Firefall Beta Impressions: Soaring Above Expectations
That’s where Firefall’s progression jumps in. Making a battleframe stronger is a dual process, and is tied into a stunning crafting system.
The first step any battleframe soldier must take to improve their strength is to gather and spend XP to increase three different attributes: mass, power, and CPU. Mass is the total allotment of mass given to your battleframe; if you use significantly less than the max capacity, you get a speed bonus. Likewise, power functions much the same way, except that having extra power above capacity increases your overall damage. CPU is a bit different; you get no bonus for having unused CPU cores, as they are instead used for the strongest equipment you can create. Once you have your battleframes attributes upgraded enough to handle the new gear, it’s time to start crafting.
Crafting in Firefall looks complicated, but is actually quite simple. Each subcomponent of an object has a quality that is affected by the material used in the component. If you use worse materials, the subcomponent – and thus the overall item – will not be as good. It’s a crafting system I absolutely adore, as it allows for players to determine their own item quality rather than being forced to produce items with predetermined stats. The better materials you put in, the better items you get out. It makes even players with everything unlocked eager to continue playing. After all, the weapons they have were crafted by them using skills they learned at the very start of the game.
Unfortunately, the crafting interface is labyrinthine and esoteric. It has improved a lot through each major crafting change – it is actually understandable now – but it still has a steep learning curve. It feels like a system which demands a tiered, tree-style organizational system, but it’s all organized by expansive category instead. Thankfully, Red 5 has been changing this interface fairly regularly – it is their end-game, after all – with each patch, so there’s a good chance it’ll be something truly great come launch time. As is, it’s serviceable. Not great, but not completely horrific.
The primary way you’ll get materials for crafting is through missions. Missions are generally divided into two groups: thumpers and events.
Thumpers are the most common way to gain materials, as they are the only way a player can choose what material to gather. Thumpers are large resource gatherers that, when placed, harvest materials found by a scan hammer. However, harvesting these materials is extremely dangerous, as the thumper stirs the local wildlife into a frenzy. The end result is a wave-based defense mission that rewards all participating players with resources based on the vein the thumper was placed on. It’s a great system when you are working with friends – placing down a heavy thumper and getting your friends to help guard it is the quickest way to farm materials – but it’s a bit difficult to go alone. Thumper missions are always visible on the map, though, so you can help (or request help) quite easily. You don’t need to be in a party, but it’s easier.
Events range from the simple crash missions (repair a thumper or scan a downed motorcycle) to the zone-altering invasions. These missions don’t tell the player the resource rewards, but they have a few advantages over thumping. First, they are far more lucrative when it comes to XP-over-time ratio. Doing missions gives you tons of XP. Second, they always award Accord Merit Points (AMPs) and Crystite Resonators, which are both essential to progression. Third, they break up the monotony of playing a wave defense mode over and over. Finally, they often offer mineral qualities above what players are used to, making them great places to expand your collection of high-end materials. Of course, you can’t actually tell what type or quality of material you’ll get by the mission, although some missions (harder ARES missions, Melding tornadoes) give out rare materials like candy.
Best of all, both mission types can be done by any players, from a newbie with stock gear to a vet in all purples. Being new does not exclude you from thumping for materials or wailing on some Chosen. While the stock gear isn’t especially great, it’s not terrible either, and a fresh player can do quite well if they know how to play.
Firefall also incorporates a PvP mode, but it’s not that great. Firefall’s strengths are in its open-world atmosphere and collaborative, freeform mission structure. While PvP is serviceable – go ahead, kill some dudes, it feels fine – there’s nothing especially fantastic about it. Firefall almost demands player-controlled territories to fight over for PvP, especially given the open-world nature of normal play. As is, it’s a nice distraction, but that’s it. A distraction.
What Red 5 has built in Firefall is the right combination of addicting and engaging. There are plenty of rough edges, but they are overshadowed by how brightly the open-world design shines. With continued work and revisions – of which Red 5 is not scared; progression has been completely reworked three times, which is stunning given the typical stubbornness of MMO developers – Firefall will be a real gem of a shooter.