I still don’t know what compelled me to dive into yet another MMO — this brings my concurrent MMO games up to 4, for those counting at home — and I had a bit of buyer’s regret the other morning when I realized that Fallen Earth wasn’t exactly cakewalk. I felt way in over my head, swimming in a sea of unanswered questions, desperate for a life preserver of direction to be tossed to me. I thought, for sure, this wasn’t the best idea, but I’ll give it a few good days’ worth of play to make sure.
So glad I did. SO glad.
I’m not going to go overboard (stop with the ocean metaphors already, Syp!) by saying this is the BEST. GAME. EVER., but it is the truth that I’ve gotten so sucked into FE that the hours have flown (sailed?) by. It might be rough around the edges, complex and more sandbox-y than theme park-y, but it’s also addicting, compelling and different, and those are three wonderful qualities of a MMO. Questions have been either figured out or answered by helpful players (there’s a “new advice” chat channel where Q&As are non-stop), and I’ve gone from being a clueless wanderer in the post-apocalyptic desert to a weekend warrior with a headwrap, duster jacket, and a really nasty iron poker that I proudly built from scratch.
As Fallen Earth launches later today after the new patch, I wanted to share some of my reasons, and my fellow clannies’ reasons, just what makes Fallen Earth tick for us.
1. The Setting
Fallen Earth is just about as close to a Fallout MMO as you’re likely to see for some time, and while it certainly shares traits with its big brother, it’s its own setting as well. The post-apocalyptic world of FE is refreshingly different than most other MMOs out there, a blend of recognizable artifacts of the 20th and 21st centuries and an Old West spirit. It’s a bleak world in many ways, but also an alive one full of weirdness and wonder.
If you love crafting in MMOs, then Fallen Earth is your personal nirvana. If you haven’t loved crafting in MMOs, Fallen Earth might just win you over anyway, as it has me. Scavenging for raw materials is an ongoing activity in a fallen world, and it just seems right to use all of this junk to make usable items, since it’s not like a big corporation somewhere is manufacturing guns and ammo. Fallen Earth proclaims that 95% of usable/equippable items can be player-made, and usually anything crafted is better than what you’ll find on a dead corpse. It’s amazing how broad and deep the crafting system goes, and I give the game huge thumbs up for being able to queue up crafting jobs that your character works on even as you’re running around fighting — or are offline.
At first, your desire is to stay close to your starter town and not go very far, but sooner or later you’ll wander off the path enough just out of sheer curiosity of what that structure is, or where this might take you. Fallen Earth is simply a huge, huge game, and one could easily get lost (in a good way!) traversing the landscape and poking around for hidden treasure. Last night, we had a group of clannies who discovered an old mine that was full of zombies, and dedicated themselves to clearing the infestation. Wasn’t part of a quest or anything, it was just there.
4. Character Progression Freedom
Fallen Earth’s “classless” system is a tad confusing at first — and I say “classless” because you level up attributes and skills separately, but there are still primary roles you can build toward — but I’m totally digging games where I’m not being held by the hand, but given the choice of how I want to develop. Even though there are levels in FE, you get AP (advancement points) far more often, for doing everything from quests to scavenging to crafting to combat, and can spend those on the fly to beef up your dude or dudette.
5. Easter Eggs
I’m not in the spoiler business, but I will concede that Fallen Earth is absolutely rife with little bits of easter egg details, rewarding those who poke around and observe closely. You will see pop culture references to just about everything imaginable, and it’s always a little giddy thrill of delight when one is discovered.
6. Choice of Starter Town
I went into Fallen Earth practically cold, and wasn’t expecting the game to give me a choice of a starter town after the tutorial based on my field of interest. There are six starter towns, two that have a crafting emphasis, two for combat, and two for support (although all of the towns include a mix of these features). I chose a crafting starter town to get a lot of free recipes from quest rewards, but will eventually be working my way through all of the towns to see what there is to see.
Combat in FE is that pseudo-real time clickie action that I’m familiar with in, say, DDO. Stats run under the hood, but you just aim at a bad guy and swing or shoot away. At first, I found that having to switch to aiming mode each and every combat session a bit awkward, but I adjusted, and once I discovered that you had a ton of potential action bar moves and buffs to use (you have to manually put them on your hotbar), combat really opened up. One of the things I love is having up to 8 weapons available for use at any one time, giving you the option to switch on the fly if you want to go from a ranged weapon to a melee item, and so on.
8. Personality and Humor
Near the starter town that I’m at, Midway, there’s a cult of technology worshippers called the Found, who have shrines devoted to cell phones, and are led by a matronly type known as Mother Board. Their single-minded adulation of all things tech provides a lot of snarky little NPC comments, and I had a couple good chuckles as I went through their base. This is pretty much standard for a lot of the areas, as black humor and oddball goofiness pervade the post-apocalyptic atmosphere, and I really wasn’t expecting to be so entertained by it. Hey, when a game has giant mutant hermit crabs who use rubbermaid trash cans for shells, it’s won me over in part already.
9. Make Your Own Content
While Fallen Earth isn’t a true sandbox — there is a definite sense of zone progression and loads of quests — it carries on in the sandbox style nonetheless. And that means that you are not bound to either grinding mobs or running quests, but free to explore, or craft, or choose whatever goal you’d like for that evening’s play session. That sense of openness is a bit daunting, but also liberating. As a friend put it, you might decide that tonight, your goal is to obtain a horse for a mount. So you’ll want to get the requisite crafting skills, gather up enough money and odd parts, and then put yourself to work crafting it together. Nobody gives you that for a quest — it’s just self-made, and more satisfying for it.
Fallen Earth has six factions, each of whom offer a different emphasis, benefits, allies and enemies. It’s all presented with a nifty Trivial Pursuit wheel, where your faction “slice” has two allied factions (on either side), one arch-enemy (directly across), and two enemy factions. I haven’t gotten into working toward any of the factions yet, although I’m thinking Tech for my guy (pistols and nifty nano-technology). But this is deep PvE stuff, right here, a faction system that isn’t just grinding out a long bar until a vender opens up for you, but a faction system that changes how the world reacts to you, for better or worse.