Firefall has been in development for a long time now. This MMO-shooter (you can choose 1st or 3rd person at will) has a hype machine that has been slowly ticking along and picking up new followers as it goes. When the words “free-to-play MMO” are murmured, ears instantly turn off, but after talking to lead designer Scott Youngblood who guaranteed me that microtransactions will not let you “pay to win” and make it unfair for other players, it was easy to see that this game not only has the gameplay to turn heads but it also isn’t around to suck money out of players pockets.
Up until today all I really knew about Firefall was that it was an MMO and a shooter, that is already extremely rare. After playing it at last years PAX East I was shown the PvP aspect of the game, obviously with a shooter title the gameplay is even more important than it would be for a standard number key spamming medieval MMO. With roots set in from the Tribes series, we got to see a class-based shooter in action, with action all over the battlefield and some really great matches.
This year I had the opportunity to see the world come alive. Placing me in the shoes of my own soldier I was in Copa Cobana a city in the world of Firefall and was thrusted right into their live beta servers playing with current beta testers as they experienced Firefall from home. Unlike the tedious beginnings of most MMO’s you are given a fairly easy control scheme. There is not much of a learning curve and in my opinion other than learning how their crafting, resource gathering, and dynamic missions work you really can jump into the game and enjoy yourself without having to take notes.b
All it takes is about 15 minutes to really grasp your characters capabilities and then you are on your way. I was an assault character and after taking my first quest I simply navigated to the waypoint and learned what I could do. Killing giant spider-like creatures with my first gun that had two firing modes that included a burst fire and also a splash damage plasma shot gave me a nice balance as I jetpacked around these critters and blew them into pieces.
In true MMO fashion though you also had some unique skills. My assault character had a move called “crater” that allowed me to go into the air and then smash down into the ground causing AoE damage. Scott told me that the higher in the air that I am when I choose the skill makes me do more damage when I land. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together and jetpack as high as possible and really do some damage on re-entry. Later Scott showed me his skill by jetpacking all the way up and using an afterburner skill that shot him further into the air and wreaking havoc as he came barreling down from absurd heights.
As I continued my playthrough shooting everything and jetpacking leisurely I was directed to what I describe as a dynamic mission. Throughout the world you will come across an opposing human AI force that acts as a counter-balance to the world. You can be doing quests or gathering resources when these forces can attack you, it isn’t a game of cat-n-mouse though. You can fight back and it is probably for the best that you do. These forces will keep increasing like vermin and have the ability to take over areas in a city rendering them unusable until they are taken back.
I just so happened to check my map (which is very cool by the way, you can see where different players are and what class they are, and can even set notes for yourself to highlight resource nodes, or even enemy types if you desire) and see two or three fellow players trying to take back this dock area. There is a huge structure protected by a forcefield and this opposing force is surround the area. The only attack we are mounting are two players on top of a guard tower holding off enemies who are attacking them as they are trying to lower the defense of this structure and take back the area.
I decide to help out and jetpack up the back side of this guard tower rather than face on these enemies head on. After making it to the inside I show up as back up and start laying down some heavy plasma shots and wiping out the current waves of enemies. This allows us to focus on taking out the structure with all of us firing and destroying pillars that are granting its forcefield we start chipping away as soldiers show up to stop us. It was only a glimpse of fun events you can do in the game but it opened my eyes to the possibilities.
After taking part in this I tried my hand at resource gathering. As I am a noob I only could break up small rocks and gain the materials by walking over them, fun little side note – you don’t have to pickup everything that drops, you simple walk over to it and are given credits, materials, et cetera and it is nice not to deal with the tedious nature of those elements. Scott Youngblood took the reigns after my newbie attempt at resource gathering and showed me how fun gathering resources and crafting really can be in Firefall ( a huge step up from the repetitive and boring MMO way).
Scott jumped on his real character and started his exploration. He had a futuristic sledgehammer that by hitting 4 on his keyboard let out a thunderous slam into the ground. When he did this a small bar alerted him of the element level in that area and visible waves went across the entire terrain like a large scale metal detector to see where some activity was. He did this briefly before scoping out the perfect location. After finding it he invited three players to join him and he called in a space drop that planted a resource gathering device that in a brief time period would gather a ton of resources in the location he found. The catch is that this drill would start alerting everything in the area and make them really aggressive. So him and these three other players were forced to band together as waves of enemies assaulted the drill that was disturbing their homeland. I quickly saw how intense things became when doing this and he actually had to call up the drill before it was destroyed on him. Scott told me that their are various drills that you can plant and gain more/less material but the bigger the drill the more you will piss off the enemies…talk about making the crafting system more lively.
After witnessing a pretty fun aspect of the title we seen the crafting aspect. So players get to gather resources, gain exp, and earn credits as they PvE, but all of it is really to help make your character stronger with better weapons and battlesuits. Steve showed off how using the resources he earned he was able to craft various items to improve his character. The crafting system simply allows you to build something as long as you have X amount of materials and it is tied to a real-time clock. So you can build a new suit for yourself and it could take 30-40 minutes. This was one of the spots where microtransactions would come in and just allow you to receive items you earned the resources for by allowing you to shorten your crafting time. He also said that a lot of the time he will adventure in PvE, earn resources, craft some items, and then go into PvP while he waited for them to finish crafting.
Before we finished our meeting I had to ask him about customization and clans. I am a huge fan of both and they are my guilty pleasure in a lot of games. Firefall does not disappoint by offering vast facial customization and a lot of a variety in suits/weapons. The clan and army system only add to it, giving you the ability to rock clan colored warpaint and also wear your clan’s insignia proudly on your armor it was just what I was looking for. As an added bonus, if your clan takes over buildings you can even expect that logo to appear on that too.
The only thing that impressed me more than the game was Scott Youngblood himself. He had his hand in the Tribes series and during our meeting you could see the passion he has for the world that is being created. This isn’t a game created to steal your money and uninstall after a few plays, this is a game that Red 5 Studios has allowed Scott Youngblood and his team to create and offer a great experience for gamers. The money aspect is clearly secondary and their vision is truly being created. I envy them for that and all it is going to take is letting players go hands on in order to realize how fun this game is…if this show floor is any indication, they are in good shape.