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PAX East Hands On Preview

Michael Bitton Posted:
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In 2005, several former Blizzard employees came together to form Red 5 Studios in order to develop a new MMOFPS called FireFall.  Red 5 was out in force at this year’s PAX East, with a large booth, fan events, some really awesome cosplay of the game’s signature characters, and of course, beta signups for anyone who tried the game. And by signups, I mean you literally got into the beta right then and there! Naturally, we stopped by to partake in the alien blasting goodness and today we’ll be sharing our experience with you.

Before we get to that, the uninitiated out there may appreciate a bit of backstory. FireFall is set roughly 200 years in the future in a sort of post-apocalyptic (though vibrantly colored) Earth, following the events of a cataclysmic asteroid strike. While recovering from the strike, a new resource that promised an almost limitless source of energy, called crystite, was discovered in the asteroid debris. The discovery of crystite ended up pulling Earth’s civilizations out from a new dark age and into a golden age far beyond most could imagine.

Long story short, Earth ends up seeking more crystite out in the universe and the technology they developed to facilitate this pursuit ends up causing a tear in the fabric of space and time from which a giant energy storm known as The Melding poured out. This storm ended up transforming most of Earth’s landscape and life, leaving only a small area habitable by humankind. If that wasn’t bad enough, a mysterious new faction known only as the Chosen have shown up and begun attacking humans. Where do you come in? You’re one of the heroes, of course! Players are basically tasked with pushing the Chosen back and seeking out a way to seal off the Melding and reverse its effects upon the Earth.

During my play session, I jumped into a freshly created Assault class named ExcitedStache. The game got off on a good foot on this alone, I must admit. If you haven’t seen FireFall before, you’ll instantly be struck by its visuals. The game features a vibrant cel-shaded style that is strongly reminiscent of Gearbox’s Borderlands.  I didn’t spend too much time with the game, but what was immediately notable about this MMO was the game’s verticality. It’s hard to put a finger on it, since there are certainly MMOs out there that let you run around, jump, and shoot guns, but there was something about the fact I could jetpack around as well that felt different. The world of FireFall seems absolutely massive and it feels like you can simply get around anywhere. I did a couple of the introductory quests that gave me a run of the basics, up to and including crafting, which is integral to the FireFall experience.

The game features five Battleframes (Medic, Assault, Recon, Dreadnaught, and Engineer) which are akin to your typical classes. Each Battleframe has its own properties, abilities, and weapon focus, but unlike most games you can simply switch any of these out at Battleframe stations found throughout the game world. Playing the Assault gave me access to a lot of rapid-fire weaponry and an awesome ability that launched me up high into the air only to come crashing down upon my enemies below.  The controls were simple and fluid and I found I was able to switch between first and third person view on the fly, though I tended to stick with the third person view for most of my adventuring. Again, I wasn’t able to get in too deep during my play session, so the quests were fairly simplistic, but it was easy to tell the game had a lot of promise. The moment-to-moment action felt really tight and simply fun to play.

I mentioned earlier that crafting is integral to the FireFall experience and it’s true. While you’re running and gunning you’ll also be collecting resources and these resources are used to craft everything from upgraded Battleframes for your class, to new abilities, new equipment, and more.  Crafting seems to be the primary means of acquiring most of your essentials. I didn’t get to do this during my demo, but one of the neat ways this resource gathering gameplay plays out in the world is through an activity known as ‘Thumping.’ Thumping involves grouping up with other players and using a giant hammer to scan areas of the world for rich concentrations of a variety of resources. The hammer sends out a visual wave that changes in color (from black to green to purple) as you approach higher concentrations of resources. Once a suitable location is found, players can deploy mining equipment (which crashes down from the sky) called a Thumper, which then begins extracting ore from the location. Unfortunately, the nearby fauna aren’t too happy about this for whatever reason and begin assaulting the thumper in waves in an attempt to destroy it. This kind of serves to create a public event for players to get involved in and your group will share in the resource spoils if you manage to successfully protect the Thumper before sending it back off into space.

If all that PvE MMO goodness isn’t enough for you, you’ll be glad to know FireFall also features a number of instanced PvP game modes that seem to have gamers excited. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to sample this out either, but now that I’m in the beta I plan on doing just that!

I’ve been keeping a curious eye on FireFall through the game’s development and I honestly came away pretty impressed with what I got to experience at PAX East. If you’re into the idea of a massive world to explore, creatures to blast, and resources to horde, you’ll definitely want to sign up for the beta and check it out as soon as you can!

Have you played FireFall? Or are you looking forward to the game’s release? Share your thoughts on the game in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB