Published on February 16th, 2011 | by Hubert McReed1
Fallen Earth – Review
Summary: This is a far cry from Azeroth or Tyria, and despite being on the market for well over a year, this earthy experience still feels fresh and unique
Creating an apocalyptic wasteland for the setting of any MMO is always a massive challenge, especially one which is as grounded in reality as Fallen Earth is. Unlike Blizzard or NCsoft, the team in North Carolina can’t rely on flying mounts, Orcs or magical weapons to vary up their MMO’s experience. Instead everything is geared towards the struggle of survival, the chaos of post-nuclear holocaust and the battles between six warring factions all attempting to seize power. This is a far cry from Azeroth or Tyria, and despite being on the market for well over a year, this earthy experience still feels fresh and unique.
Launched in September 2009, Fallen Earth is still a newcomer on the MMO scene, but thankfully most of the issues which plagued the game’s opening months have been rectified with no floating NPCs, unbalanced combat or insufferable lag.
The way Fallen Earth’s world is introduced to players is just as pitch perfect as before and manages to hold players’ hands just long enough as to not insult their intelligence. The prologue set inside the Hoover Dam does a fantastic job of clarifying your origins as a clone created by the mysterious GlobalTech corporation in the year 2156, and includes escaping your would-be prison to save any friendlies still trapped in the facility.
This segment was much more fast paced and guided than we’re used to, but it works, and introduces all of the key concepts necessary to understand your life outside of the compound. It’s here where one of Fallen Earth’s greatest assets is revealed, the first-person combat structure. Split into two parts, players have a choice of either selecting melee- or projectile-based weaponry, with damage against enemies dependent on what part of their body you hit. For gaming as a whole this isn’t new, but in MMOs it’s a rare find and makes skirmishes in Fallen Earth much more satisfying. If you hit a victim in the head, you know you’re going to cause much more damage.
The sheer amount of weaponry on offer is also staggering, with a wide array of rifles, pistols, shotguns, crossbows and even the almighty rocket launcher all making an appearance. There are close-range options too, but smashing an enemy in the face with a handy sledgehammer isn’t anywhere near as satisfying as picking them off from a distance with a sniper rifle.
Crafting is this franchise’s other main attraction, and even though this concept is common in other MMOs, the way Fallen Earth approaches it is genuinely revolutionary. Almost everything from buggies, weapons, armor, potions and poisons can be created from hundreds of different components collected from the wasteland. This is where the survival aspect comes in, because even though most things can be bought from NPCs, it is usually much more satisfying to go and farm resources such as copper, water, steel and iron from the wasteland yourself and craft them using recipes.
The wasteland is littered with thousands of different plants, hives and salvage piles to harvest. It isn’t just about random drops, because as soon as your nature skills are up to the appropriate level, players can predict what they’ll yield from any specific target. Constructing items doesn’t take long and thankfully you can go about your business while the magic is happening. Creating something new from what is effectively a load of junk is very satisfying.
New skills can also be learned via manuals earned during quests or bought from vendors, but everything is governed by the complicated level and AP system. All skills are governed by core character traits such as Intelligence, Perception, Agility, etc. and attributes can also be increased by targeting specific skills. This is an interesting idea; however it can confuse advancement early on, as it’s very hard to tell whether you’re moving your character in the direction you want it to go. The opening 10 hours are also a little overwhelming as the initial quests are so craft heavy, that you are usually tasked with just making items for one vendor after the next. This is necessary as you should at least try every different crafting skill once, nevertheless it can feel like a slog. This is further compounded by a lack of teleport or fast travel points between settlements, and a heavy reliance on mounts to cover the vast distances between towns. The trick is to mix up quests with plenty of exploration while keeping risks to the minimum, as slogging back to the mount retrieval point is a pain. After you get the hang of this balancing act, Fallen Earth becomes a real joy with a fascinating world to explore.
The landscape here may appear somewhat bleak, but beneath the rusted cars and decrepit buildings contained in the initially drab and dreary sector is a very accomplished MMO which has all the functionality required in a modern day MMO – like a waypoint-supported mini-map, clan contests and faction system – as well as three gigantic sectors which get even more interesting as you venture into them.
Now that all the launch kinks have finally been ironed out, this is one wasteland that you’ll surely relish spending many, many hours in, and it’s easy recommendation to any gamer who wants to sample a gaming experience that is truly original.