The colors! The repetition...
This started as a Manifesto. I spent a bunch of time in Firefall before writing a quick break from the game a week after release. Then I went back to playing. Then I stopped again. I’ve started and stopped Firefall several times now since release. I’ve done so by myself and I’ve asked friends to join for a few quests in the hopes that we’d all get addicted and stick with it. There’s a decent game here below layers of confusion and awkward storytelling. I like several things about Firefall and I dislike several more.
Still, the effort feels like its missing focus. Focus is a crazy difficult thing to obtain in an MMO and I recognize that. It’s rare that a cohesive story exists in this genre, though Firefall seems to try its best in the early goings. It’s just that when coupled with crafting, thumping, warframes, the job board, and story quests, the narrative gets lost below the frustration you may find trying to figure the game out.
I offered this in my manifesto on Firefall and it still applies.
It’s a rather convoluted game, one that clearly was meant to go in several different directions during development. There’s no real structure or tutelage to aid in the mystery that is crafting, thumping, and rigging up Battleframes. All that is expressed through poor dialogue windows and bad on-screen hints in menus.
Weeks on, there are still things I’m not all that sure about. Research and crafting takes some getting used to, and I’m not entirely convinced I know what I’m doing with either mechanism. That’s not to say that help isn’t there. The community around Firefall is currently small but most players are eager to help and more than friendly.
That, then, is likely my favorite part about this game. As clueless as I was at certain times, the community tended to step up and talk to me. It wasn’t always so populated that I could get groups together for quests and jobs, but folks were always around to answer my questions and chat. That’s good stuff.
When I started the game, thumping almost always drew a crowd. Here are my first impressions again:
Thumping is a method of extracting resources for currency and crafting material. That’s not the good bit. Early on, you get a hammer for detecting resource veins and a thumper. Drop the thumper on a rich area and defend it while it extracts the goods. Doesn’t sound fun, right? That’s not the good stuff.
The nature of thumping is loud and flash. It draws other players into the action. Start thumping near a safe spot and you’ll see hordes of friendly players gather around to fight waves of baddies off. You’ll all gain experience together, split the rewards together and hopefully group up for some missions.
It’s a social moment, one that I’ve not seen done in quite the same way in any other game. Firefall’s claim to fame should be thumping and for my money, it’s an interesting enough mechanic to drive some fun moments.
Now? Not so much. It still brings players in and these moments are the most exciting for groups, but the initial sense of uniqueness has sort of worn off.
In spite of the vibrant visuals (and the game does look cool, at least when it comes to color choices), I think the lacking quest diversity is keeping players away. Every mission feels very similar, with a few exceptions. You’ll hit the job board, run up to the glide pad, launch towards the objective, kill things/grab things and turn it in. Maybe there are a few deviations that tell you to head to a second or third point to kill and grab more things, but that’s about it.
When you aren’t thumping or looking at screens while trying to settle on battleframe gear, you’re rolling the same exact quests over and over and over again. That’s what kept me from playing until excruciatingly late at night. I just got bored.
If Firefall were to have saving graces beyond the friendly community, I’d say that the shooting mechanics and free-to-play nature will prove strong pillars. While the AI might be incredibly stupid (sometimes they’ll just stand around while you blast them), combat proves fun. Combined with jetpacks and special abilities, jumping around and blasting foes here feels better than it does in most other MMOs.
The free-to-play stuff never really gets in the way, either. There are perks to paying, don’t get me wrong, but you can earn just about everything you need through time and patience instead of spending. This isn’t a pay-to-win world, though paying does help progression.
Finally, we arrive at the endgame content. You have choices, though none of them are very good. Raids amount to little more than single boss fights and PvP could be fun if it weren’t for the fact that no one participates. The general consensus is that the reward and purpose of PvP isn’t good enough to warrant the time spent. If the game gets more content and the endgame extends beyond just leveling up other frames, this could be good. For now, don’t expect a pot of gold at the end of this grind-y rainbow.
Firefall has some strong selling points, but you’d be better off treating it like a diversion of a game with a slight chance of getting really involved. Personally, I found it hard to keep playing. If I had more friends in the game or if the gameplay wasn't so repetitive, this could have been a blast. It’s not a complete miss but it’s not a complete hit either.
Firefall is middling. If you have free time to spare, the fact that it won’t cost you anything to try is a huge win. If it manages to sink its teeth into you over the first few hours, you might just be hooked. Personally, I’ll pass.
Code provided by publisher. Exclusive to PC.