The idea of a massive multiplayer online shooter tickles my fancy. Before even signing up for the beta, I was anxious to get started building the most elusive yet deadly sniper possible. I wanted to just strap up my jet pack and float around popping off head shots willy-nilly. As I started to burst the throbbing eggs filled with a variety of aranhas (a bug-like creature) I slowly began to realize Firefall will stray far from the traditional MMO template.
I kept on killing everything I could, ignoring the nagging mission waypoints on my screen, hoping to hear the beautiful “ding” of leveling up. Despite having a ton of experience, I never got that “ding”. As I gave up and moved on to the first mission, it became obvious that XP is almost like a form of currency in Firefall. I checked out my skill tree and was able to buy some reload and ammo upgrades for my sniper. Actually, each character has a battleframe, which is a piece of biotechnology allowing your character to take on the responsibilities of the Recon, Assault, Biotech, Engineer, or Dreadnaught classes. So instead of leveling, your XP is devoted to advancing whatever route you choose for your respective battleframe’s skill tree.
I finally thought to myself, “about time I got these mechanics down, lets get into this campaign.” Firefall has been labeled a team-based game and that stood out immediately. A few players floated past on their jetpacks here or there, but I couldn’t find someone to play a mission with to save my life. So, I gave up and started to try to go solo as long as possible, which ended up being about 10 minutes. I learned the hard way that tactics are just as important as firepower, especially with a Recon battleframe. I was able to jet-pack around more than most, had more speed than others, but also had significantly less health. Really, unless you make a class specifically for playing alone, team-work is vital.
So, I’m starting to get a hang of Firefall, and I get past the first mission and start to feel pretty proud of myself. But then I got my next task. I was given some charges and told to mine for silicate, a precious resource in the world of Firefall. Sounds simple enough right? Walking up to the way point, I figured I would just drop a charge on the ground and BAM! out comes the silicate. Wrong. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and eventually began dropping charges everywhere. Soon enough I blew up a small rock far from the waypoint and got some silicate. So, the waypoint indicated a general area of action. Got it.
All this time I spent mining and fighting off enemies, I did not get help from one single players. It wasn’t as if everyone was ignoring me, there simply was no one around. I died repeatedly, which was frustrating to say the least. Cooperation is vital to progression in Firefall, and at this point in the beta stage, there simply is not a big enough community. Still, the beautiful and fully realized environments and enemies serve as a reminder that F2P games can boast AAA quality production, even in beta stages.
Regardless of the hiccups, Firefall is a whole crap-load of fun. I can really see this game taking off once it begins to build a community. The final version will undoubtedly be a huge improvement on what exists currently, and that gets me excited. The prospect of building a unique character to rise to the top of the PVP realm is enough to keep me playing. But, as with all free to play games, there unfortunately is some kind of paid content. I was surprised to see that even in the beta stage, players could purchase red bean currency with real money to get upgrades. However, Red 5 Studios is “adamantly against selling anything that might compromise the skill-based aspect of the game.”
In the end, Firefall has immense potential. The gameplay is fast-paced, fun, and addicitive. The classes are unique and call for trying multiple battleframes with multiple characters. Unfortunately right now in this part of the beta testing, the community simply is not there. As time goes on and the game is officially released to the public, I think it will build a following large enough to support the heavily team-based gameplay.