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Red5's Second Shot Nails Its Target

William Murphy Posted:
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I really liked Firefall last year when it went into open beta. But like everyone else, I saw the writing on the wall that Red 5 was having direction issues with the title, and it seemed like their MMO shooter would never quite make it out of the development seesaw it was consistently riding.  Firefall was a game that didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be, and so a promising design was marred by all sorts of issues… and that’s when our friend and columnist Mark Kern was removed from acting CEO.

Since then, Firefall and Red5 went dark. We’d run into a few of their staff at GDC, PAX, and other shows, but nowhere to be found was the giant statue of the Thumper and huge floor presence. Gone were the constant Cosplay videos of Jamy Nigri, the OCC mobile gaming bus, and all sorts of other hype-building stunts. But none of us knew exactly what that meant for Firefall and Red5. 

They got more funding, somehow, and it seems they weren’t spending it on marketing this time… but now a few days before their official 100% launch, it’s clear they regrouped after last year’s drama, refocused, and are on the verge of succeeding what no one thought possible – they’ve made Firefall into a kickass MMORPG.

Now, it still has its kinks (mainly it’s not yet 100% solid performance wise, and bugs still halt quest progress), but by and large the game Firefall is today is a complete 180 from the game it was last year. I know now that I was too kind in giving it a 7.7 back then, based more on potential than actual proof. Ever since I started again with my Firecat last week, Firefall’s been the only game I want to play on my PC. 

There are folks who miss its open-ended nature, because these days Firefall is more about the level-based progression and questing than it ever was before. But the quests are solid, led by a Job Board system that tells unique stories about life after the Firefall, and there’s a strong narrative campaign that will be added to regularly which plays out in instanced missions for solo and group players.  Crafting is still as crucial as it ever was, but now far more approachable due to a complete reworking of ingredients and how research works.

I still think Firefall could use a few more tutorials to go over crafting and your equipment, but now it's far easier to figure out on your own than it ever was before. Thumping is still the best way to get materials, and it’s still as fun as ever. Only now, it’s not the only thing you’ll do in the world between dynamic events.  Those are still around too, with crashed thumpers, broken bikes, melding tornados, and Chosen invasions all still crucial to the in-between-missions gameplay. 

I always wanted a PVE MMO shooter, because I’m too easily frustrated by my own ineptitude in the likes of Planetside 2. Defiance is fun, but didn’t quite keep me with its more lateral progression. I wanted something where it felt like I was getting more powerful as I played. Firefall is that PVE game I’ve been wanting. And while Destiny is an excellent story-driven lobby-based MMO on the consoles, Firefall is the huge open world MMORPG, with progression galore, achievements, quests, bosses, dynamic events, crafting, and even dungeons and raids. It’s a far cry from the sandbox it was once heralded as, but I have to say it plainly: I like it way more this way.  

These are… hectic to fight off.

There’s even finally a big open world PVP zone with contested capture points and resources for clans to fight over.  Something fans of the game have long wanted. The match-made eSports centric PVP maps are gone. That idea never really worked, and you have to applaud Red5 for having the guts to just cut it completely. It’ll be interesting to see how much PVP evolves in the new open format.

We’ll be re-reviewing Firefall in the coming weeks. I’m curious to see how much lasting appeal it has, and just how leveling works when you’re doing it on your third or fourth Battleframe.  As it is right now, you can play all of the frames (or classes) with one character, so here’s hoping the content to level up doesn’t get stale after several passes.  Being that you can level in PVP, through dynamic events, thumping, and the job boards, I’m optimistic.  In the meantime, if you gave up on Firefall last year, I’d highly recommend going back and trying it again. It still won’t be for everyone, but it’s really blossomed into the game it should have been all along.


William Murphy

Bill is the former 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.