Fallen Earth is a survival MMO based in the post-apocalyptic world around the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. It is a dark, modern-day horror setting that some will love and some will hate. Mutated horrors, zombies and other nightmare creatures abound, and players arm themselves with what they can find. Baseball bats, axes, spiked two-by-fours, guns and assault weapons may be found in this game which has a Mature rating for it's blood, gore and decaying human corpses hanging around.
Lead Game Designer, Lee Hammock took me on a tour of the game, beginning with the character creation. "We have a focus on body appearance," he said, "as we have a loot based system." Look and appearance change as a player progresses and there are many choices for customization, beginning at character creation. Lee pointed out their piercing and tattoo system as well as some customization available by gender such as body hair level for male characters and belly piercing for the female.
The newbie tutorial takes place in the ruins of the Hoover Dam where you start out in the cloning station. The last bastion of civilization is being torn down from within and you are trying to escape. The tutorial is the only portion of the game that has voice over which helps when you are learning a game and once you break out, you're on your own.
In Fallen Earth, players do not choose classes. "We have a skill based system," said Lee. "Players will gain advancement points as they progress through the world and can build characters with multiple stats, skills, mutation paths, trade skills and factions."
Mutations? That piqued my interest and Lee was happy to explain. "Everyone starts off with a mutation. It's in your genes." Players start of with an alpha mutation and that is a healing skill. They will then choose mutation paths to follow, and there are three fundamental types that mutations fall under: Restoration, Augmentation and Destruction. In similar fantasy MMO terms, Healing, Buffs and DPS?
"Not quite," said Lee. "The types describe the purpose of most of the mutations down that path." Augmentations would include all buffs, but some attacks were in there. Restoration are your heals, your resurrects but some can also be used to confuse enemies and drain their health. Destruction are mostly attacks, but de-buffs and conversely, they themselves are particularly resistant to the de-buffs they can utilize.
The game is survival horror, so as can be expected, there is plenty of combat. Both PvE and PvP. Man is scrabbling to survive, so gameplay covers combat (including vehicular combat), exploration, scavenging and crafting. The landscape is harsh and the colors washed-out, giving the game a bleak, desolate appearance. Dead things, bleached skeletons, abandoned structures and vehicles dot the landscape in while you travel. On foot. There aren't any fast travel systems such as teleports or portals in game, but players will be able to obtain mounts such as horses and vehicles.
"There is also a crafting focus in Fallen Earth," said Lee. "95% of the items in game are craftable." Crafting itself has three elements: Tradeskills, Knowledge and Components. It is not just a simple press of a button to create an item. Players need all three elements and a recipe, then the item is assembled in real time. For example, a stew may take only a few minutes to make, but a car could take several weeks. For easier items, players may queue up the recipes for them to complete one after another while they are off running missions, but the more complex items may require players to remain in the workshop for much of the time.
The world (and the Grand Canyon) is larger than you may think. There are a total of 70 towns over three sectors at launch, and about 15 levels of game play in each sector. There are also factions in game. Six different factions that players may choose to align with, and no matter what you do, someone will hate you. "Each faction has two allies, two enemy and one arch-enemy faction," explained Lee. "Don't even try to play nice with everyone or you'll have every one hating you."
PvP is area-based and warnings will be flashed across the screen when players cross into and out of these areas. Every sector has its own main towns and some of these are faction based. Banking is also interesting in itself. There is a universal bank accessible from any vault and that is your personal stash. There are sector vaults which are regional and Banker vaults in certain towns that are faction based. Your mounts - the horses and vehicles will also carry loot for you, and if you belong to a clan, may have a separate clan vault as well.
Fallen Earth is as "real" as a game can be. Horses have to be fed and stabled, vehicles have to be fueled and garaged. In keeping with this realism, player characters are clones and when they are killed in combat, unless their team mates have the ability to resurrect them in the field, they are re-cloned in the closes lab (LifeNet pod) from copies of their genetic material. The death mechanic is tuned specifically to discourage players from jumping into PvP and dying again and again. Players first start off with a small XP penalty - a slow-down on the earning of XP. If they die again within the first five minutes, that timer is extended, then a player can find that his stats begin to decrease and the length of time those stats remain depressed lengthens.
Fallen Earth has a Mature rating from the ESRB and the game will appeal to a certain niche of players. "We're not out to create a game that competes with WoW, but we have designed the game we want to design. A game we want to play. It is a post apocalyptic world," said the unapologetic Lee, "we don't drop F-bombs everywhere, but there will be strong language, and yes, there are drug and alcohol references. This is an adult game. Not a kid's game." Sex? Not so much. Not much really sexy about zombies with boils, sores and flies following them around, or a gritty, survival culture in a bleak desolate, devastated world.
"We plan to launch small," said Lee promising ongoing content adds, "but we will keep on going and keep on growing." Currently in Pre-Order early access, Fallen Earth launches on September 22nd, 2009 and is subscription based.