Last week, in the first part of these sort of “diaries” leading up to our official review of Firefall, I spent most of the time rambling on about progression Firefall-style, and how adventuring in the world actually works. Red 5’s game is not the sort of MMO that’s going to lead you along a linear path with “breadcrumb quests” and a clear route to the endgame. And that’s likely because there is no “endgame”. At least as it stands right now, the crux of Firefall’s gameplay is a toss-up of random events, pushing back the Chosen when they invade, crafting, and working towards your Blackwater Anomaly access. Aside from that, there’s the ever-present completionist’s desire to max out all the battleframes and achievements, as well as the competitive match-made PVP. This week, we’ll be taking a look at crafting and the art of mining the resources necessary to make anything worth a damn.
When you log into Firefall for the first time, if you haven’t already, one of the first things you’ll see in chat that confuses you is something like this: “Anyone want to join up for some thumping?” No, it’s not a weird plea for cyber-sex. Thumping is the physical act of mining for crafting resources in Firefall. Said resources can and will be used for any number of things from leveling up your battleframes, to making new gear, and even gaining access to the game’s first (and currently only) full-group instance.
Some folks will tell you that Thumping is a boring activity. Those folks would probably be right, if there weren’t many different grades of Thumper available. When you start the game, you’re given your first thumper: a giant tool that’s called down from the sky and literally pounds the ground to harvest resources. In doing so, the thumper attracts all sorts of wildlife which will promptly attack and try to destroy the thumper and those pesky ARES agents standing huddled around the thing. Your first thumper is like training wheels for a crucial part of the crafting game in Firefall. It doesn’t mine many resources, and the noise and disturbance it makes only calls out a few minor waves of enemies. In short, thumping with your standard issue thumper is boring. But it’s also only there to show you the ropes. You use your Scan Hammer (literally a giant hammer that scans the nearby area for resources), you call down your thumper, and you get a few resources. But before long, you’ll realize you’re not getting enough to make what you need, and you will find yourself in need of an upgrade. That’s when thumping gets serious.
You can pretty easily craft the next level of thumper for a minimum number of resources. You can also craft “group thumpers”, which makes a physically more imposing tool whose ruckus calls out a whole host of big bad beasties to fight. You will need a group to thump for resources using one of these, but the payoff is much larger too. The only downside with thumping is that if you do it endlessly, even with groups, it can be tedious. You’re literally defending a singular spot from waves of enemies, but you also get a boatload of loot and resources in return so it’s not all bad. It’s just not something I’d spend all of my time doing in-game, unless of course you’re a fan of Horde Mode style shooters.
There are higher level personal thumpers too, though even solo these suckers can be really hard to do without an Engineer frame equipped (for the turret help). One of the recent calls on the forums is for the difficulty of these to be tweaked, but I’m not sure it’s needed just yet. I’ll let you know in a week or two if I’ve pulled all my hair out.
So what do you do with all of these resources once you have them? Well, my little ARES soldiers, you make yourself mightier, of course. In Copa, the main city hub, you’ll find a crafting station that lets you refine your resources from raw into usable materials, as well as research new items to make using said resources. Every action, research, refine, or crafting, takes varying amounts of time, but you can instantly speed up the process by spending a little real life currency if you’re the impatient sort. I’ve put the video of resources and crafting from Firefall’s official tutorials below, because it does a far better job explaining how the system works than I ever could. There’s also a fantastically detailed introduction to the process over at Astrek Association, a fansite for Firefall.
There is a game-wide trading system in Firefall where you can hawk your resources, items, and crafted goods, but most people don’t seem to know it exists. This is likely due to it not being easily accessible from the UI the way a normal tab-target MMO works. But it’s there in your call-down menu, and can be accessed by pressing Control+M too. It's not entirely useful, if only because the game's UI doesn't show you what items and weapons you can equip or how they compare to what you currently have on your battleframe either. The marketplace is also something that seems to go entirely unknown by many. That’s a side note about the UI in general, really. The call-down menu is handy, but on more than one occasion, I’ve wished I could just easily access everything via a menu bar. TERA handles the targeting and menu differentiation well, and I’d like to see similar functionality added to Firefall one day.
Back to the topic at hand: crafting is quite simply a key component of gameplay for Firefall. If you don’t want to partake, you don’t have to, but you’d be missing out on a lot of the purpose of the game. To make stuff, grow stronger, and work your way towards being more effective on the battlefield is kind of the point. But if you don’t want to deal with it, Red 5 has your back. You can actually take all of your resources and refine them directly into Crystite, the game’s main currency. No middle-man and no need to sell them on the market. Just pop into the crafting station and turn the goods into money. Personally I like exploring the crafting and trying to make my own wears, but I know that crafting’s not for everyone. At least in Firefall, crafting is actually useful and has a purpose, unlike so many other recent MMOs.
Are you playing Red 5’s freshman effort? Have you dabbled with crafting and thumping yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about the Melding Pockets and the Blackwater Anomaly, plus some other odds and ends all leading up to our final review.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.