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Visiting the Wasteland

Christopher Coke Posted:
Columns The Tourist 0

It all began in the year 2020 with the founding of GlobalTech. They came and rose, never realizing that their foundations would save us from the very end of times. In 2054 The Fall began with the release of the Shiva Virus. No one was safe and fear was at a red-line. Nuclear war would be soon to follow wiping out whole nations and creating radioactive clouds to scourge the earth. After the holocaust, we survivors emerged from the GlobalTech’s Grand Canyon vaults to find the world a painting of despair. The unlucky creatures left out mostly died but some of them were horribly changed: mutants, zombies, man-eating plants, and horribly changed beasts roam the wilds. All that was left to us was to rebuild and take back what was ours.

Welcome to Fallen Earth, as close to Fallout Online as we’re likely to get anytime soon.

I first came to Fallen Earth when it launched in September of 2009. Back then the game still charged a subscription fee, but it challenged conventions and was quickly relegated to a niche. The game floundered, too unique to support itself, and in late 2011 finally went F2P. A lot has changed since then but the core remains the same: Fallen Earth is one of the most unique MMORPGs out there, offering the genre’s best take on first-person-shooting and one of the most robust crafting systems this side of Star Wars Galaxies. The game also features a freeform character progression letting you specialize each clone. Let’s make no bones about it, if you like Fallout, sandparks, or just want something new, this game is for you.

I decided to start fresh to see what had changed. The character creation tool is as robust as ever with no limitations. Fallen Earth uses a lottery system, cosmetics, and boosters to drive its business model, so don’t expect pay-gating here. Rather than go with the outlandish spikes or a mohawk, I went low key, but you can go full Mad Max if you’re so inclined.

The game features an excellent tutorial which goes something like this: you’re a clone who awakens at the end of The Fall in a Hoover Dam under attack. The facility head is something of a mad doctor and would rather self-destruct the building than let the assailants win, so it’s up to you to escape. The tutorial outfits you with a couple of weapons and introduces the basics of gameplay. After mounting an ATV for a harrowing, mid-explosion escape, you choose a starter town. There are three to choose from, each with a particular focus (crafting, support, combat). I chose Clinton, the support town, because I’d never been.

One of my favorite changes is that the game gives you an array of weapons right out of the gate. In 2009, you were lucky to get a crossbow and paintball gun. Now you’re given a scoped rifle, a pistol, an axe, and whatever melee weapons you can find along the way. Crafting ammunition is as easy as tapping a few copper nodes and setting it into queue. Throughout the game’s combat missions, I never came close to running out of ammo. Blasting away with a real gun felt devilishly satisfying, and I found myself going for headshots even when my targets  didn’t have heads. A flower’s pistil counts! What’s better, I never once encountered a miss when my aim was true, which can’t be said of my last visit.

Fallen Earth allows you to play how you like and offers a number of weapon choices. If you prefer long range, short range, pistol, dagger, or baseball bat, you can still dominate. I found the pistol/rifle combination most satisfying but each has its pros and cons. Melee animations are still a bit stiff but not terrible.

The early missions take you through everything the game has to offer, minus organized PvP and the cash shop. There’s a lot to learn, so while NPCs are telling you to craft this or that there’s a hefty helping of pop-ups providing more detail. Learning the ropes is much, much easier than it used to be. One of the biggest issues in the past was mission’s requiring you to find materials without giving you a good clue where to look. Now if you need spare rubber, or antitoxin, you can count on a quality pointer in the quest text.

Scavenging is also logical, so common sense goes a long way. Materials can be gathered or scavenged from garbage piles, wrecked machines, animal nests and more. Need some spare rubber? Harvest a tire. Need a gear? Maybe that old refrigerator is a good place to look. There are also the standard plant, animal, and mineral nodes.

Fallen Earth’s ten extra trade-skills should delight old school players. Together they combine to create the backbone of gameplay, but can be totally ignored if you’d rather focus on combat and buy supplies on the auction house. Nearly any item, or equivalent, can be crafted. Gear also degrades over time and skilled trade-persons are needed for repairs and replacements, so demand is always high. The system follows a real-time queue with more advanced recipes taking more time. Crafting a shirt might take minutes while a hot rod many hours.

The most confusing aspect of the game is character progression. For nearly every action you perform, from completing quests to harvesting nodes, your character earns Advancement Points. These can be assigned to different attributes, tradeskills, and abilities. Trades are linked to attributes, so raising geology, for example, also means raising perception and intelligence. It’s deep but not impenetrable and really lets you specialize each character. The best suggestion I received was to decide on a character path before spending any points.

The wasteland is a vast and dangerous place. Thankfully you have a horse; just remember to feed it and heal its wounds. Mounts also stay in the game when you log off, so it’s important to keep close and not wander off. While the game opens in the brown and same-y Grand Canyon, it also comes to life as you move onwards. Northfields was downright green! Explore to your heart’s content. It’s dangerous but absolutely rewarding. And in a pinch, hop on your horse and giddy-up to safety.

Out of the all the MMOs I’ve played, Fallen Earth stands out in my mind as a diamond in the rough. It’s a bit too different to be mainstream but too wonderfully unique to be forgotten. It’s filled with a wealth of interesting quests and a great sense of humor. During my time with the game, I killed raiders, ventured into a snake pit, confronted an evil AI, searched for a lost scout team, played courier between towns, raided an underground facility, and much, much more. I also made a badass crossbow and am this close to making a slug-thrower. Oh, and you can have your own farm. So what are you waiting for?

That’s it for this week! Next column’s game is still up in the air, so leave your suggestion in the comments for where you’d like to see me go next!

Christopher Coke / Christopher Coke is a columnist at MMORPG.com, and a regular staff writer at Hooked Gamers, Vagary.TV, and blogs at Game By Night. He began his MMO career with MUDs back in 1999 and has never looked back. Follow him on Twitter at @gamebynight!


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight