Fallen Earth Game – Review
Fallen Earth is an MMORPG Game released by Icarus Studios in the autumn of 2009 and it proposes a mix of first-person shooter experience and melee combat in the post-apocalyptic American landscape of 2156. The population, heavily decimated by the Shiva virus, struggle for survival in a corrupted and deadly environment while fighting for supremacy of the Fallen Earth.
Death, destruction, devastation, radiation and other such wonderful things careful wrapped up together to turn your beautiful peaceful little planet into a hostile and almost uninhabitable place – I mean, if you’ve seen one (post-)apocalyptic scenario, you’ve seen them all… or so I thought. People have been literally toying with the “what if” that would lead to such a terrifying end result for decades now and in the process our collective mind has managed to come up with some really interesting and surprisingly entertaining artistic products, from movies to video games. In the latter section, the unchallenged king of the imaginary post-apocalypse is without a shadow of a doubt Fallout – if number 3 immediately sprung to mind you clearly haven’t played the first two games of the series and you should be ashamed of yourself. The design of the Fallout series games has inspired and challenged the imagination of other developers into creating similar products, one of which is already walking into the deep footsteps of its legendary predecessors and takes the whole concept one step further: Fallen Earth.
Following a decent character creation tool, the introductive tutorial manages to offer the player a glimpse into the future, into what the game has to offer at higher levels, and also introduces the player into the basic combat mechanics. The instance is a short fifteen minutes ride, packed with brutal fast-paced action that will leave you thirsting for more. And the game will offer you more; as a matter of fact it will offer you so much more that you will almost certainly wish it didn’t. The amount of information thrown at you in the first levels is overwhelming to say the least. Everything suddenly becomes available: from the extremely rich crafting system to combat mechanics, skills and vehicles that no longer magically (dis)appear whenever you clap your hands. For a seasoned MMORPG Games player this might translate into a challenge and bringing the pieces of the puzzle together will actually be a source of entertainment, but for the new comer it is nothing more than frustrating and even infuriating experience. Finding quests is the biggest quest available, managing your inventory space and figuring out which items are useful and which aren’t is a mindboggling challenge, and skill use and progression is a mystery many will not solve in the first few levels.
Everything put together has the unfortunate effect of derailing the player’s attention from what is actually important. I fear that not many will survive these first few hours of gameplay and they will not allow the game to unfold and share its interesting and unconventional features. As for any other MMO, all these things can be subject to post-launch improvement, but the patches should come sooner rather than later and more important: before the hype-train leaves the station and the players that were driven to try the game out of curiosity decide to seek thrills elsewhere.
For an MMO Game heavily based on combat, the system is rather sluggish especially when it comes to melee. This is because both for ranged and melee a successful hit requires a careful positioning of the crosshair /target reticule onto the enemy and while for ranged this is the absolute standard, for melee it feels unnatural as you would expect that a powerful horizontal swing with a led pipe would most certainly hit a frontal attacker. Aiming in melee in PVE combat is quite easy as you can anticipate the NPCs’ movements, but becomes horrible in PVP where opponents will constantly strafe and dodge.
Skills aren’t helping with this bit either as most of the ones related to melee combat trigger underdeveloped visual feedback in terms of animations, giving the player a feeling of non-responsiveness of the controlled character. Thus, chaining skills without keeping a constant look on the skill bars becomes a challenge and again makes the player focus on something else than on the actual combat. However, the whole combat system is in the end fun. It lacks a lot of polish especially in the animation department, it could use some work on the intuitive chaining of skills and abilities, but it has just enough out of both of them to give the player the ways and means to overcome combat challenges in an entertaining way.
As mentioned before the character creation tool is decent enough, but does not offer a sufficient range of customization items in order to avoid looking at another player in the starting areas and feel like you just staring into a mirror. The game compensates in the long run though, as both weapons and clothing do not suffer from lack of diversity and a lot of them can be crafted, so the players will be able to personalize their look as they level up.
Crafting plays an important role in Fallen Earth so the whole system is as rich as you can possibly hope. You can gather any kind of resource as long as the specific gather skill is sufficiently developed and then either turn them in at the auction house for a nice profit or combine them into crafting your own weapons, armor or potions. This gives you a certain independency, but when it comes down to what actually means being independent in an MMO, it’s a double edged sword. On one hand you provide for yourself all the necessary items so you never feel that your gear is not on par with you character level, but on the other hand you never feel the need to interact with other players in order to trade and gain access to recourses that are unavailable to you. Add to this the fact that most quests and game challenges are scaled down to the level and power of just one character and you will soon find yourself soloing most of the game content and wondering why is it called an MMORPG Game.
With a design that apparently supports and encourages a single player approach, the efforts of bringing people together have been concentrated in other areas. The most important one is that Fallen Earth is a single server virtual world where instancing is reduced to a minimum. Although this might lead to some lag spikes in heavily populated social hubs, it also provides the basis of a rich multiplayer experience. All the towns are populated so regardless of your level you never feel alone in an area. The community is active, helpful and carefully monitored by game masters with a pleasantly surprising hands-on attitude, and as a result the “help” chat channel is a constantly reliable source of information. The game economy is the result of universal player efforts and everyone, regardless of level or training, has a word to say in it. So all these together leave you feeling as being part of a huge, extraordinary world that you will be compelled to explore and discover.
Character development is based on AP aka Advancement Points which you can gain from doing quests, crafting or simply leveling up. As there are no fixed classes with development limits, these APs can then be spent on skills, abilities and stats as you see fit, basically allowing everyone to create and develop a character that best suits their play style. Apparently, taking all the character development synergies into consideration, a player will be able to maximize two separate combat styles, thus having the opportunity of combining melee and ranged abilities. This, together with the lack classes, opens up a new and rich gameplay experience, especially when it comes to PVP, since you won’t be able to tell just by looking at another character what its strengths and weaknesses are, thus forcing you into making tactical decisions that you wouldn’t normally make in another online mmorpg game and approach every enemy expecting to be surprised.
Fallen Earth graphics are good, even with the limitations normally imposed on MMOs. The game runs well on hardware on which years have taken their toll and also gives a high quality visual experience to those playing it on state of the art gaming computers that support good frame rates with all the video settings turned on or maximized. However since the post-apocalyptic settings usually force a certain color range and level of saturation, you might feel sometimes that the Shiva virus attacked not only living creatures, but also the colors of this world. Brown and gray are the colors of the game and specks of low saturated green, blue and yellow come to complete the canvas. An image that takes time to adjust to, but one fitting for such an environment.
When you look at Fallen Earth from afar it seems like nothing more than an unimpressive, inexpensive lump of coal, but if you chip away the outer surface you will find a shining diamond inside. Undoubtedly not many will have the patience to do that as the game makes no efforts to present itself in a friendlier light. Many players will find themselves missing the old guidance systems and gradually progressive development, and will end up feeling lost, without a goal or simply frustrated because the game is not limiting their actions. From a hardcore gamer perspective this kind of approach deserves praises and a healthy round of applause as it emphasizes on the need to have ability to adapt and survive, and then rewards those who manage to do that. Fallen Earth introduces a Darwinist, harsh, unforgiving realism and demands that players learn from their many mistakes if they wish to survive. In an industry where big green flashing arrows point towards success and easy win, where gameplay experience is planned and controlled up to the smallest detail, and where skill, experience and patience rarely find their much deserved rewards, it takes some serious guts to release such a game – gj Icarus Studios!
If you are looking for a challenge, if you are looking for an out of the box MMORPG concept, if you are looking for evolution, then do yourself a favor and try Fallen Earth.
by Seth Lex