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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Firefall Review


Gilly got me in to a new online game called Firefall.  I had never heard of it, but was told it was kind of a sci-fi World of Warcraft.  The game was free, so I went to Steam and downloaded it and watched the trailer.  I noticed off the bat that the graphical style is not "realistic", which I think is a good thing.  One of the best decisions WoW ever made was to really go cartoon-like with the look.  In games that try to be too realistic (LotR Online), I think the suspension of disbelief doesn't work as well and stuff looks weird and fake.  (Skyrim looked alright, I have to admit)

The story - which I didn't really see a TON of explanation about - is that you are on Earth in the far future and you are supplementing the military forces - Accord - in order to protect the civilian population.  Nothing flashy that I have seen as of yet.


You make up a character, but you do not pick stats and such.  You go through some introductions and pick what is called a "Battleframe".  You can change frames at base camps when you want, but you level up your skills and stats in each different frame.  So, there is not really a class, but your abilities in each frame determine your role and abilities.  Each frame has up to 4 active ability options and a primary weapon that uses limited ammunition and a secondary weapon that has unlimited ammo.  Each frame has a unique primary weapon, but all classes can access the same pool of secondary weapons.  You can pick from any of the following frames:

Assault:  This is a standard frame and is the most basic.  You get main weapon that does some direct and splash damage.  You get some AOE damage abilities and some additional movement capabilities.  I like this frame the best so far, as it is a good balance between damage, toughness and mobility.

I have leveled up Assault to 21.
Engineer:  Support people need to look here.  This frame has some decent weapons, but really shines in a secondary role.  This frame deploys turrets and ammo power ups for your teammates.  This is a very useful frame for group play.

Dreadnaught:  This is the heavy of the group. Think large chain guns, a shield and shotguns.  This is your Tank.

Recon:  Stealth and big alpha-strike weapons describe this frame. This frame can move around quite quickly, but is fairly fragile.

Biotech:  This is the healing frame. The weapons are mediocre, but the healing is very much needed when doing instance missions.  Some of the heals do damage to enemies and heal teammates.

Lots of customization options for your weapons and your frame.


Combat in Firefall is very much like playing a shooter like Call of Duty, rather than an MMO like World of Warcraft.  You have to actually aim your gun and shoot at enemies, not just tab-select them and mash buttons.  You mobility is key in battles as well and is well served in the game.  Each class has jump-jets in the boots which really let you move around.  Gear can be customized to enhance these abilities if they help your style.  The enemies must also aim and shoot you, so combat movement is very important.  If you stand around and slug it out, you will die.

Shooting it out with some enemies.
Mostly, one will be using the main weapon for dealing damage, while switching to the secondary to finish off injured opponents or handle specific situations like weaker mobs.  Each class has a selection of 4 abilities that can be used to increase damage, drop turrets, do AOE damage, etc.  What I find really neat is the ability to attach upgrades to each of these weapons and abilities to customize your character.  You can add splash damage, increase your magazine size, reduce the ability cooldown, etc.  

Crafting and Economy

There is a pretty neat system in place for gathering resources in the game.  There are traditional 'nodes' that you can use little bombs to blow up and retrieve Ore when you see it.  Fair enough.

What is really cool is that you can use a giant hammer to smash the ground just about anywhere to 'search' for fertile ground to "Thump", which is akin to mining.  When you find a good spot, you call down your Thumper from the sky and it starts thumping the ground and gathering resources.  There is a catch, though.  Like the Thumpers in the old Dune movie, the local wildlife is attracted to the device and attack it in waves.  You have to fight them off for a few minutes while your resources gather - often fighting some elite mobs at the end.

Hammering the ground looking for Ore.

Pretty crappy place to Thump.

This is a very novel idea, as you gain XP and some loot from the monsters while you do this - no need to choose between grinding XP or grinding resources.  I like this approach quite a bit.

For making stuff, you have the familiar Research, Refine, Make path.  The system uses Research Points as a main currency for discovering patterns - these come from scraping un-wanted loot drops.  I have found that the points build a little slowly, and I have started researching for future frames rather than the one I am mainly playing.  I seem to level out of the items researched to be of any use in the current frame.

Research Tree.

For money, you have Crystals, Credits and Red Beans.  Crystals you get from drops and refining.  Credits are hard to come by, but you can get them as rewards for playing the game for a certain amount of time per day.  Red Beans you mostly have to just purchase in-game for real money. Crystals are the most common thing used for repairs and crafting and such.  Credits can remove enhancements you have made to weapons and abilities.  Red Beans are used to get XP boosts and 'Veteran Status' where you earn more of basically everything as you play.  Also, many custom visual modifications to your character use small amounts of Red Beans.


The thing I like about the interface the most is the voice acting on all the missions.  Each mission is explained in detail, and there is full dialogue between your mission-giver and your ARES operator.  She acts kind of like your guide or JARVIS for you and your battleframe.

The interface is really easy to use, and a full key-mapping is provided.  The interface is also customizable, but I have not messed with any of that yet.  You use standard WASD and number keys to activate abilities and to use items in your hot slots - you see those as the two sets of 4 buttons in the screenshots.

You can hit the 'C' key and scroll through your inventory with the mouse wheel.
Most of the other activities in the game are using the mouse.  The interface will prompt you to make a selection with a graphic, and even often tell you which key to press to activate an item or retrieve quest rewards.   I found the interface very easy to use and picked it up very quickly.


So far, I like this game a lot.  There seems to be a LOT to it - I only covered the basics in this article.  I recommend people give it a try, as it is free on Steam.  I think this game has incorporated a lot of novel ideas from past MMOs into a neat package.  Suit up, Merc!


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