Thursday, November 8, 2012

Impressions of Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth is a game I'd been interested in for a while now, ever since I read player comments describing it like a multiplayer Fallout, crossed with hints of STALKER. I'd been very wary about playing another MMORPG, however, because it seems like every MMO out there insists on being a huge waste of time. But since Fallen Earth went free-to-play a little more than a year ago, I thought maybe I'd at least give it a shot. The promise of a post-apocalyptic MMO was fairly interesting at first, but then it quickly bogged down to usual MMO nonsense; tedious level-grinding via repetitive tasks in a laboriously over-stretched world.

The game starts out with an instanced tutorial sequence that explains the premise, tells you a little about the backstory, and shows you how to perform basic actions within the game. It contains an awful lot of cutscenes and dialogue which lend the tutorial a compelling narrative thrust, unlike lots of other MMOs I've played that just dump you aimlessly into a starting town. Once you're through with the tutorial sequence, it's clear that there's actually a main questline to follow -- with an actual story -- but that's also when it turned into mindless MMO-style content and lost its appeal for me. Continue reading for more of my early impressions of Fallen Earth

Everyone plays the same tutorial sequence, but then at the end you get to choose one of three starting towns to go to, each one emphasizing different types of quests. One town is mainly about combat, another is about crafting, and another is about "support." The game features an open leveling system, allowing any character to specialize in any field and even to mix and match different fields, but it was really bizarre to have to make a decision like this so early in the game. Somewhat dumbstruck, I went with the simplest option and elected to go to the combat town.

Combat can be played in first or third-person, using either firearms or melee weapons with a real-time action system. This goes a long way in making the combat more interesting than in many other MMOs where you select a target and initiate an auto-attack sequence, occasionally using skills from your skillbar, but it still retains a level of unsatisfying mediocrity. Enemy AI, for instance, follows the formula of infinitely spawning drones who just come straight at you, making ranged combat an overly simple matter of clicking on them repeatedly. Melee combat is even simpler, the kind of system that doesn't encourage anything more complicated than standing still and trading blows with the enemy.

After spending a few hours exhausting quests in the starting town, I began to grow weary of the lifeless NPCs sending me on mindless monster-slaying quests. Every single quest was basically a matter of "I have a problem. Go over there and kill this stuff for me." So I decided to roll a new character whom I'd send to a different starting town, but then discovered that free-to-play accounts can only have a single character -- you have to upgrade to a premium account for more slots. So I deleted my character and made a new character whom I sent to the crafting town.

The crafting system is probably Fallen Earth's best feature, considering the plethora of available resources to gather, the complexity of recipes you can acquire, and the sheer usefulness of being self-sufficient in crafting your own stuff. It was pretty satisfying for me to advance the quests, unlocking new recipe books that made use of other recipes I'd already learned, and finding new resources that I could use for new crafts, and so on. But like with my first character, I eventually got tired of just doing the same thing over and over again. What's especially tedious about crafting is that you can only craft one item at a time with a free account, and since crafting is based on a timer (with more complex items requiring more time to make), I spent a lot of time just sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to queue up another craft. 

But still, it's really nice that you gain experience points towards leveling up, as well as action points (skill points to spend on stats and talents and what not) from crafting, which is a nice change of pace from most MMOs that require you to level exclusively through combat. If you want to be the type of player who just harvests materials from the environment, crafts goods, and dabbles in the economy of buying and selling, you can reach the level cap and spend the entire game doing just that. 

It's really puzzling to me that they decided to split the starting towns into three distinct vocations. It's possible for you to go to each of the other starting towns on a single character, but they're a fair distance apart from each other, and when you're just starting out you're not really comfortable going long distances across the map unless you really know what you're doing. I might've enjoyed the initial experience a lot more if I could have been exposed to an even mixture of combat, crafting, and support quests within a single starting location, instead of just being overloaded with almost exclusively one or the other. Any MMO is going to be pretty repetitive, but the design of the starting towns really exaggerates the repetitive nature of quests. 

Once I got fed-up with the excessive crafting, I decided I'd try to advance the main plot, which sent me a long way across the map (basically 10 minutes of nothing but holding down the W key while riding on horseback). When I got there and received my quest objective, I proceeded with the quest and then promptly got my ass kicked when four enemies spawned and I was tasked with defending my position. I was level 6 at the time, and admittedly the quest recommended I be level 7, but I just didn't feel like doing any more repetitive quests or monster-slaying, simply to grind up high enough to continue the main questline. 

I only played about 10 hours across two different characters, which is really only scratching the surface of an MMO, but I just couldn't bring myself to continue playing any longer. I'm sure there's much more interesting content later on in the game (PVP, factions, etc), but it's a bit of a slow grind to get there and I'd rather be doing something else in the meantime. Fallen Earth looked promising to me, but ultimately fell victim to the usual kinds of MMO designs that turn me off from MMOs in the first place, and the restrictions on free-to-play accounts was kind of a turn-off as well. 

1 comment:

  1. It looks good. And actually based on your descriptions it is better than the average MMORPG.