Creating a brand new MMO is brave, given the state of the genre. World of Warcraft continues to dominate in terms of player numbers, while established franchises, have struggled to make the jump into Massively Multiplayer Online (Star Wars: The Old Republic). FireFall is currently in invite-only beta, with no set release date – does it stand much of a chance?
FireFall is set in a futuristic landscape, providing the backdrop for the game’s PvE elements (Player Vs Environment). The game starts you out in a coastal area called Copacabana, which wouldn’t look out of place on an intergalactic postcard. The area can be explored with gliders to give panoramic views from the sky. The art style is impressive in motion. While episodic content is promised for the game, the main core of the PvE game is currently centered on resource gathering and small missions and features co-operative play with an entire server of players. The game also features dynamic in-game events, featuring an alien race called the Chosen. The Chosen will invade certain areas of the game, usually towns and cities, in a bid to capture them. These create server wide events, where players gather together to defend against the Chosen. The nature of these events means that daily experiences in FireFall change. It’s a unique concept and one that will undoubtedly win a lot of players over.
As well as PvE content, FireFall also attempts to appeal to the e-sports crowd. PvP (Player Vs Player) takes place in small, isolated environments in two game modes – Team Deathmatch or Sabotage. Games can also be streamed and watched in spectator mode and Red 5 Studios will also be hosting tournaments to make full use of these capabilities. PvP is where FireFall really shines currently, with fast paced gameplay. In an attempt to balance gameplay, every player uses a standard set of equipment, although class differentiation suffers as a result. Still, the spectacle of the game makes it a good fit for streaming and e-sport communities. World PvP is being introduced at a later date, with vehicles and larger player counts. Expect more content and maps for the PvP game to be added soon as well.
FireFall blends the traditional MMORPG with elements from FPS games. The game can be played entirely from a third or first person perspective, with five ‘classes’ to choose from: called Battleframes. Each Battleframe has a different set of abilities and weapons and can be switched in game, easily. The Dreadnaught for example, carries a hulking minigun and uses defensive abilities to support team mates, while the Assault is a more typical FPS class, with an explosive plasma gun. All five classes offer unique gameplay experiences (although this is more due to the weapon they are each given) and can be upgraded to requirements, with the resources gathered from the game world. There is an in-depth crafting system, which rewards players who take the time to learn the intricacies of the system. Websites have been set up in order to explain and educate on the crafting system. It can take a while to wrap your head around it, but once it clicks, it adds a new drive to find the resources needed to create your item of choice.
Unfortunately, FireFall does fall short in some areas. Overall progression feels lacking at this point in the game’s life – you start the game with all your abilities and some may find little reason to amass XP for that reason. The lack of a straightforward levelling system, may also deter players coming from other titles in the genre. Also, for those wishing to sample the game before becoming fully involved, content may seem a little thin, particularly if you are not interested in the PvP aspect. Still, it’s worthwhile baring in mind that the game is still a work in progress and is constantly changing. It’s worth monitoring the updates given to the game, for a time when more content is available.
Perhaps the best thing about FireFall is that it will be free to play. Red 5 Studios also promise that this will not be a “pay to win” system (some games allow players to buy cash items, that unbalance the game in their favour) with real world money paying for cosmetic items and cutting crafting times. Hopefully an open beta or full release will not be too far away; it’s hard to tell how FireFall will stand the test of time. The game is worth trying for the attempts to revolutionise PvE and PvP content in MMOs and it is definitely something unique. Whether unique is better, remains to be seen.