Firefall Review (Video)
In a perfect world, Firefall could have easily been a remarkable free-to-play title. Afterall, it's beautiful, fast-paced, and tries its best to incorporate group play. However, with a buggy launch, lack of engaging content, and a studio in crisis, the release feels like an early beta build and the game comes up short -- far too short.
From the opening cinematic and throughout the tutorial you get the get the feeling you are about to embark on something monumental. The mesmerizing Borderlands styled scenery, combined with the explosive combat (paired perfectly with jetpacks!) builds a speeding hype train in your heart.
But then you arrive in the starting zone, and the disappointment rapidly begins building. However, let's back up a bit.
Plenty of Ways to Play
Like any good MMO there is choice to how you wish to play, usually in the form of a class-based system. Known as Battleframes, this is something Firefall does well. You'll find a melding of RPG play styles like a tank, healer, and DPS, with shooter based classes like, medic, sniper, engineer and the heavy Dreadnaught class -- the one which I had spent in nearly all of my time in-game.
Each Battleframe has 3 different sub-classes which can -- and most likely will be -- bought with real money early, or unlocked in-game through rigorous crafting. Unlocking these sub-classes early however, don't tip the scales as they far from game breaking.
Once you've decided on the best Battleframe for you, your story begins as Aries 35 (pronounced three-five), a chosen one type mercenary among many, that is tasked to lend a hand to locals, other military factions, and scientists. No really, that's about it as far as quests.
Burned Out Questing
The first of many snafus comes in the form of questing in FireFall. Being as they are the quickest way to level up (outside of general grinding and thumping) you'll quickly find that the same types of missions are recycled in each zone. After a while quests go as follows: go to the board, pick one, and get ready for a long trek across the map to kill a few enemies. Once you think you're done, the quest will then have you run a couple hundred meters elsewhere to pretty much do the same thing again. Finally, you then have to double back to reach the quest giver and receive your miniscule amount of XP.
These mini marathons you run on each quest bring up another bullet point in con column of this review. Unless you spend some real cash on a bike, bust your hump and craft a level 40 one, or just get lucky and get a bunch of one-time use vehicles from the gambling machines, a large chunk of gameplay will just be spent getting around.
Fun to look at, taxing to play
However, this does give you time to enjoy the Firefall's lush and scenic atmosphere. From the crystal blue waters of Copacabana, to the dark ominous clouds that act as barriers to the unknown, Red 5 studios deserve more than just a pat on the back for their meticulously crafted environments. The best part is that almost every mountain or hill you see can most likely be accessed by using your jetpack -- creating if not much else, a lavish virtual jungle gym.
It doesn't help that the game's combat does begin to grow stale quickly, leaving many fights with you just holding down your left mouse button and mowing down countless NPCs while activating only a handful of skills. And because almost every aspect of the game involves combat (even crafting) I found that Firefall just really didn't keep me too engaged.
Crafting in Firefall brings nothing really new to the table. However, an interesting way to gather mass resources fast is by thumping. Thumping basically involves you guarding a large mining tool from hordes of enemies. If your thumper reaches its capacity without breaking, you are awarded with a large amount of resources. Group thumpers allow for full parties to engage in thumping, thus intensifying the hordes, which can lead to some pretty epic firefights.
PvP and The Community
If you're into PVP, then you're out of luck. Apparently back in Firefall's beta, player vs. player combat in the game was amazing, and potentially worthy of being an eSport. However, for some reason, Red 5 scrapped it upon release, and players are only left with dueling and some empty PvP arenas that no one seems to really use -- at least until endgame levels (which I did not reach).
Finally, the most important part of any massively multiplayer game: the community. A good community can make a mediocre MMO great, and a great MMO legendary. Unfortunately the song remains the same with Firefall. The entire time I spent in the game, it felt as if I was playing alone. From the silent zone chat, to the apathetic players I encountered, Firefall's community just seemed broken and unenthusiastic.
To be clear, despite all of my criticisms, I did enjoy some features of Firefall, and I truly believe that it may have once been a better game before release, and could potentially grow into something great later down the line. Besides there are plenty of free to play shooters out that are more worth your time. However, the stale questing, broken PvP, lackluster combat, and anti-social community in Firefall, left a burnt taste in my mouth.
What did you think of Firefall? Did it deserve a 5/10, or am I just a hack gaming journalist who "didn't even play long enough to immerse myself in it?" Either way, feel free to let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.