Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fallen Earth beta quick impressions

I made it into the Fallen Earth beta shortly before it closed and am finally posting my impressions of the short time I spent in the game.
  • The tutorial intro sets up the story well, but the high-end weapons and armor disappear once the game starts, which is a bit of a disappointment.
  • Mounts seem only to have a cash requirement, and it's low. Since there is no level minimum they can be purchased early. I got a mount easily at level 4 without really knowing what I was doing, and saw level 2 characters with mounts.
  • Combat is not smooth. It feels laggy, either due to server issues or unoptimized graphics in the client. This is a major issue due to the FPS nature of combat with the need to aim.
  • Jumping: are physics used at all? The way jumping works it seems like there are no physics in the game.
  • The game has two modes: normal and Aim mode. You can't really fight in normal mode, and you have no mouse cursor in Aim mode, so while in that mode you can only interact with objects by aiming at them and clicking. In normal mode the camera is usually third-person, and first-person is best for combat in Aim mode (although the camera can be adjusted to be one or the other at any time). Transitioning between normal and Aim mode requires a keypress; the camera can be set to autoswitch at the same time between third- and first-person. As someone who hates all things modal in user interfaces, I found the need to switch modes inconvenient and clumsy. The modal interface was my main dislike in the game.
  • With six weapon slots added to what appear to be numerous combat abilities, it looks like high level characters will have overflowing action bars and hotkey assignment issues.
  • As a whole quests offer nothing new. One quest supplied a bunch of NPC companions for a squad fight. There seemed to be too many timed quests at the starting quest hub which were a pain to do before getting a mount. Solo questlines can culiminate in group quests which block progress until you can find a group.
  • Crafting seems deep and interesting. My impression was that almost every useful item in the game can be crafted. The crafting interface and mechanic is good: multiple items can be queued up and crafting takes place simultaneously while you do other things. This is necessary because the times to craft items are much longer than in MMOs where you must remain stationary while crafting. Crafting is also useful, I was able to craft items for my character that were upgrades.
  • Resource gathering is easy to level once appropriate nodes are found. This was a bit of an issue in the starting area as the non-crafting quests lead to areas with resources nodes that are too high for new characters to harvest. There are numerous low-level nodes for new characters, but they were concentrated in just a couple of areas which were away from the locations used by the standard quest lines.
  • Abilities are skill-based, one assigns points to abilities. Experience seems to be gained from using any ability, including crafting and harvesting.
  • The world is large. Getting a mount as soon as possible is a must.
  • Away from roads the world is fairly empty. Once I had a mount I immediately headed out into the wilderness to explore a bit of the game world. It was mostly empty, with only the occasional mobs to avoid or nodes to harvest.
  • The graphics are in need of tuning, some towns would kill the framerate. They're also a bit drab. It's the desert, yet not sunny due to a dull gray overcast.
  • The implementation of the post-apocalyptic scenario in the sparsely-populated desert makes far less sense than Fallout 3's metro-D.C. setting. For example, there are the remains of a monorail system which meanders around the desert like an amusement park ride instead of running in relatively straight shots between (the ruins of) population centers. Remains of railroad lines terminated for no apparent reason. As a result I found Fallen Earth's game world far less believable than Fallout 3's.
  • With just one server the beta was very active. You'd run into lots of other players in the world, and there was so much chat traffic it was a problem; the random chitchat would obscure real discussion of the game.
  • The support for Fallen Earth seems decent. Patches seem frequent and GMs are available, although one of the GMs I chatted with couldn't tell me the meaning of one of the symbols on the minimap, or even how to find the key (it's in the filtering function of the main map.)
While it's nice to see new MMO ideas from an independent company, in my case the cons outweighed the pros, so instead of jumping into Fallen Earth at release I'll sit back to see if the cons are addressed.

Pros: Crafting; ability system; XP and skill-based leveling; cheap mounts; not another fantasy scenario
Cons: modal UI; jerky, unresponsive combat; quests

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