It's good to be in on the ground floor. I have to admit I'm pretty jealous of those who buy a game on the day of release and then play for years. While it can be good to come in later, once all the polish has been added, there's something to be said for being a veteran. I like hearing gamers tell stories of how things used to be: How long it took to travel around before transport was added; how they kept a broken quest in their journal for years until it was fixed; how tough the old bosses were before the great nerfing of '05. I have few memories like this as I played a couple of games at launch, but then took a massive break from MMOs and came back to my main two after they had a few expansions under their belts.
Most of us have games on our radar that we plan to play one day. 'Fallen Earth' sat at the top of my to do list. I'm a sucker for post apocalyptic stories and games, even going as far as enjoying 'Auto Assault'. The good thing is that the game is still pretty new, with patch 1.4 only just gone live. So while I'm not quite in on the ground floor, I've got out of the lift at the first or second floor. I've missed a few flights of stairs, but there's still a long journey to go. So this is definitely a good time to get in.
For those who aren't in the know, 'Fallen Earth' is set in the Grand Canyon Province after 'The Fall' killed off over 99% of the world's population. Most people fell to the Shiva Virus, and a handful of nukes took care of many others. So now we are all survivors in an irradiated, mutant-filled desert.
Making your alter ego in 'Fallen Earth' is a pretty simple affair. The game is classless and there's only one race: Human. Also, there is only one server (if you don't count the test server, which for my purposes I'm not). So building your wasteland survivor is purely a matter of aesthetics. Pick the bits you think look the coolest and off you go. There are a good number of options: Tattoos, facepaint, piercings and hairstyles. I picked a paintjob that I coloured white to make it look like a scar, and a topknot hairstyle. I'm going for the mean samurai look, even though I'm planning to take a rifleman route through the game, I just like the look. I clicked the random button a few times to see what stylings the game would offer me. I got an impressive selection of 'Beyond Thunderdome' rejects, nobody I'd consider looking at the back of for hours on end, but it was entertaining nevertheless.
Having made and named my new guy (Pip Armitage), I logged into the game itself. In FE you start out at level 40 and in some sort of underground facility. There are no windows so I'm assuming it's underground. A voice coming over a p.a. system urged me to get to a computer. This was where I got my first mission. I had to activate the Lifenet Cloning facility. Once this was done, the voice from the other side of the facility explained that I am a clone, currently residing in the Hoover Dam Lifenet Facility, run by the despotic Alec Masters. The facility is under attack by the CHOTA (Children of the Apocalypse) so it's time for me to escape.
So far so good. The controls play like a first person shooter with the option to use the mouse wheel to scroll out into a third person view. The mouse wheel can also be clicked down to enter into and out of combat mode. Out of combat mode, the mouse moves the cursor so you can interact with the environment. Once you click it, a target reticule appears and the view swings around with the mouse and the buttons can now be used to attack.
My two mouse buttons were only good for swinging punches, but that's ok as a couple of rooms later I was introduced to one of the game's features: Scavenging. This is Fallen Earth's harvesting and it works like many other mmos. The difference here being that the first thing you scavenge is a weapon. An axe, and what better place is there to retrieve an axe than from the skull of a fallen victim?
New weapon in hand, I set off again and soon found a place to hide the sharp end: In the back of a White Crow mercenary. Having dispatched the foe, I was instructed to look for a rifle. The mercenary had one with plenty of ammunition on him. The cursor changes to a metallic looking skull when hovered over a lootable corpse, another grim touch to the game, along with the swarm of flies over the body. On the subject of the cursor, one thing that I've found quite handy is that when you are in combat and you click a door, the game knows you don't want to shoot it and opens it as it would in exploration mode.
Rifle in hand, I was given some APs. These are the points used to increase your stats and skills. I was told to spend the APs on my rifle skill, not that I had any choice in the matter as all my other skills and stats were already maxed out.
Another room later, and I was given the opportunity to try out my newly found weapon and skill points as I walked into the middle of a fire fight. The friendly voice informed me that these were Lightbearers and I should help them. I'm guessing Light Bearers are good, but if there was any doubt, the clones that were attacking them were attacking me too. They also had their names in red - a sure sign of evil, as any mmo player knows.
The next section of the tutorial introduced me to the factions of Fallen Earth. I'm sure there is a lot more to them than you see in the turorial, but here is what I've gathered about them so far.
The Lightbearers: These guys are all about healing, or at least they are here. They have come to the facility to aid the mutants, who are infected with Shiva's Touch. Alec masters is using the mutants to unlock the secrets of mutations for his own gain. Their leader showed me where the medkits were and upon picking them up, I learned my first ability: Staunch Wound.
The Enforcers: These guys are a martial force, restoring order to the wasteland.
The CHOTA: I ended up assisting some of these people in saving some civilians from the White Crow Mercenaries. So I'm guessing they aren't so bad after all. It turns out that they are waging war on Alec Masters after he burned down some of their villages. But then they did kill his father - a tangled web of motives here.
The Travellers: Didn't have much interaction with them besides buying a power supply from them. I'm guessing they are the merchants and traders of the game.
The Vistas: I looked these up on the official website as they aren't mentioned in the tutorial. If they are I'm sure a wall of flame in the comments will let me know.
Techs: This is pretty self-explanatory. Elena Winters, the voice guiding me through the turorial, is one on the Techs.
Upon meeting Elena, the situation took a critical turn. The facility was rigged to blow. Disarming the bomb would be straightforward for such a brave hero, however, I had to get past a super soldier first. This was the cue for another upgrade to my arsenal: The rocket launcher.
Having blown up the soldier, there followed a race against the clock, as I had to drive a newly acquired ATV to get to the bomb to disarm it in time. Alas it's impossible to do this and I was killed in an explosion. The game then went to a cut scene, a presentation from Lifenet explaining how you have died and how they are bringing you back in a new body. This is pretty funny and actually made me laugh, it was very much like the humour from the commercials in Robocop.
The presentation was interrupted by Elena Winters, who explained that the Lifenet facility was overrun by the CHOTA. Before their victory, Alec Masters had managed to destroy the main cloning facility. This would have left me with nowhere to respawn, but Winters managed to bring me back with some very limited DNA data. The end result is that I'm down to level 1 and I'm dying. My mission is now to find the Alpha Clone and use his DNA to fix me. It makes sense if you don't examine it too closely.
So now I'm on the outside of the Dam and about to pick my starting town. I'll let you know how that turns out.
So far, I'm enjoying the game and I've barely scratched the surface. It's offering me something far removed from the setting and gameplay I've become accustomed to over many years of mmo playing. I also like that I got to be level 40 for a short while, giving me a taste of what's to come.
Here's looking forward to seeing what the post apocalypse throws at me next.