The year is 2156… “There wasn't much to do. All the bowling alleys had been wrecked, so I spent most of my time looking for beer.” Sorry, but I feel that all post apocalyptic themed media should be started with that Strangebrew quote. Fallen Earth is the post apocalyptic MMORPG brought to you from the folks at Fallen Earth LLC and Icarus Studios LLC. FE is set in North America's not so distant future.
Naturally, it begins with character creation, which is outstanding. They have really done a great job of allowing the player to customize the look and feel of their character. Almost every physical feature can be tweaked and tattooed to you liking. You can really lose your mind here for quite some time. Although I was a more than a little disappointed that after I spent so much on my character, he popped out into the world covered in clothes. I didn’t choose that halter top for nothing, but I’m sure there will be more revealing armor as the game goes on. (Yes, yes... I am that guy when it comes to designing my character, if I need to look at it for an unknown amount of hours, I better like what I see.)
Onto the game. Congratulations you’re level 40! You can stop playing here or jump right into the game. This is actually quite a clever move. It allows the player to learn the game for most intent and purposes you’re virtually invulnerable. It gives you the chance to learn the controls and game mechanics without the fear of death. Players begin in a compound located in the Hoover Dam, one of the last bastions of humanity. Their first goal is to escape from this compound. The escape sequence doubles as a brief tutorial for the game. This tutorial introduces essential skills such as interacting with the environment, equipping the character, the basics of combat (both ranged and melee), and vehicle usage. Additionally players are exposed to Advancement Points (more on that in a bit). By the end of the “tutorial,” I was equipped with an axe, two knives, two pistols and a rifle. I looked pretty damn suave running around with all that gear in their six weapon slots. Not a bad little combination for battling the denizens of a post apocalyptic world.
Be warned, though. In spite of all your gear and best efforts though, you will die. Don’t feel bad, it’s just part of the story. After the “tutorial” section of Fallen Earth you will be thrust into the true game play.
Combat in Fallen Earth takes a certain amount of skill to master. There is no sticky targeting or auto targeting. Players must use the aiming devices of their weapons in order to target an opponent. When equipping a weapon the game takes on a whole new dynamic. The aiming device will appear, and a whole new set maneuvering is required (ducking, sidestepping etc). Players need to maneuver the aiming device on the target in order to hit them. No great feat for stationary targets, but when the player and their target are both moving it gets a little crazy. Quite a few times, I found my eyes blurring as I tried to keep up with the action around me. Fans of a fast paced motor skilled based combat system will not be disappointed.
The look and feel to the game is what one would expect from a more “realistic” MMORPG. The graphics are crisp and clean. While I’m sure as the game progress the landscape may grow a little more fantastic. The opening areas had a gritty realism to them. Bodies strewn about, general decay, you know apocalypse stuff.
This game has no class… oh I’m sorry, I mean it has no classes! All characters start off the same. Fallen Earth gives players a chance to uniquely customize not only the look of their character, but also its skills and attributes. Players amass Advancement Points (AP), which they can then spend on the advancement of character skills, mutation skills, attributes, and so on. While I think it’s a great opportunity for players to be able to choose their own path, I am a little apprehensive about this approach. In other MMOs, you choose your class, and you know your role. If you choose a tank, melee DPS, or ranged DPS, you essentially know where you fit in the game. Sure it’s a little too cookie cutter for many, but there is a certain safety to it. My concern with the classless system is that players may fall into the “jack of all trades, master of none” slot. Conversely, they may specialize too much and miss out on other enhancements for the game. There will certainly be a lot of choices for the player.
One such choice is picking a faction. All players start off neutral. Throughout the game players have the opportunity to align themselves with one of the six in-game factions, or to remain neutral. Each faction comes with its own benefits, most notably sets of equipment.
Fallen Earth faction shuffle is a bit more intense than a traditional two sided or even three sided war. In those games it is usually a free for all. Not so much here. Players must contend with what I like to call the Wheel of Faction.(There is a nice diagram of this on the FE site). Each faction has someone in direct opposition to it. If that wasn’t bad enough, the other factions all play favorites, so players can find themselves in a tough spot pretty quickly. Of course played correctly, players can change the tides to suite themselves. It’s hard to say how much this will impact day-to-day gameplay, so sticking neutral a bit may be the wisest course of action for newbies.
Crafting appears to have a major impact on the game. The resources of this world are limited so it is up to the player to help supply themselves with weapons, ammunition, and clothing. I shall not tell a lie; I did not spend any time crafting this round. What I do know is that the chat channels were full of people requesting and trading both materials and services. It should be interesting to see how much crafting is necessary in the game, and will being a master craftsman offset any player skills. Until you really delve into the AP system it will be hard to tell.
Fallen Earth certainly looks like it is worth checking out. I’m not quite sure how I feel about having so much control over my character, and I do worry that I might screw it up and have to start over. The combat is also a little unwieldy for my tastes on a PC, but nonetheless, I look forward to seeing how the game develops. For those of you out there who are confident enough to shed the shackles of forced roles, Fallen Earth is for you. Plus you will have the chance to take an axe to some mutants, and really, who can say no to that?