Join Editor Chris "Pwyff" Tom as he ventures into Fallen Earth's immense and gritty post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon. Maybe you can see if this tough MMOFPS is right up your alley!
For as long as I can remember, I've been on the prowl for a game that manages to fuse my two favourite video game genres; first person shooters and MMORPGs. Of course, for anyone who's been as enthusiastic about the MMOFPS genre as I am, you may also realize that the attempts to make a solid MMOFPS are few are far between; Planetside and, technically, Darkfall qualify under this category. Personally speaking, I just don't believe that the technology is yet available to create a game that combines the large-scale player populations and meaningful progression of traditional MMORPGs with the fast-paced combat that typifies most first person shooters. Of course, there are still some very worthy MMOFPS games out there that are still trying to master the dual genre, and that's where Fallen Earth comes in.
Developed and self-published by Icarus Studios LLC and Fallen Earth LLC, Fallen Earth almost feels like an MMO cousin to the offline smash hit Fallout 3. Both games are set in a post-apocalyptic future, and both games focus heavily upon scavenging for items and surviving on wits and weaponry alone. In fact, scavenging for items and surviving on a plethora of homemade weaponry appears to be one of the main focuses of Fallen Earth's interesting spin on the MMOFPS genre.
Upon loading up Fallen Earth, I was instantly whisked away to the character creation screen to make my character, and I had already made my decision as to the character I would play this time around; I would traverse the world of Fallen Earth as a tall, gangly Afro Man. Interestingly, while the game offers a massive plethora of various tattoos and other body markings to customize a character's appearance, it seemed as though middle aged awkward looking guy was the only choice I had when it came to my physical appearance. Women fared much worse in this regard, as their only aesthetic choices appeared to be various forms of angry. I recall reading an interview where the team noted that they wanted to shy away from playing the 'hot babes aplenty' aesthetics card, so I suppose there's a bit of realism in the character creation. Perhaps post-apocalyptic characters are just not as good looking as our present day selves because they don't have access to a reliable source of toothpaste. Unfortunately, I could not create my desired Afro Man, so I instead settled on slightly disgruntled mini-fro man who looks like he's going through a midlife crisis. Fun!
The game starts you out in a research facility in an underground dam, where you'll be treated to a fairly immersive opening tutorial, combined with some of the worst voice acting I've heard in a long time. Without giving away too much of the plot, you are awakened as the facility is under attack; your rescuer has contacted you via some kind of transmission, and she guides you throughout your daring escape. While the voice acting does tend to suck you right back out of the 'mood' of the tutorial, if you can get over it, the opening sequence really is quite unique and engaging.
As players leave their facility-I won't tell you how, unfortunately, the game pretty much chucks you into the crazy world of post-apocalyptic shanty towns, left to survive on your own. Of course, as one who is used to being coddled and pampered by most of my chosen MMOs, you can imagine just how disorienting it is to be thrown right into the fray without anybody to push you along. I quickly adapted, however, and I went in search of quests and loot.
My first quest sent me over to another research facility that had sunk underground for some reason or another, and was now inhabited by various strains of zombie and zombie dog-things. In this way, I was quickly introduced to the combat system. Yes, the tutorial does give players the opportunity to learn combat before they escape, but the tutorial combat feels like swatting flies; you kill your first enemy with an axe, and from then on it's a straight upgrade to automatic rifle and then, awesomely enough, to rocket launcher. Let me tell you right now, combat is nothing like the tutorial: it's tough.
Let me backtrack a bit. I noted earlier that Fallen Earth feels much like a spiritual MMO cousin to Bethesda's Fallout 3. Where they differ most, however, is in the combat systems they employ. Because it would be difficult, if not impossible, to code hundreds of thousands of players free firing bullets everywhere, Fallen Earth instead utilizes a form of 'directed combat' for players, where the player must manually aim their attacks in a specific direction, and then the game registers it as an attack on your opponent. It's a little bit difficult to explain, but this definitely adds a great deal of challenge to even the simplest of fights. These slow moving zombies quickly turned into my worst nightmare, as my crossbow dealt only about a third of my opponent's health, but I needed to reload after every shot was fired. If you throw in the fact that these zombies were chomping a chunk of my health every time they got near me, I'm sure you can imagine just how many times I died trying to complete my first quest. Unfortunately, I had to find myself a few beefier friends in order to make it out alive-well, scratch that, I still died a few times.
The other key focus of Fallen Earth also seems to be the huge emphasis placed upon the post apocalyptic nature of the game. Resources are scarce, and things that we take for granted in a fantasy MMO (bandages, ammunition) quickly become rare commodities in Fallen Earth. As I navigated the world of Fallen Earth, I found myself working out my combat tactics to expend the least amount of ammunition, by putting one or two crossbow bolts into my enemy, and then running up to them and smacking them with my wooden plank. The game also features a standard MMO style hotkey box for players to use skills, but a key aspect of combat lies in making sure that you aim properly.
Crafting also plays a huge role in Fallen Earth, as its inhabitants scramble to assemble any form of weaponry they can get. The game boasts a huge amount of crafting resources, and while some crafts seem to take quite a bit of time; it takes a minute, in real time, to create a single bandage, I can see this game easily developing a very robust economy. In fact, much like how I'd imagine a post apocalyptic world would be, the act of crafting appears to be a much more valuable commodity than any amount of hunting can provide.
All in all, while there are many deeper aspects to the game that will take me some time to crack, I can definitely see this game as having the potential to be an incredibly immersive MMO experience. It seems as though Fallen Earth's greatest strength and weakness lie in the fact that it is very wrapped up in its post apocalyptic premise. If your idea of fun is in scrabbling out an existence in this cold world, then Fallen Earth will definitely appeal to your hardcore gaming attraction. If, however, you walk into this expecting a World of Warcraft FPS game, where it holds your hand throughout and focuses itself entirely upon instant gratification, then you may be sorely disappointed. This isn't just a game… its survival!
Christopher "Pwyff" Tom