Firefall Open Beta Review
8 Overall Score
beautiful open world | fast-paced and fun gameplay | players have a lot of freedom | Fun and addicting PvP
There are still some bugs | lack of directions | it could feel repetitive after a while
Developed by Red 5 Studios, Firefall is an interesting project which has recently reached the open beta phase after a quite long closed beta period. The game aims to mix the fast-paced action of TPS and FPS games with a persistent MMORPG-like open world and a complete PvP section which is going to be launched as an eSport, with regular tournaments and cash prizes. Moreover, developers have announced that there won't be any characters wiped, so you can start playing without worrying about losing your beloved character. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Then follow us and let's discover together if the game is worth your time.
As in many MMO games, the first thing you have to do in Firefall is to create your character. Sadly, you'll realize soon enough that they could have spent some more time in the development of this aspect of the game. Compared to the character creation systems of other modern games, Firefall's feels quite bland and old, offering just a few preset face, hairstyles, and hair and eyes colors. There are also some cosmetic headgear like glasses, mask and more, but only a couple of them are free, and the others need to be bought with the premium currency. Once in the game you will be able to change your character's appearance through some terminals which work exactly like the character creator, offering some more premium options and the basic ones for free. Although the character creation system could surely be better, you have to remember that Firefall is mainly a shooter, and you will be usually too busy filling your enemies with bullets to admire your avatar's pretty face, so maybe we can forgive them, right?
After the character creation the game will begin and you will be welcomed by a quick tutorial session, which will explain to you the basic controls like moving, shooting and flying (yes, the game has jetpacks! Yay!) and will introduce you to one of the main Firefall features: the Battleframes.
Basically, in Firefall your character is not bound to any particular class; the role you want to cover is only determined by which Battleframe you are currently equipping. Battleframes are advanced hi-tech exoskeletons which can be equipped with different weapons and gadgets and which will give you access to different skills and weapons. It's important to notice that you can freely change Battleframes at any moment by accessing a Battleframe Station, which are usually found in cities and outposts. Each Battleframe needs to be augmented and upgraded independently through another device, called the Battleframe garage, with XP and crystals obtained by killing enemies and participating in activities such as dynamic missions and events. While crystals are items stored in your inventory and can be used in many ways, the experience points are bound to the particular Battleframe you were using while gaining them, so for example, you can't earn XP with the Recon Battleframe and use them to upgrade the Assault. Currently there are 5 different Battleframe types: Assault, Recon, Dreadnaught, Biotech and Engineer, each one coming in 3 variations: one standard, which is the free one available from the beginning and 2 others that have to be unlocked first by playing the game or using premium currency. Each Battleframe has its very own skillset and playstyle. You can also customize your Battleframe with paints, patterns and decal, but again, if you don't want to use real money you can only choose from a very limited selection.
We found this original progression system very interesting and intriguing, as you are not forced to create alts in order to try different roles, weapons and playstyles; you can get really attached to your character as it can be anything, and all this just by switching to the desired Battleframe at any moment.
WHERE ARE MY QUESTS?
Once you've decided which Battleframe to use first, it's time to go and adventure in the world of New Eden, which is a futuristic Earth struggling against the invasion of an alien race: The Chosen. If you are an avid MMORPG player, the first thing you'll notice is that there isn't any shiny exclamation mark on NPCs' heads, which means that you may be asking to yourself: "And now? What can I do? Where I'm supposed to go?" The answer is simple: besides some guided basic tutorial missions whose only purpose is to show you how to collect resources and change and upgrade Battleframes, there are no quests in Firefall, or at least, not in the usual way you used to know. Firefall features an open-world sandbox world, free from the usual quest rail which takes your hand and leads you through content. You have to explore the world, discover new zones, look on the map for dynamic events which are happening and choose to participate or not. There are different kinds of events, such as Chosen invasions, ARES missions, data recovery, protection of resource collectors and more. These events are open to anyone and will reward you with XP, tokens (which can be used to buy equipment) and resources. In order use your map to view the events occurring in a zone, you first have to unlock that zone by reaching the SIN tower of that area and synching with it. The SIN towers are often surrounded by a settlement or a city which can also be taken from the Chosen during dynamic events. Players have to fight in order to protect them or to take them back. Moreover, cities like Copacabana (the starting city) have Power Levels which can be increased from players by putting Crystite Resonators into a device called a Receptacle. Each player can contribute in order to upgrade the city and unlock new vendors, new materials and bonuses for everyone.
While this more free and player-driven approach is rich of features, absolutely interesting and different, a new player or a casual player who didn't read much about the game on the forums and wikis could be confused by the lack of directions as there is almost no explanation or guide for all these features; he could jump to the wrong conclusion of "there is almost nothing to do in this game", when the truth is that the game has some really nice features to offer.
GATHERING AND CRAFTING
Another important and deep aspect of the game is the gathering-crafting system which plays a major role in the whole Firefall experience. Basically almost every item, armor, Battleframe upgrade and vehicle is craftable, and even if you can buy some basic gear, after a while, the crafting will be your best friend in order to obtain new items and equipment. In order to do that, you need to find and extract the resources from the terrain, through the use of a special hammer which scans the soil for resources, and a Thumper which can be summoned to extract the resources. However, the process will take a while, and you have to defend the Thumper from the monsters which it attracts, and that will try to destroy it. You can dismiss it when you want, but the longer it stays, the more resources it will collect, until it reaches the maximum capacity. Every player can help defending the Thumper of another player, and if he does it, he will be rewarded with XP and resources as well. Different areas contain different resources, and it's up to the player to choose carefully where to drill in order to obtain the specific resources that he needs. This is one of the main activities that you will be doing in the game and we think that it is an interesting variation to the classic gathering systems offered by many other MMORPGs. It may become a little repetitive and "grindy" with time, but in our opinion it's a nice innovation that deserves at least our thumbs up for the effort of spicing things up.
The control system is basically the classic TPS/FPS of WASD + mouse, where the right click performs a secondary fire or an iron-sight/zoom depending on the weapon and the spacebar is used to jump and fly with your jet-pack. Pretty straightforward, highly responsive and effective. Once unlocked, you'll also have access to a secondary weapon and to your Battleframe's 4 skills, which will appear on your numeric bar like in a classic MMORPG. Moreover, we've really appreciated the fact that you can switch between first and third person by clicking the mouse wheel, as this can make the fans of both FPS and TPS happy and let you choose your favorite point of view.
During our PvE adventures we tried several kinds of world events. They are usually fun, and the mobs are quite different in both aspect and difficulty, ranging from the little insect-like monsters attracted by the Thumper, to the Chosen hordes attacking a city. The game is extremely fast paced, and feels and plays a lot like an old-school good FPS such as Quake and Unreal Tournament; which leads us to the PvP aspect of the game.
After some good old monster killing, we decided to try the PvP. You can access to the PvP queue through a terminal in the big cities or through your personal menu, selecting one or more modes you want to queue for. There are the classic FPS game modes such as Team Deathmatch, Harvester ( a capture & hold style mode) and Sabotage (capture points mode), and a pretty unique one, called Jetball, which is a futuristic sport and that apparently Red 5 want to push as one of the main eSport features of this game. We tried some Team Deathmatch and Sabotage matches and we have to say that we are absolutely impressed. If the PvE in this game is fast paced and fun, the PvP is frantic and highly addictive. Thanks to the game's extremely good and precise controls we had a lot of fun killing and being killed by other players, trying to score a cool headshot while flying with our jetpack or trying to outplay them thanks to a wise use of our Battleframe's skills, for example using the Recon's decoy & stealth ability to trick our enemies in order to ambush them or to retreat. Notice also that in PvP you'll have all your Battleframe skills temporary unlocked in order to play a fair match even against veteran players. Good job, Red 5.
The game features a pretty unique visual style which uses a light cell-shading effect to give to the game a soft cartoonish style. The result is not bad at all, and creates something original and enjoyable without requiring too much hardware power. The characters, speaking about models and texture, are not impressive and could get some love; at the same time, the Battleframes are quite interesting and nice in both design and rendering. However, in our opinion, the real star in this game is the game world. New Eden is absolutely gorgeous and amazing; its open world nature makes your jaw drop just by climbing a fairly high place and having a look around. Miles and miles of amazingly crafted jungle, rocks, falls and mountains with buildings and facilities scattered here and there, and you can freely go everywhere you can see without a single loading screen. The fact that you have a jetpack at your disposal is also amazing, because it lets the developers build their world giving it a whole new vertical dimension, which is usually absent or poorly developed in the majority of MMO games. However, even if having such freedom of movement is amazing, sadly the game is a bit empty in this sense. We tried to explore here and there but we didn't find anything interesting beside the sense of adventure and discovery itself. It's a shame if you think that with minimum effort, the developers could make a great use of this freedom, like adding hidden collectables, treasures or bosses around so that players would be rewarded while exploring the secrets of such a beautiful world.
Firefall is an amazing open world MMO FPS/TPS which gives a lot of freedom to the players. Fast paced and absolutely fun, the game has a lot of potential, but right now is still suffering from some flaws that prevent it to truly shine; there are some bugs here and there, and the lack of directions at the beginning could drive away new players or casual players who don't want to read pages and pages just to learn what they can do in a game and how. However, if you can stay long enough to scratch the not so "new players-friendly" surface, you'll find a game which can offer a lot of fun in both PvE and PvP. Our biggest worry right now is that the world events types are limited and so with time the game could end up feeling a bit repetitive for the average player, but it's hard to tell right now, and we are sure that in this case, Red 5 will come up with something. Ultimately, if you like to shoot, explore and use a Jetpack, the game is definitively worth checking out.