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Firefall General Article: Review in Progress #1

By William Murphy on August 01, 2014

We reviewed Firefall initially when it launched into Open Beta last year. The reasoning was pretty simple: it wasn’t a finished game, but it was open to all comers and was taking player money. Along with that, there were no more progress wipes happening on player accounts. For all intents and purposes, Firefall “launched” in 2013.  But a lot has happened at developer Red5 since then, and much more has changed with Firefall the game since the departure of former CEO Mark Kern. For those reasons, we’re re-reviewing Firefall over the next couple of weeks to paint a more accurate picture of where the game stands today.

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I’ve spent the past couple of weeks tooling around with the new narrative campaign missions, random world encounters, and ARES job boards. Altogether, the PVE component of Firefall has come an incredibly long way in terms of content to partake in.  Much of it is still not 100% bug free, as I’d imagine it took herculean efforts just to get FF from where it was at Open Beta to where it is now.  That’s no excuse for a lack of polish mind you, just the truth of the situation.

The UI has come a long way in terms of functionality too. The calldown menus, as tricky to navigate as they can be, never quite gave the player enough options when it came to consumables, vehicles, and other reusable items. Now Red5 has added four more hot-key slots on top of the Battleframe skill hot-keys, so that players can put their rides, glider pads, consumables, or pets on specific hot-key.  Thank the lord for that!  On top of this, the Battleframe Garage (character sheet, basically) that allows swapping equipment from pretty much everywhere now. You can’t repair unless heading to a town and physically visiting the BF Garage, but that’s a moderate timesink at best. 

As you can see in the video above from last week, I’ve come to really enjoy the level-based progression of ARES Missions and the campaign system.  I know some former Founders of Red5 might not like the more “themepark” direction Firefall’s taken, but let’s be honest: its former incarnation was not working. It had languished for so long in this pseudo sandbox world, that honestly the narrative based leveling progression works best here. There’s still an end-level PVP zones that’s in constant turmoil for control of resources, and Red5 has plans to further flesh out PVP as one of the game’s more “sandboxy” elements with building, more territory control, and more.  They even plan on bring back the match-based PVP arenas at some point, but not until they’re absolutely certain it can be done right this time.

I’m only about level 20 with my Firecat frame, as I keep bouncing around frames to test them out, courtesy of the new updated Founder’s pack that Red5 provided me.  I’ve got some ways to go before I cap out with one frame, and work on others (the Frame system works a lot like Final Fantasy XIV’s class/job system).  At 40, the game’s raids are available, hard modes for all dungeons are available and other typical MMO standards.  What really intrigues me is how far Red5 is going to go in order let players direct the next pieces of the world to be free of Melding.

The overall map size has increased three-fold, not including the PVP zone Broken Peninsula, and if you zoom out on the map you’ll see the whole wide world… most of it completely covered in the mysterious and deadly Melding from the Firefall crash. The truly ambitious part of Firefall, and the main thing that remains from the game’s original goals, is to dynamically let the players pick and choose where to push back the Chosen bad guys. In doing this, eventually, the game’s playerbase will unlock whole new territories to explore, find new weapons, new frames, and more story.  There are two pieces of the old Firefall still covered by the Melding, currently undergoing reworks until a.) they’re ready and b.) the players work to uncover them.  The leveling and mission taking may be rote by now in the MMO world, but the randomly generated events, Chosen invasions, and overall goal of player-guided storytelling are what will keep me playing Firefall, even if not as my main MMO. 

Next week we’ll talk a bit more about crafting and the many changes it’s seen, plus hopefully some of the PVP content, as I’ll head early over to Broken Tusk to die for you, dear readers.  Below is one of the game’s first 20-man boss fights: Kanaloa (appropriately placed in what used to be Hawaii).  It’s possible that Firefall’s shooter roots will make raids and dungeons more interesting than in your typical MMORPG, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see them for myself. 

Right now, I’m just enjoying the verticality of the world, the solid narrative design, and the freeform crafting of my own perfect Firecat Battleframe.  I can’t yet say whether Firefall is going to be a longterm sort of game, but so far it certainly feels like a F2P MMORPG that doesn’t just try to roofie your wallet and take its virginity every five minutes.  If you’re so inclined, you can unlock all of the battleframes by spending money, or you can simply buy them with in-game currency.  In fact, most of Firefall’s for-cash options are about vanity and convenience. You won’t see someone more powerful because they spent money.  The five basic battleframes can tear up even the richest whale if the player has the skill. This is a shooter MMO afterall, and while gear and level improve a player’s stats, a better player is still a better player.

Firefall really needs more time to polish the annoying bugs in its UI and missions, but I’m still in awe over just how far the game’s come since open beta. I’ll admit it freely now: I was too kind to Red5 with my initial 7.7 score. I graded the game back then based more on its premise and promises, than what was actually there.  Firefall of 2013 was likely more in line with my own score for Defiance back then.  I can’t guess right now where this new score will fall, but I can say that the Firefall of today is nearly a whole new game and that I’d suggest anyone give it a shot. After all, it’s free… what do you have to lose?

William Murphy / Bill 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.

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