PAX East 2012: Firefall Hands On
I’ve had my eye on Firefall for quite some time. After holding a significant presence at the past few PAX conventions, the long-in-production MMOFPS from Red 5 Studios has reared its head once more. This time, we got an in-depth look at the game’s PVE offering.
Firefall explores the story of the human race’s stand to defend earth against the ongoing alien invasion. It’s an open-world team-action MMO that has players fighting off enemy attacks, collecting valuable resources, and completing missions that assist in the battle against “The Chosen”, the name given to the mysterious enemy in Firefall.
Like any MMO, you’ll have a list of character customization options to help make your soldier’s armor, face, skin, and hairstyle stand out amongst the rest. There wasn’t an incredible variety to choose from in terms of visual options in the preview, but that can and likely will change later.
Also, everyone has a jetpack and deployable glider wings. Jetpacks can be used at any time (with a short cool down time between uses) to accesss hard to reach areas and, when used with the glider, allow for flight over long distances.
The meat of Firefall is not in player expression, but in the exploration and key events that occur while playing. While the game has scripted events and quests that occur server-wide in typical MMO fashion, there are local, random events that you can come across in the wild as well, such as a crashed alien ship in need of excavation, or an alien assault on an entire town.
The outcomes of large-scale events like that are important to the well being of all in the server, as a loss in a battle for a town would mean that alien forces now control the town, and you’ll have to rally other players to fight if you want it back. You can even take over other towns, expand your presence, and unlock global rewards for all players.
By completing these events and taking over regions, the barriers of the world called the “melding” will begin push back, revealing more of the world. In this way, the growth of the game is controlled by the the success or failure of its players, not the developer necessarily.
In terms of available play styles, Firefall is very class-based — with standard load outs for Assault, Medic, Engineer, Dreadnaut, and Recon. Assaults are used primarily for dealing quick damage, Medics primarily heal, Engineers can deploy and repair turrets, Dreadnauts are heavies that can deploy cover and play a tanking role, and Recon players are armed with sniper rifles.
A good class balance amongst your squad is key to success in battles, but we didn’t seem to have much trouble early on using all assault soldiers and one medic. Assuming the difficulty scales upward later in the game, use of the other classes should be exceptionally more beneficial.
In the entirety of my fifteen minute demo, I explored the colorfully-cartoony jungles, the sandy oceanside, and the main town of Copacabana, one of the only human controlled cities in the game. No global events took place, but I did come across a number of randomized local events that needed handling.
I and others shot up and terminated guard patrols around town, destroyed an excavated parts of a crashed alien ship, and took part in a resource harvesting extravaganza, which required calling down a mining rocket called a “thumper”. Once called down, the thumper falls from the sky onto the spot of your choosing and begins to mine.
At this point, aliens and enemies of all kinds become attracted to the scent of the ore being mined and begin to attack you and the thumper. If you and others don’t properly defend it, your thumper will be lost along with all of your mined ore. Thankfully, we were able to keep them at bay long enough to grab the mined resources and watch the thumper fly off into the sky.
Here, my demo came to a close.
Firefall has been a long time in the making, but it’s closing in on its impending “sometime this year” 2012 release. After some time in the beta and a new build to check out at PAX, I have nothing but applause for what the team behind Firefall has managed to squeeze into the game. It’s shaping up to be a game-changer for Free-to-play MMOs, and it’s certainly striving to accomplish an innovative feat.
Here’s to hoping they finish strong this year and deliver an entertaining MMO experience on par with this awesome demo.