I typed this up as a general overview of the game to try to get my WoW guildmates interested - reposting here because I think it turned out quite nicely and there doesn't appear to currently be a discussion going on firefall. This is basically an "initial impressions" as I've only been playing the game for a couple days, and represents just about all I know at this time. If others have questions, comments or complaints I'll address them as best I'm able - and I'm sure others will know much more than I do.
Without further ado:
With everything cranked up to ultra (which actually still plays decently on my laptop nevermind my PC) the game is fucking incredible looking. At night if the moon isn't out its nearly pitch-black and you have to run around with a flashlight. The bloom from the fire of your jumpjets is so bright in the darkness that its almost even harder to see.
To give you an idea of how the customization works - once you've unlocked a "license" for a given part for your tier 2 battleframe (battleframe is basically your class, tier 1 has some customization but you dont actually create your own parts until tier 2) you can then craft your own versions of that part. So, you unlock t2, you unlock a boot upgrade that gives you +10% run speed. That then gives you the "plans" to create your own boot upgrades that can have different stats based on the materials you use on it. The crafting materials in the game are basically isotopes with varying degrees of six different qualities (density, malleability, etc) so certain types of different characteristics, and then rarer isotopes have 'better' stats. So - you go to make your own boot upgrade, and you can make it out of one material that gives you +11% run speed OR you can use a different material that will give it increased jump height instead of speed. That's a simplification but hopefully you get the idea. This extends to all the different parts of your suit including your jumpjets, guns/ammo, various utility abilities, armor plating etc. So that its not about "grind until you have the best possible stuff then everyone's the same" (which is an issue with some sandbox games) Each battleframe has a max load and CPU strength that will eventually limit what upgrades you can use. This forces you to decide at some point what playstyle you want to go for, as all the upgrades to all your parts will be more than your suit can hold.
If you look at the full-size pic you can see what crafting some new jumpjets looks like. That ferrite isotope has great conductivity which is a factor in thrust and recharge, although it has low reactivity so its energy cost won't be that good. The amount of materials it takes is somewhat significant, so deciding on a particular item and material represents an investment - I mention this because I really appreciate when games make it feel like your decisions matter. Similarly with the battleframes, yes you can play them all, but getting the XP and materials to upgrade it is a huge investment, so your decision really does matter.
In a sense, there is a strong pve (and group-oriented) element to the game, as all of the 'best' materials are found out in the melding which means you have to have the materials to power the machines that allow you to get there, then have a decent group to defend the resource-gathering machines (thumpers) that pull minerals out of the ground for you. These "meld thump groups" are also a good source of exp, which you need in order to unlock the aforementioned parts and battleframe licenses to progress your character.
Chosen are a big part of the story and a very present force that you need to combat. They'll try to stop you pretty much no matter where they find you, including while you're thumping. They also will come down in drop pods and assault various things, including the towns, which they can take over. I've been killed a couple times by being afk in a building and the chosen took over and blasted me to pieces. They have the potential to play a large role in the "endgame" pve content as they can be quite hard to kill. In the above screenshot I'm at half health from fighting a couple of them, and then I come across their drop pod where there's a party waiting.
For those of you who care about story and atmosphere, Orson Scott Card (the writer of Ender's Game) had a big hand in the story, and his influence is clearly apparent. I don't know the story well enough to describe it well, but its quite good from what I've seen. The story also provides the framework for the physical territory available which is something I appreciate - there are no random zone walls or barriers. The available territory consists of a "safe zone" around a downed space ship whose warp drives are holding back the melding. You can then use generators to push back the melding further, but theres only so much you can do - even these small incursions are very time-limited. In the future, I expect the safe area to expand as we learn more about what the melding is, what's inside it, and how to combat it.
As a side note, water kills you almost instantly (I believe the story reason is that it fucks up your suit and kills you) but I believe they've mentioned that at a future date you'll be able to upgrade your suit to function in the water. Currently, once you leave the shallows, the water is deadly, and empty.
World Size & Travel
The world is fairly large (~6 square kilometers by my estimation) and there are no flight paths or teleports. There are vehicles - essentially motorcycles - but I don't know how to get one yet. It doesnt feel TOO bad going from place to place, but it can be quite a trek. If where you're going is downhill from where you are, you can use a glider! There are gliders in each town and SIN tower, and for some red beans (real money) you can get the ability to drop down a glider point on a few minute cooldown. You can also craft usable glider points if you don't have/want to buy red beans. In all honesty using the glider isnt THAT much faster than running unless you can go significantly downhill (glider physics are somewhat realistic, you can glide long-distance but its slow, or plummet like a fucking eagle)
Here's a glider point I dropped up on a rock, which got me maybe 2-300 meters of gliding since it's not very high up.
Their business model, as far as I can tell, is completely cosmetic purchases, with a few quality of life items like the glider drops. At the "new you" stations you can change any aspect of your character. Here you can find hairstyles that weren't available at character creation as well as a variety of vanity items, generally masks and eyewear. I imagine there will be a lot more here in the future, though what is currently in is well done. There's even a "tech reindeer antlers" item that puts holographic antlers on you.
I already have the goggles, the mask looks sweet with them huh?
The Bad (if you can call it that)
- The PvE content is still being tested
- No guarantee of a pve raid-style "endgame"
- Open world PvP isnt in yet
- Menus and systems aren't super-intuitive
This is a beta and the game will be released when its done, but its really outstanding so far. I haven't experienced a bug yet, unless you count mammoth-monsters getting stuck on something that's too small for them to be standing on.
How to Get In
There are two ways to get beta access:
- register and hope (hint: you won't get in- too many people want it)
- pay $20 ($15 for the holidays) for founder's access which grants you an immediate invite into the beta.
Go here to see a bit more about the game. The link for the founder's pack is in the top right of the page, or click here if I've already convinced you.