Firefall Beta Roundtable

Persistent World MMORPGs, be they Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steam Punk or otherwise, have mostly followed a traditional path in the past decade. Hotkey combat throughout a large, seamless world, small and large group-based dungeons, enormous boss fights and various forms of PvP are now staple elements in the recipe, and though recent releases such as Guild Wars 2 have shown us that the industry is far from done with the style, it’s always nice to experience something that breaks the mold.

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Firefall, an upcoming MMORPG from Red 5 Studios, combines many of the elements outlined above with a splattering of new and innovative ones, ranging from a true shooter experience in a persistent world to a complete overhaul of the mining and crafting mechanics that promises to change the way to think about ore forever.

Cody: Mining? It’s called Thumping, thank you very much. And it’s 6 kinds of awesome. I’ll tell you right now – thumping is one of the best things to happen to an MMORPG since the removal of hotkey combat and fast travel in favour of guns and jetpacks and glider wings. Who did that again? Oh right – Firefall!

Sorry – I’m having a lot of fun with Firefall at the moment, and I’ve got a lot to talk about. Chiefly, and most importantly, is the overall tightness of the gameplay and crispness of the UI and client. It’s immediately obvious upon entering the world that Red5 have spent a lot of time making Firefall feel good for the user, and it’s something that keeps coming back over and over again.

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Tob: Firefall is essentially Borderlands Online. Sure, it might have a couple hundred billion fewer guns, but the controls are the tightest I’ve seen in any MMO to date. The gameplay is fun and player generated events like Thumping are fantastic. The exploration factor is terrific as well as there aren’t any arbitrary walls to stop you going where you want to go and always more stuff to find.

While I really enjoy the PvE aspect, the current PvP design seems quite flawed. While the game mechanics tend to favour teamwork in PvP matches, health and damage boosting powerups are so influential that any team camping on a powerup spawn point has their finger on the “I WIN” button. Hopefully this focus shifts slightly before release as it sucks the fun out of some really enjoyable action.

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Cody: Ahem. Back to Thumping – and by now you’re either really interested in what it is, or really tired of hearing me go on about it – this is how large quantities of minerals and crystals are mined in Firefall. Sure, you can get little bits of them from slaughtering enemies, and a little more by sticking bombs to the veins scattered about the planet – but nothing comes close to the efficiency of thumping… or the sheer joy that is to be had when doing it.

Basically, you begin by taking a giant hammer and slamming it about until you come across a deposit of a specific mineral or crystal. Upon finding said deposit, you switch over to your Thumpers and summon one down – this is as simple as choosing a place to stick it and waiting as the giant mechanical device zooms in from the atmosphere above and smashed – ever so satisfyingly – into the earth beneath your feet.

That’s when the fun begins. The thumper, as its name implies, begins beating into the ground – indicated by a hypnotic thump, thump, thump – and enemies of every variety begun flooding their way toward it, determined to make it stop. Your job is to stop them from destroying it, and keep it alive long enough to extract the ore. The more ‘capacity’ you’re able to stock, the more minerals you’ll receive when you send it away. Assuming, of course, that you get to send it away, and you survive. This isn’t always the case.

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Tob: No it’s not – in fact, if you don’t judge your own abilities accurately you’ll lose life, limb and thumper to swarms of enemies regularly. Firefall employs a player driven risk/reward system that I thoroughly enjoy. Thumpers are the fastest way to get minerals, but the longer you leave them to gather the harder they become to defend.

Through thumping and other world events, Firefall presents players with a refreshing challenge. Going it alone is still possible, but you’ll be unable to take advantage of the best methods unless you’re a part of a team – even a small one grants a massive boost to your options. It’s this kind of sticking-to-the-fundamentals of great MMO gameplay design that makes Firefall one to watch.

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Cody: Agreed – there’s a lot to be excited about in Firefall. On the other hand, there’re quite a few things that I’m not so sure about – chiefly, the lack of variety when it comes to dynamic events and missions. Thus far, I’ve experienced 2 types of events – one that simply asks you to clear the area of enemies and destroy their vessel, and another that requires defending a crashed thumper, salvaging the pieces and selling them off for cash (crystals). Missions seems scare, and outside thumping, there hasn’t really been a lot else to do but explore the land and crush a small variety of enemies along the path.

That said – it’s still in beta. I know that vehicles are a possibility, though try as I might, I haven’t seen any. And the way many of the outposts have been designed, it feels like there’s going to be a lot of world PvP going on, though as yet, I haven’t seen any at all. It’s curious – the world, awesome as it is, feels empty, lacking content in most areas, and reusing it in others. Here’s hoping I’ve missed something.

More on that in the upcoming beta preview, and future roundtables. Stay tuned.

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