I’ve been watching Firefall development over the last couple of months with a great amount of interest. Designed as a squad-based MMO, Firefall consists of two games. On one hand, it’s an unique PvE experience that pulls groups of friends together as they desperately try to fight back the hostile forces of The Chosen. On the other, it promises class based combat that makes games like Team Fortress 2 so popular. It’s a bold move, but the development team, Red 5, promises it will be an experience unlike anything else.
I’d imagine the first thing a new player might notice is the unique art-style that Firefall offers. A bit of Borderlands meets Team Fortress 2. While this works on games like Team Fortress 2, I was admittedly a bit skeptical to see it applied to such a serious shooter. However, I was pleasantly surprised when it worked. Granted, my character ugly as sin, but I’m going to mark that up as a perk.
It’s good that the aesthetics check out, but I was also a bit bothered by the fact that a game like Firefall, with so much professional work put into it, is free-to-play. This is the kind of game I’d see a $40-60 bill posted to, and then have some very small in-game purchases in exchange for not charging users for a monthly fee. What this told me was that Firefall was going to be one of those games that favored people with fat wallets. Unfortunately, I was correct.
My issue with many F2P games is that they sell power. Unlike games like DotA 2, LoL, and Smite that offer some visual improvements, or unique visual accessories for the customers, some games flatout give people who offer them money more power than people who don’t. In this situation, the game breaks and people who would be on otherwise even playing levels are now separated by a vertical canyon where one is winning simply because they have a fatter wallet.
In Firefall’s case, the battleframes that players can equip come in two forms. The ones they start with, and their final forms when they decide which sub-class inside their main class they want to go with. Here’s the issue. For a small sum, players can quickly jump from the lower-grade frames they start with to these upper tier frames. Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if this armor then wasn’t available until a player reached level 20, but Firefall is without a clear leveling system. The experience you gain goes into improving the specs in your battleframe, meaning that there is absolutely no downside to simply buying a better frame. This is the equivalent to a player being able to start at level 60 in World of Warcraft if the user agreed to pay $10. Yes, they’re offering a game for free. But they’re also offering game breaking features at a price.
Aside from this glaring issue that I despise, Firefall has done quite a bit for the world of MMOFPS titles. Red 5 has taken the best of games like Borderlands and Tabula Rasa, and applied these features to Firefall, learning from mistakes, and adapting these features in their own way. Rather than generic fetch quests (even those still exist for those who can’t live without them), the game has taken a new spin on quests that people who play Guild Wars 2 might find familiar.
Quests are almost never meant for just one player. Rather, when the Chosen show up (remember, these are those bad guys that define the PvE experience), they tend to assault an external location that the players are trying to protect. This begins two phases. In phase one, the players generally work to defend or reclaim whatever was taken by the Chosen. After that’s accomplished, players then go to push the Chosen away by destroying their drop points. It can get a bit repetitive sometimes, but it’s a new spin on an otherwise boring concept for questing. I’m actually excited to see what else the developers will do as time goes on.
The PvP system isn’t anything special. As of current, it has some obvious balance issues with some battleframes being infinitely better in PvP than others, making balance a laughing matter. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, which wouldn’t be a problem except that players can earn vital experience at a much quicker rate through these PvP matches than they can running escort missions.
Firefall is the first respectable attempt at a MMOFPS that I’ve seen since Tabula Rasa. I have a lot of hope for it, but I haven’t exactly loved some of the decisions the developers made, specifically in the world of selling power. However, it’s F2P and one of the few options for people looking to break away from the monotony of turn-based grind quests found in games like WoW. It’s worth a look at if you have a decent computer, a decent internet connection, and the desire to play an arcade style shooter with thousands of other players.