Firefall Beta Impressions: Soaring Above Expectations

Open-world games of all stripes, from Grand Theft Auto to World of Warcraft, are plagued with one constant issue: restricting the player’s progression. You are forced into specific areas based on your level or progress through the story, and it feels artificial. This is an open world, after all; why can’t I open every door or cross every bridge I see?

Firefall, an upcoming MMO shooter from Red 5 Studios, does the right thing and completely ignores that. It is a game in the best open-world traditions (Crackdown, Just Cause 2) and is an absolute delight to play.

Firefall’s setting revolves around the “Melding”, a dimensional anomaly that is gradually converting Earth into a parallel world while populating it with awful alien monsters. You play a freelance operative working for ARES tasked with performing odd jobs, gathering resources, and fighting off invasions by the mutated humans known as the Chosen. There is an overall narrative here, but it’s more of a world narrative than a character one; don’t expect to see dramatic sacrifices or heartfelt stories. The only story that really matters in Firefall is your own.

The backdrop for this story, I might add, is stunning. The environment design is incredibly well-done, with terrain ranging from gently rolling hills to barren mountains to cluttered coastlines. Each biome is populated with colorful foliage and creeping monsters, and sometimes it’s great to sit and soak in all the work the developers did on making the area design just right. However, if you find yourself disliking or bored of your current location, you can always go to another for a drastic change of pace.

Cool zones can offset some issues with core mechanics, but if combat isn’t fun and engaging, then players won’t stick around long enough to experience your set pieces. So does Firefall avoid the pitfalls of the modern MMO shooter, or does it fall into the same mediocre trappings we’ve seen before?

Firefall’s combat is, in short, excellent. It’s not perfect, as concessions are made to the traditional MMO power progression, but it’s damned close.

All battleframes (classes) have access to two weapons – a primary class weapon with special abilities, and a generic secondary weapon that can be switched to a different type – and jumpjets for combat. Almost all combat revolves around flying around and blasting at enemies with your primary, with the occasional switch to your secondary as ammo or range limits dictate. It’s a simple, but gratifying, system. Each primary feels unique and effective, from the Sticky Launcher of the Engineer to the Plasma Cannon of the Assault, and most enemies fall in only a few hits. A sense of power pervades Firefall’s combat, and that’s what every player wants out of a twitch-based shooter. The chance to feel powerful.

In addition, Battleframes have six abilities at their disposal: five normal abilities (of which only three can be used in a loadout) and one “ultimate” that charges as the battleframe deals damage. Abilities can be quite handy in a pinch, but I’ve found that a majority of abilities are extremely situational. Only a few – such as the Assault’s Afterburners or the Dreadnaught’s Shield – are useful in every situation. Greater ability utility would be greatly appreciated, though, and a rework of existing abilities that aren’t that good would do wonders to help battleframe balance.

Thankfully, you aren’t restricted to a single battleframe, so any balance issues can simply be avoided by switching to a new frame. Rather than making classes a static trait determined at character creation, Red 5 opted to allow players to switch between classes at will, with advanced classes requiring unlocks. These advanced classes aren’t strictly better, though, so you can do just fine playing on the default five classes. If you want to skip all the hullabaloo of grinding for those advanced classes, you are welcome to pay money to unlock them early as well. Money only opens up the class to you, though; improving it is on you.

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8 Comments on Firefall Beta Impressions: Soaring Above Expectations

Derek

On July 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I have one expectation from all MMO games. When a game goes live, all players start from the beginning, clean slate. Firefall fails in this regard.

When you start playing, you should know that you’re on the same server as players who’ve been progressing for years. This is exactly why my friends and I never got into Firefall after we received beta invites. When we started, everyone was at endgame. We inquired, and were told that Red 5 had no intentions of a reset after beta. A “staggered” launch they called it.

While not a direct comparison to games like WoW or Planetside 2, how would you feel if on launch day of those games there were max level players with maxed tradeskills and lots of gold, or very high battle rank and all weapon upgrades unlocked?

Sqaure acknowledged this complaint with the FFXIV ARR relaunch , which is why their servers will be segregated between new characters and legacy character servers.

Now, if Firefall had the equivalent of a “new players only server” go go along with launch, then I would start playing immediately, because the game is awesome.

Fred

On July 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm

If the game is awesome (and it is) then why wouldn’t you play it? what you are complaining about doesn’t really effect anything in terms of teh experience

Nos7

On July 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

wrong, research tech was reset bit over week before open beta, thus nobody has access to the good stuff.
Some hardcores may have maxed their favorite frame, out of all the 15 available.

Not that it matters because missions are not tied to equipment, for starter it might take longer due low dmg output but still doable, and you can group with veteran guys no problem.

yes, old beta testers have advantage over resources but you will soon notice you have a stockpiles of that stuff to.

Kairotic

On July 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Derek, you obviously have no idea how progression works in Firefall or what “end game” is. I encourage you to go back and see for yourself. Old players will have no obvious advantages outside of extra options when attacking the exact same content you will be attacking.

anubis4567

On July 8, 2013 at 8:21 pm

” Of course, you can’t actually tell what type or quality of material you’ll get by the mission”

You can tell the quality. Here’s a quote from one of the Developers on the Firefall forums:

“There are global pools of resources that are available. These pools are time limited and resource limited. For instance…

Raw Regenics[CY-645] Default 34866668 46688651 June 13th, 2013 16:53 June 20th, 2013 16:52

There is a pool of Regenics645 that spawned into the default pool (missions, thumpers, watchtowers, etc) on June 13th with 46688651 total resources. 34866668 of those resources have been harvested already. The pool will go away on June 20th at 16:52 server time if the pool is not harvested out first.

When a new vein is created, it pulls X amount of resources out of the pool and puts it into the vein. That vein sticks around until harvested or the global pool times out.

There are multiple global pools; default pool, melding pool (for veins near the melding), new melding pocket pools, PvP pool. Each has different resources at different quality levels.”

Here’s the thread I pulled it from:

http://forums.firefallthegame.com/community/threads/do-ares-rewards-remove-resources-from-the-universal-pool.649041/

The quote is from Phobos, our CM. One of the Developers, Virgil, gets more in-depth in the thread in case anyone is interested.

That Guy

On July 8, 2013 at 8:27 pm

You’re an idiot Derek.

Also, Firefall sucks.

Dillon

On July 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Firefall is awful. There’s an extremely limited amount of content, and you’re made to grind that content over and over again. There are better options available for MMOs that give you far more content and polish for the value (ie: the FFXIV reboot which is awesome).

Crow

On July 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm

@Derek

I’ve been in closed beta for around 6 months. Everything got wiped and changed with 6.0, so we started over from there basically. Now, yes we have a small advantage starting off earlier, however it won’t really effect your gameplay. PvP has its own set of rules, you have stock loadouts so everyone is on the same playing field power wise.

PvE yes we have a small advantage, however that wont effect you. We had to earn everything, we didn’t simply get given stuff. The game is built so that you can do pretty much everything we can. We simply have a small amount more power in our frames, its not a HUGE difference honestly. Skill more then makes up for any power differences. I can do better in a stock frame then some can in a fully maxed frame. All depends on the player.