(ETA: I *know* I hit PrntScr a number of times in the two weeks, but the folder is empty. Whether this a bug in the game, or some version of user error, I don’t know. In any case, my apologies.)
With all the hullabaloo in the last year over review processes and what constitutes a review, I’m hoping the quotes keep me out of trouble. Nevertheless, this IS my review of my time in Fallen Earth, if you have a problem with it, just save yourself some heartache and move on. The review comes in four parts: The Good (what I liked), The Bad (what I didn’t like), The Ugly (what needs work), and The Tilt (the x factor, stuff that doesn’t fit elsewhere). Ready or not, here we go:
For all the supposed bugs and problems, once I was in the game itself, it was an incredibly stable platform. I crashed only twice in two weeks, and once was due to my internet connection going down. Compared to other games, this is great (I still disconnect once a night minimum from EVE – “socket closed” my foot…) and a good start. The tutorial does what it should do – guiding you through the basics of the game and letting you practice. The storyline was an added bonus I thought – it meshes well with the rest of the game.
Speaking of storyline, the lore and the atmosphere are fantastic. It easily gives a solid vibe thats a mix of Wild West and Mad Max, and that is not a bad combo for post-apoc at all. Contributing to this is the sheer amount of stuff you can find, use, and create in the game. Kudos to the developers for not creating this smorgasbord, and then artificially limiting it by making some items clearly better than others. People were using everything from closet rods to rusty dress sabres to golf clubs as melee weapons. Armor is not quite as robust, but there are still several options available.
Quest hubs are easy to find and not overwhelming in their sheer number of arcs and tasks. In the three areas I visited, the tasks were spread out 360 from the township, allowing for a good flow of traffic and keeping any one place from getting to crowded – many games don’t even attempt this basic design philosophy. Quest rewards and drops themselves are good, I found myself equipping and using a mixture of both to good effect. And as a sideline to this – transportation done right. No instantly jumping across the entire play area, and fast travel has economic and logistic limitations beyond a “once and done” ridiculously high cost for a mount.
This can be summed up in two words: Crafting and Economy. Crafting consists of picking a recipe, hitting a button, which sends it to a queue with a timer. The timer can be shortened if you stand around an area where a workshop is. But since you can’t do anything else in that space, other than perhaps to chat or sell off extra stuff, your best bet is to head right back out into the big bad world and keep collecting things. The only time the workspace benefits you is for long time items when you log off. The crafting queue keeps rolling even if you are offline, much like EVE’s manufacturing slots – which is fine for a factory building a starship, but is a little hokey when you think about grilling your chicken salad while offing radiated mutants. The queue also holds up to 25 items, further encouraging the queue and go mentality. Even more vexing for crafters – every single crafting skill is based off of one attribute – Intelligence (with a minor bump from Perception). Since your attributes govern your max for tradeskills, that means that you might as well throw some bullets in the queue with your chicken salad, because as a crafter, you are equally good at producing both. It may be that at higher levels, the sheer time of the recipes limits your specialization – but devs should never underestimate the amount of time players are willing to waste on a game.
This ties directly to the economy. Unless you are a hardcore PvP player, its well worth the invested points to bump your Intelligence so that you can produce your own gear rather than buying it. The vendors sell the same items you can make, often for a huge markup over the cost of the materials – which are literally lying around on the ground for you to pick up, free of cost. Since crafting requires no time investment seperate from adventuring, even if you hate crafting, its not a burden at all to max it out. Particularly if you plan to use gas powered vehicles (so you can make your own fuel) or guns (so you can make your own bullets). There’s alot of speculation about what this does to the economy in crafting. The only check and balance in place is that you can buy any mat from the right vendor for a set price. So the auction house prices for mats will never inflate, tied to that max number as they are. I’m guessing that they are betting that players will pay money to acquire particular items now as opposed to waiting a few hours, days, or weeks to craft the item (and yes, some items take that long).
While the game is stable, or at least was to me, there are a number of irritating bugs – items you should be able to craft not updating correctly with your skill, requiring a re-log. Running to a harvesting node on the map, only to find that its bugged and no longer works.
A new type of quest – a tracking quest – is being tried out in the game, which basically involves traveling a bunch of way points before hitting the quest goal or target. This is beyond irritating, especially since more than one that I did led me in a circle back to nearly where I began – and that was one where I was following a blood trail. Apparently he was delirious enough from the blood loss to cross back and forth over the same area (ie, the enemy camp) several times.
That great variety of gear? Yeah, that doesn’t exist with transportation or with ranged weapons. Until you hit the second tier of areas, the only thing you will be wielding is zip guns or crossbows. Apparently regular bows no longer exist. Or throwing weapons. And no one has thought to go back to muskets and arbesques yet.
Combat is vaguely SW:G-esque. You can zoom in with a scope on someones head, but why bother, when its not going to do any more or less damage then hitting them in the torso would, and it takes alot more time to aim and you have less of a chance of hitting your target when they start moving. Switching between first and third person takes some getting used to, but isnt bad. Switching weapons though, is a nightmare. Only equip what you plan to use, would be my advice. If you want to carry other stuff, fine, just lleave it in your pack. Other than aiming and shooting, you can use the occasional skill. At level six, having finished one crafter starting town, one combat starting town, and one support starting town, I had one skill for melee, one for pistols, and none for rifles. Its not a bad thing necessarily though – its a tried and true system, and combat involves a lot of duck and weave movement, so trying to track whack-a-mole buttons is tough. Still, its missing something.
The six factions are so badly stereotyped its almost impossible to empathize with any of them. Its basically the treehuggers, the barbarians, the scientists, the military, the do-gooders, and the merchants. And I must be missing something somewhere. The best gear is supposed to be faction gear – ie, the barbarians (ChotA) have the best melee weapons, etc. And to gain faction with one group means losing twice as much with the opposing factions. Which means your group/guild/gang/whatever will eventually be KoS in each others home towns…how is that supposed to work exactly?
With all that, I’d love to tell you that FE sucks and you should go do a different game. But I can’t. Its just too darn fun. There is something great about the game itself that transends alot of the individual elements. Some of it was visual – at level 6, I at least *looked* like a badass mofo. Some of it is the character potential – the MMO market is ready to go classless, and this game is a great example of that. I know its harder to balance, but seriously, its time for someone to get it done and get it done right. One of the things FE is supposedly implementing to help with gimped characters is remapping – only this remapping will be done slowly – over the course of a week or two. This keeps PvP from going nuts, but still allows for a surprise – pull your best healer off the line for a week and watch your opponents surprise when the meet him next! And it promoted experimentation within reason – a big, big deal. Players will play what they want, secure that they can make corrections or tweeks later, but few people will go out of their way to try outragious combos because it will suck away their play time.
And then too, is the setting. This is a truly unique game right now, and it has a nice niche that will hopefully allow it to survive until it finds its footing. The community is helpful and has their big-boy pants on, which is nice. Part of this charm may fade too – the game truly feels post-apocalyptic right now, but as more and more player guides and maps and such come out, it will lose some of that mystique, and losing that will hurt this game more than it would say, your stock fantasy adventure.
Final Tilt: This is a game developed by a smaller company, and is a labor of love. As a result, they listen to feedback (GM’s are on and vocal 24/7), are actively improving the game’s mechanics and content. Given who they are, what they have accomplished here is that much greater. Its worth buying the game even if you don’t keep going beyond the first month, because it rewards the gaming community in the long term to encourage this sort of approach and dedication to game making.
So, get to it.
TL;DR Version: A flawed, but fun game, with a bright future ahead of it. Give it a try.