exploring, hunting down stronger rare resource types is a big part of play and will have you exploring anywhere and everywhere. I have found so many amazing locations in-game when I was out exploring for materials and still do. When you begin gathering with the Thumpers it also starts a new event that anyone else can get involved to help you with and be rewarded for, as such putting one of these down is more like a beacon for players and your likely to get a few coming by to investigate what your doing, help out, and even group up. These can be changed for different group sizes and difficulty levels depending on size and type of Thumper, resource quality and quantity, and area of the world. I have discussed Thumpers before.. they’re awesome.

There are many events in the world called ares missions that I would say are very close to being open world dungeons. Some of these are able to be solo’d easily, others will be a challenge, and some require a full coordinated group. They can be a rather intense piece of combat requiring skill and patience to complete, they are a lot of fun to do and even though they aren’t that rewarding to complete I still regularly try to complete them. These are pretty random as well, spawning with more of a regularity than the events as they use the same areas but the timing of them is more random than you would expect. I believe they may also scale in difficulty based on the amount of people too.

Firefall Purple Sunset

The world is also rather beautiful.. sooooooo puurrrrrty that it makes you want to go out and explore and surprisingly this sort of play is rewarded in Firefall, not in silly ways like the urge for achievements or completion but more for the core of what exploration means. Apart for looking for resources when I’m out and about I regularly find new areas, new monsters, audio lore pieces, find and unlock missions, scavenge for resources, find chests, and honestly just look for purty new areas. Just last night I was traveling along and saw a light and smoke emanating from a cave on a cliff face. I ventured over, puzzled my way up to it along the ledges and ramps untill i found a ship that had crashed. getting closer it started a mission for me to find and retrieve a particular package. Now this is your typical mission but it wasn’t just handed to me, there was no glowing beacon pointing it out and that’s what made it special to me.

The development and updates for the game are constantly focused on improving these open world aspects so much so that the world feels like it is growing and evolving. If I’ve taken a break for a couple of weeks or even months I come back to a world filled with new missions to try, to find and to complete, new resource types to scan and plunder, areas that have been opened up for the players to explore and other interesting spots that are empty yet entice you to hang around or keep logging back in to see if something does change in the near future. A couple of days ago I even witnessed as a red 5 developer came on and added a new NPC that people could buy things from just for the hell of it. It is this kind of randomness that actually exudes a feeling of intrigue and mystery that makes the world feel dynamic, more so than the lack of content would allow.

A mysterious and eerie shanty town
A mysterious and eerie shanty town

UI

I used to hate the ui and menu systems with a passion but slowly over the year I’ve seen vast improvements in it’s functionality and ease of use. It doesn’t really operate like you would expect at times and this can be confusing but now that I’ve gotten used to it I find it vastly superior to how I’ve been doing it before. Items, consumables, craftables and such are easy accessible quickly in one menu, they don’t obstruct your view or anything like that but are easy to see and use. I’ve been in the middle of combat jetpacking around and still be able to find and use a health pack. The Social menu is just as easy too, and although it has had it’s fair share of problems during the beta the kinks are slowly being worked out.

The combat UI is the minimalist style I’ve come to like in my games but it does this to perfection. Everything is easily to understand from skills, cooldowns, and health but it never takes up too much space. It leaves the screen free of clutter so that you can enjoy the world and maneuver in combat effectively.

The crafting and battleframe systems use to be a jumble of stupidity, enough so that it soured my mood towards the game for some time but with each iteration it has improved dramatically. The crafting menu has been organised now and it is far easier to understand what your creating, what resources and components you need and what the result will be. Double clicking on a component now take you to the place where you can craft it, that seems like a luxury but not having it was very frustrating. The battleframe menu has been streamlined now as well, I have to admit I still like the tech tree model more but with these unlocks now being contained within crafting research it is a good compromise. If you don’t know that much about the mechanics it is still confusing but I think they’ve done a good job showing the essentials.

There are many other notable improvements to the ui, the major focus though has been accessibility, visibility, and ease of use and for such a complex system I think they’ve done well. It’s easier to see where you are in terms of progression as well as your community connections and crafting seems just a little less daunting now.

Firefall menu
Firefall has a lot of information and tools available to the modding community which has seen many community apps being created that improve many areas of the UI, menu’s, and even character appearance. I wrote a little how to guide not long ago too if your interested in modding the game and I would recommend some of them. Modding is often able to improve the experience for many and is a very valuable point of the community as it offers diversity and speed with certain updates to the client that might not be part of the developers priorities. It seems like creating your own might not be too hard either as the community seems very friendly and willing to help out where they can.

There are many different chat commands to use as well in case the other systems are a bit much and it they have the usual collection of commands. The important part if your interested in customising your experience further is the in game console command accessed by pressing Alt+F1. Be warned that messing in here can ruin your game though. The main one I use is ui Alpha (0 or 1) which toggles the in game hud. An easier way to do this is binding the keys.

Combat

It us fast paced and very mobile, shooting things while jet packing around is a lot of fun, A LOT and it all seems very responsive. It has a flexible version of the holy trinity which actually seems to work very well with the content in the game as it naturally promotes team work and coordination. The Basics of the frame types are:

  • Dreadnaught – Tank
  • Assault – Aoe dps
  • Recon – Single target sniper
  • Biotech – Healer
  • Engineer – Turrets and support

These are rather flexible now and you can mix and match abilities and weapons at any of the battleframe stations in the major towns or outposts for no cost. This used to be a little bit harder however in recent changes there are vendors that contain a lot of the stock gear from the various battleframes and you get ample parts to use from using and unlocking frames. At the moment I can change my Dragonfly healing frame to be more orientated towards damage if I wanted. Switching frames is also ridiculously easy too.

Firefall Thumping

The Ai of the monsters is still rather limited but the content can get very challenging. There is a better diversity of chosen classes now which means more dynamic encounters with them. They use their skills often enough that it changes the style of combat, this and the different battleframes creates some interesting gameplay as your constantly forming impromptu groups and using team work to overcome obstacles.

Also with the way the progression system is your never going to outgrow any of the content, the easier things may get a bit easier but there will still be a lot of challenging encounters out there.

Economy… maybe?

Now this is where a lot of people’s opinion about Firefall will diverge dramatically. A few patches ago they began developing this side of the game and so far I’ve been rather impressed, with the free form style of gameplay and a focus on resources and crafting this did seem like the natural progression for it. It is a lot to deal with at first and can seem rather punishing to new players and those looking for quick progression but I like it. Without these systems it would be just another shooter mmo which gets devoured entirely within a couple weeks then forgotten.. kinda like Defiance.

There is a fully fleshed out and complex crafting system that plays a big part in progression. You gather resources and craft better gear and apart from very rare item drops (1 every couple hours) this will be how you upgrade you progress in terms of gear. It can get rather complicated very quickly; first you need to research a particular category, next there are many different components to make an item and the quality of the end product is influenced by the type and quality of resources you use. There are a lot of different items to craft related to your battleframe and  items to use with many coming in different tiers. It’s a lot to deal with at first but as you keep playing it becomes a guiding point to your play in terms of future goals. Regardless of your battlerframe progression though you can equip near any gear for its class but there may be constraints due to Mass, CPU, Core.

Permanent durability loss was placed in a couple months ago which does result in complete item loss. The stock gear you get doesn’t lose anything but crafted and found gear will lose durability on death and eventually need to be replaced. The marketplace is rather new as well with people trading resources and gear, this with durability loss should keep the economy pretty active. You can’t spam crafting either as many of the items having a time factor attached to them which makes them far more valuable to the economy now. I am actually really interested to see how the economy progresses in game after release and into the future as it’s trying many of the things I’ve been preaching.

The way crafting is it is very hardcore though. You need lots of resources to craft the best(?) gear and in a few months of playing kind of sporadically I’ve only been able to get a several pieces of tier 1 gear. Now the statistical gain isn’t that big so it isn’t extremely important, it’s mainly there for hard core progression. There are also a few pieces you are able to craft which do take some time to achieve that unlock certain content pieces like the new melding pockets and the Blackwater anomoly instance, but as long as someone in group has this you’re not locked out.

Well… what are you waiting for?

I’ve said before that I really like this game, even though the world is rather small and the mob types limited it still feels kind of like an mmo should. Your not just filling out a checklist of missions and achievements but rather roaming around and finding things to do and fulfilling your own goals, the goals you made and that you seek. People work together out in the world, groups form regularly in chat for the content and it’s just nice to explore. If they had the resources and team of a bigger studio this game would have been amazing. It is still good but there is a lot of potential for growth.

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