Try-It Tuesday: Firefall

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If I asked for a hand count out there of people who had high confidence that Firefall will live to see 2017 as a live operating game, I have a feeling it would be pretty sparse. It’s been a dour year for this sci-fi shooter MMO, and so I thought it might be a good idea to check it out now… before it was too late.

Welcome to Try-It Tuesday, Firefall!

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Installation and account setup went very smoothly, and we were into character creation before we knew it. “We” being me and my son, who called the shots on what my character would look like. Dark skin and a turquoise mustache? Done! I thought it was a nice touch to allow a choice of voice types, something not many MMOs do at all.

When Corporal Blue Hair phased in to the tutorial zone, I got a mail message saying that the studio was sorry for some foul-up or another and why don’t I accept these half-dozen free items? Being sorely inconvenienced ever since starting my Firefall career six minutes prior, I accepted them gladly.

The tutorial is brief and probably necessary to quickly lay out Firefall’s controls. It’s a much more mobile game than your traditional tab-target MMO, with a character that has rocket boots and a cyborg frame fused with his spine.

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I had just NO idea what was going on, story-wise, when I got into the first zone, but I think it boiled down to “follow the waypoints and shoot the bad guys.” Sure. Fine. I can do that.

While I wasn’t surprised by Firefall’s lush, bright visuals (although they were certainly delightful and a welcome change to most gritty metal grey sci-fi games, I wasn’t quite expecting the character to handle as nicely as he did. There’s a great sense of movement and response as you dash about, jumping incredible distances with the rocket boots, and attacking on the fly. Felt like I was a frantic, skilled soldier at some points, and the momentum of that first mission was thrilling. Thrillhouse, even.

I might not have been tracking the story, but I certainly didn’t feel lost or clueless about what to do. Firefall’s very good at keeping you pointed in the right direction and helping you figure out its interface in this opening hour.

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As my class, I went with an Engineer — which is video game lingo for “likes to throw down turrets.” And so it was here. Loved my heavy turret, which I nicknamed “Bob.” Go get ’em, Bob!

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If jump jets weren’t fun enough, Firefall also has long-distance gliding. I don’t glide a lot in MMOs, so I can’t say with authority that this is the most enjoyable gliding system out there, but it is (again) very smooth, responsive, and a blast to experience. Go through the rings, Superman!

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The opening area, if not the entire planet, has a warm tropical resort feel, which I have to put as one of my all-time favorite biomes. This atmosphere was helped by part of the first area actually being some sort of resort town with people in hawaiian shirts wandering around, sipping on drinks while this battle-suited maniac came barreling through at 75 mph.

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“So… uh… coffee, huh? You… like it hot? With artificial sweeteners? Me too!”

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Dang, this is one pretty game. Those beach water effects emit a real vibe, stylized though they are.

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Bored already with running, superjumping, gliding, and blasting bad guys? Here’s a jet motorcycle. VROOOOOOOOM.

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Let me tell you, some of these battles can get pretty crazy pretty fast. Making sure you resupply with health and ammo via drops and conveniently located pads makes the difference between winning and looking like a chump. I looked like a chump in the middle of this fight but eventually persevered.

All in all from what I saw, Firefall is actually a pretty fun game. Maybe it has larger issues with content offering, the business model, and a lack of population, but the core gameplay is fairly solid and a lot more intuitive than some other games I could mention. I might just keep this game around on my hard drive for a little while… while it lasts, at least.

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5 thoughts on “Try-It Tuesday: Firefall

  1. Chris Smith October 4, 2016 / 9:08 am

    I have always loved Firefall, even when it was suffering its worst identity crisis. Rolling with it was the best way to go, and there were times when it was difficult, but also times when they really hit a decent stride and were actually firing on all cylinders.

    Sadly, the Internet Population is more interested in being seen being witty than they are in, you know, actually enjoying stuff, so I think Firefall ended up with an unshakable bad rap based on hearsay which ended up keeping people at bay. Sad that if Firefall…falls…then as silly as it might be, Kern’s “spiritual successor” might be something I’d have to look at.

  2. bhagpuss October 4, 2016 / 10:17 am

    I dabbled in Firefall for a while and enjoyed it a lot. It has a great sense of movement and the world looks gorgeous. I never really figured out what i was doing but I had a lot of fun just roaming around. If there weren’t so many other choices I think Firefall could have done a lot better than it did but with the market this saturated just being smooth and good looking isn’t always enough.

  3. Sylow October 4, 2016 / 11:51 am

    I have played Firefall when it was actually good. What you are looking at is merely a shadow of what it once was.

    All the positive things you describe, how well the battelframe handles, the different modes of transportation, etc. was already there at the end of the beta. Unfortunately some people (NOT the players! ) then decided that they wanted a completely different game than what it was. As a result, the system of upgrading and modifying a battleframe was reworked several times. While one of the reworks eliminated the contraproductive CPU requirement all the reworks just made things more boring. (Explaining CPU would require to explain all the depth of the old crafting and advancement system, and I think that’s not what I should do here. Let’s just cut it down to: it was very good for and active crafter who wanted to finetune a frame for his personal needs, but it was a nightmare for anybody not deep into crating, who just wanted to buy some stuff from the market, so any non-crafter actually was at a small disadvantage in terms of combat power. )

    During a row of reworks a lot of customization options and finetuning got lost, and after the last rework before I quit, we ended up with a level based system, instead of the freeform upgrading system, where you had no “this item is best” written on it, but you mixed and matched your gear according to your needs.

    It’s ironic that we players in the forums were all “existing systems could use a little rework and they are perfect” and rather asked for more zones to go to. The number one request of all the playerbase was to make the world bigger. Of course, that’s a problem of any MMO, that there is never enough content. People will always consume it faster than developers can produce it. But unlike in any other MMO, the developers of Firefall decided to rather shrink the world again and again, at each big patch. At the end of the beta there were several other zones but New Eden. Some arctic environment, some other jungle than New Eden, some mountain environment, etc. There was also a number of instances, which people entered and completed in group.

    And while the main zone, New Eden, was not shrinking in terms of area it covers, the actual individual space shrunk. In the old system, missions of all difficulties spawned all over the map. Yes, the difficulty indicator was not well done, so beginners tended to stumble into too hard missions, but usually they made the mistake only a few times before learning to read the indicators. At the same time, it regularily resulted in more experienced players giving a hand to the never players and them beating hard content together. (Which was very beneficial to the new player, as they got a lot of XP and thus were able progress their frames development. ) But instead of improving the indicators, the game was changed to a level based system and was split up in level-adjusted zones. So no matter which level you were at, only a small part of the map was still useful to you. So in terms of actual gameplay, the gaming area again shrunk, basically to 1/8th of what you formerly had available.

    Bonus points: try to select the battleframe “Arsenal”. You won’t be able to do that, but you can look up old videos on how that one functioned. It’s very diverse selection of weapons made it a great frame, at the price of being the most vulnerable frame of the dreadnaught family. Some people at that time spent money to get that frame and enjoyed it a lot, but later it was removed from the game.

    Mind you, this is just the short list of “what once was there and then was removed, without anything replacing it”. I could go on for much longer and in more detail, but I think what I already wrote very much explains why the game lost its playerbase: too many changes, too often things were removed from the game without bringing anything actually new.

    When I played, I did so with a number of friends. We enjoyed our diverse setups. (The very same frame, depending on who was using it and his preferences, could perform very differently… unlike in the reworked system, were frames are rather uniform. ) We enjoyed the SWG-style crafting system, which allowed us to both finetune the gear and to make good money on the market. And we enjoyed roaming all over all the maps and doing stuff there, including meeting new players and helping them. So when the game switched to the “now we have a WoW system and it’s all about loot”, we felt like being locked behind bars. We didn’t last long, till we quit and moved on.

    I very much enjoyed the old (big) Firefall, but won’t shed a tear for what they made out of it.

    The only thing I wonder is: what will Ember actually be? Is Kern saying the truth, that the publisher demanded and enforced all those changes, which drove us players away? In that case Ember might become what Firefall hinted to at the end of its beta. If it’s not true and Kern himself was influential in the many wild course changes of Firefall, Ember certainly is doomed.

    Time will tell.

  4. Deus-Eri (@ausj3w3l) October 5, 2016 / 6:13 am

    Came to say everything Sylow basically did haha – god damn how I loved its earlier beta editions and would have played them so much more if they hadn’t pulled a theme park overhaul at the end. It was nice to explore the world and just fall into activities and events rather than railroaded along. It also made it an excellent game for grouping, far better than most and I had so many great experiences with other people that just randomly happened while doing an event, running along or thumping.

    The main fault was definitely the lack of content, and yeh I get most people say that’s always going to be a problem but Firefall is a unique situation. There was some rather long content droughts – think wow long haha. There were some additions along that time but only small changes and such.

    And then when stuff was added it was either completely misdirected or later torn out. There was that huge open world pvp area added that was completely empty of players because of it’s obvious lack of mechanics and design intent – also because it was never really touched after its addition. On the other point there were three distinct zones I still have photos of that had mechanics of pushing back melding as a group to get to the final event – along the way obviously opening up new nodes to thump on. There was volcano – an undersea forest without the water now, and a nice antarctic outpost area. Great zones, diverse zones with their own reworked and sometimes new enemies – then gone. poof. no more. Same with the pvp battleground stuff. Just weird shit like that.

    Open world bosses ripped out (placed in instances though) and that larger event system of defending thump dump from invasions or it being taken was taken out for release too. I actually enjoyed that event and it really banded together the community when it happened.

    I wish they had just focused on that key PvE open world crafting/thumping design first. Add more new events, sequenced events. expand the world where you can. Expand on what you already have too. New battleframes, new enemy types, new ally and enemy buildings. New ways to customise them (again). new cosmetics and other things to work towards. That larger zone where we are constantly building on (actually building not just an incredibly long grind and nothing else)) and pushing back the chosen.

    There was so much they could have done except they were perpetually chasing an imaginary squirrel

  5. Sylow October 5, 2016 / 1:04 pm

    Oh, yea… invasions. I very much remember that, whenever the invasion warnings came up, everybody hurried to where it was announced to happen. I very often used my Dragonfly (healer) for it, as there always were enough people could use some help.

    The corral forest (and the damn wasps there), all the other things they tore out to never replace them… nostalgy just strikes me hard…

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