I used to play the beta and I was around throughout several phases of the testing process. Following the recent official release of Firefall on Steam, I decided to give this game another go.
Since this is an MMO, I am going to give this game a little time to be out in its official and complete form before assigning a score, and I am going to break down the review in several parts as I go through the game. You can’t really review an MMO after having played it for just a few levels.
I will start with saying I am getting into this with a very cynical view of the game. Having been around during the beta, I have seen Red 5’s struggles throughout. The principle of the game was an interesting one for me: an open world shooter MMO that was more than lobbies and instances. After having played Global Agenda for quite a while, I welcomed this kind of game. Global Agenda was entertaining, the instances were difficult and fun, but it lacked the rich open world experience that Firefall promised.
The beta had many bugs, but it was a beta. The interesting thing about this though is whether those bugs have been addressed in the official version of the game. The answer to this is, “Not all of them.” For example the friends list seems to bug. A friend who invited me had to invite me again the day after and I had to invite them back.
I left my old Army (Firefall’s quivalent of a guild) because none of my friends were playing the game anymore and when I joined the new one, the chat still showed me as belonging to the old Army. This bug lingers from the beta days.
The UI has been polished up. It’s still the same, but now you have all the menus related to your Army, friends list, etc. These didn’t always exist. So while the UI hasn’t been changed dramatically, it has now been completed — thing which you would expect from a compete game. It still has its techy and modern feel, which I like a lot.
I was surprised to find out that PVP has been temporarily removed. Here is the reason from the developers:
As you know, Firefall started with PvP. We have gone through several iterations, and for some time, pursued the controversial e-Sports route. As many of you know, its not working very well. Our last big attempt was a pure PvP eSports mode, Jetball. While very fun, its a high skill game and doesn’t attract many of our players (less than 3% PvP in Firefall).
Also, PvP has suffered as our focus has had to focus on the popular PvE part of our game. People want more content, fewer bugs, and more polish on these world systems. For these reasons, we have made the tough decision to suspend PvP and take the system offline so that we can rethink it and relaunch it. PvP is an important part of our game, and we want to get it right.
So we’re going to regroup, rethink, and deliver the best PvP system we can that can be enjoyed by everyone. We don’t have a timetable for this, but at some near future point we will shut off the PvP aspect of the game, which we feel does not represent Firefall at its best, and relaunch that part of the game when its ready.
Thank you for your understanding. We only want to deliver the best experience that entertains all of our players, and we feel that by taking the time to completely rethink our PvP and re-implement it to the highest standards, we can do much better. Mark Kern CEO, Chief Creative Officer, Red 5 Studios
Red 5 isn’t a huge studio. It has taken them a long time to develop this game, and while unexpected, this makes a lot of sense. Many games have been plagued by the balancing of PVP and PVE, where balancing for one ruined the other aspect of the game, and I think the idea to take a step back and rethink the system is spot on. After all there are many PVP shooters out there, it’s nice to have something that concentrates on PVE for a change. At least until they figured out what to do with the player VS player content.
They added tutorials that seem to give you a much needed orientation, as the game used to be fairly confusing without them at the beginning.
They also added a campaign, instances and a bulletin board from which you can pick your missions. You will still find random missions around the map, as you used to.
The first instance I played in allowed 1 to 5 players to join in. I joined solo but I wound up with another player. I have no idea how the system matches you up, but it seems to allow you to join instantly with whoever happens to do the instance at the time, whether it’s a full group of people or not. I noticed there was also a hardcore option. I will be exploring this feature more in detail at a later time.
The graphics are the same albeit they seem better optimized. I was surprised to see I could run the game at max settings at 60-70 FPS in some places. In the beta this wasn’t the case.
I will say that after playing Wildstar, Battlefield 4, Mass Effect 3, etc., Firefall’s graphics do feel somewhat dated. The quality is also inconsistent. Some things will have really good quality textures and others will suffer in that department. Overall the scenery looks good. As for the graphic style of your characters, if you don’t mind the females having huge thighs, it isn’t bad but I am not blown away. Add to that that you are completely unable to customise your body proportions and can only change a few hair styles and facial features.
The combat is still dynamic and fast paced, and that’s one thing Firefall does very well. The movement feels fluid and responsive and I don’t get the lag I used to get during beta.
I have played many “free to play” games. For the majority there is one element that ruins the fun for me: the cash shop. Usually it’s littered with pay to win items that give players a clear advantage over others. It doesn’t bother me to pay for the services rendered, hence I am very happy playing subscription games, but it does bother me to be milked for money in every corner I look. No, I don’t want to pay to hide my hat (Yes, SWTOR, I am looking at you). I don’t want to pay to use every new ship you release (Yes, Star Trek Online, I am looking at you). I don’t want to pay so that my character is even remotely viable (Neverwinter, that’s you.) The list goes on.
The problem with these price models is that it isn’t enough to pay your share. You have to out-do those players who can sink thousands of whatever currency they use to be competitive.
No, I rather pay a fixed fee, because I do appreciate that developers need to make a living out of their game, yet I don’t want to be robbed either. Some of these free to play option give you a subscription option (such as SWTOR, Star Trek Online and DC Universe Online), and that’s good. But in some cases they still push you to buy much needed items from the shop even though you are paying monthly.
Well, after this huge rant, I am happy to say that as it stands now Firefall has no pay to win items in their shop. You get exp and currency boosts, extra character customisation options, early unlocks of battleframes and so on. All the items are either cosmetics or they help you expedite your experience, but there doesn’t seem to be a paywall.
The First Few Hours
I spent the first few hours trying to reacquaint myself with the game. I noticed there are a couple of new battleframes, I came across some old and new missions, although they were mainly new ones. The game felt it was well populated both by players and things to do. I found there was a lot for me to discover, despite having played the beta for quite a while. By the end of my first couple of gaming sessions I was more hopeful about the game than I was when I first reinstalled it.
Let’s see if this holds.