A couple of weeks ago I decided to download the Fallen Earth Open Beta and have a look at the game. I was pretty late in doing so, and ended up trying out several characters over the Friday night, Saturday and Sunday of the final weekend.
Fallen Earth is not a game for fast leveling. I managed to get three of my characters to level 3, and one to level 6 before I stopped early Sunday evening. (I’m not exactly a fast leveler at the best of times anyway.) So, fair warning, this post isn’t a review, or even a preview, it’s more of my first impressions on the final days of the open beta.
Fallen Earth has since gone into pre-release too, and there have been a couple of patches, so some of the things I say might have been changed in the meantime.
I reckon it’s also fair to say, at the start, that this game will not be for everyone. It’s definitely targeting the niche market, and it is not World of Warcraft or Everquest 2 or Champions Online in a post-apocalyptic setting. The developers, Fallen Earth LLC, have only set up for one server for release, so it’s probably fair to say they weren’t intending to create a WoW-Killer.
First, I’ll list a few things that I like about Fallen Earth.
- The music is awesome. I’m not much of a music person in games. I’ll leave it on (I have friends who turn off music as the first thing they do in a game.) but generally lower the volume, and I tend not to actively notice it and it can become repetitive. The music in Fallen Earth struck me the moment it came on. It’s very atmospheric and completely appropriate to the genre and setting.
- The setting in and around the Grand Canyon. It’s an interesting setting that I didn’t think much of when I first heard about it. But it’s completely appropriate to the way the games feels. The game feels a bit like a Western at times with a bit of that Mad Max 2 and 3 vibe (without Tina Turner thankfully.) It also allows a lot of growth for the game. The Grand Canyon covers a huge area. A lot can happen here.
- The combat system. There’s no target locking and auto attack here. You have to actively aim and make sure the opponent is in your cross-hairs. This was a bit frustrating at times, I was sure I had the NPC in my sights and still missed, but that might be more lag related on my end. I’m not the twitch gamer I used to be, being a krusty old fart, but I still appreciate the style and quite liked having to line my enemies up.
- Crafting, while not really what I’d like to see in a crafting system, is well implemented. It’s easy to set a crafting process in motion and go do something else — either log off and read a book, or go out and explore the canyon. If a developer is going to implement a crafting system where it’s a case of hitting the craft button and wait, then it’s preferable to be able to do something and not sit staring at a progress bar.
- The post-apocalyptic setting. Finally, it seems that the SciFi drought is breaking for the humble MMORPG. There is Eve Online of course, but Fallen Earth looks to be the first of the new batch of MMORPGs that aren’t going the tried and true (or should that be tired and true?) route.
- There are a few more lesser points, but I’ll post about them later, this is becoming a huge article.
A couple of things I’m not sold on:
- Only four character slots. For an alt-a-holic like me this could be either a blessing or a curse. It may force me to stick with just a few characters, or I might find myself deleting lower level toons in order to try something new. However, the saving grace might be something else that I’m not sure is a good thing. See the next point…
- A minute number of combat skills. There are in fact only three real combat skills. (I’m not counting the whole mutations set because I didn’t touch that in the beta.) These are Melee, Pistols, and Rifles. So in fact three alts could cover the entire combat repertoire. I guess I was hoping for more of the range that Fallout provides, Energy Weapons, Heavy Weapons, Demolitions in addition.
- No fast travel. I’m not a big fan of having mechanisms in games to draw out the time needed to do things without having a reason for the mechanism in the first place. A good reason for long travel (for me) might be to implement a trading system where goods have to be shipped from one place to another. A not so good reason is to have a mechanism simply because it was once considered hardcore. So far, I haven’t seen a good reason to have slow travel in Fallen Earth, and in fact it makes it far harder for guilds to actually do anything together. Who wants to leave a quest and travel for half an hour just to help a guildmate with a ten minute activity, and then have to do the return trip?
Before I popped into the Fallen Earth open beta I had heard the criticisms, and that’s been the case since. However, it seems to me that most of the criticisms are more about expectations and gamer choices, fast versus slow travel for example, and that not of the criticisms are particularly deal breaking for me.
Perhaps the biggest criticism is that the game is still a bit rough around the edges. I’m in two minds about this. I’ve been somewhat vocal when MMORPGs have been released in an unpolished and unfinished state, but those have been developed by companies with the funding, resources, and knowledge to do better. Fallen Earth LLC is an indie developer without all that backing so I’m more inclined to give them a bit of slack.
From what I’ve seen on the official forums (which don’t seem to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy but a more friendly place at least at this stage) the developers are fairly prompt in getting bugs fixed. I don’t doubt that once they start making some real profits from Fallen Earth, the polishing will be kicked up a notch or two.
So the outcome?
I like the game, and I think it has a bright future. I’d also recommend buying a copy, if for no other reason than to support the developers. It might not be your cup of tea, and if you hate SciFi/Post Apoc by all means stay away, but on the other hand you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by a very different game.
In fact, when I logged off on the Sunday evening, I was a hair’s breadth away from hitting up the preorder page but didn’t.
What stopped me?
Firstly, I wanted to sleep on it for a week or so to see if I felt the same way after a bit of time had passed. In some ways, I feel more confident about Fallen Earth now than I did on that Sunday night.
I also wanted to give Champions Online a go and ended up buying the six month preorder for that one before I committed to Fallen Earth.
Well, (there’s a first thoughts post coming for Champions btw) I’m glad I did buy Champions Online, it certainly is a lot of fun, especially the character creator, but last night I did buy Fallen Earth. It’s a game with a lot to like, and the good points certainly outweigh the bad.
Overall, a upcoming great game. I reckon that Fallen Earth is going to be the surprise hit of 2009/10.