Even in a beta, constant and major changes can signal issues with a game’s development. And while MMO Shooter Firefall has been in a closed beta since last September and has undergone some extreme updates, it all appears to be for the best. In my hour walkthrough with a developer on the game, I explored many aspects of what is making this free to play title stand out from the pack. From the art style to the environment, many choices help to differentiate the game, but for me, I found the game’s class system to be one of the more exciting opportunities.
Developer Red 5 Studios arguably made one of the most monumental changes to the type of characters players choose to build. While the team began with a more traditional system, the team scrapped this idea for a more complex frame and tier system. Instead of forcing players to stay with one class for their entire playtime, players can shift from frame to frame whenever they prefer and attempt to level up whatever they prefer.
Though I primarily saw an assaulter in action, I did glimpse the engineer, but by sticking primarily with one I received a positive feel for how intricate these roles can become. Each frame includes tiers that unlock as players improve their character and upgrade abilities. There are plans to add even more tiers to each frame, but what is in the game already should allow for dozens of hours of gameplay. Abilities and these upgrades are focused on a skill-based system rather than having characters level up. Red 5 wants to erase luck in the combat quotient and have battles come down to how adept the player is with his or her frame.
To demonstrate this, I saw an upgrade for the assaulter’s weapon that increased damage the longer a player held the line of fire on the enemy. This weapon in a previous form had a heat-seeking missile, but as this gave players an advantage not based on their skill, it was removed. Red 5 appears to be focused on rewarding players for their dedication, and this should be an appealing aspect for those who remain addicted to the game’s wealth of content.
In addition to the frames, which allow for players to take characters down multiple specializations (my movement-oriented assaulter possessed improved jumping and hovering powers), the game’s resource system is perhaps just as dynamic. Resources for the game’s crafting system are randomly generated but also reward players for further exploration. Mining for resources close to a city will yield fewer and less rare resources, but are easy to obtain. For the more adventurous, exploring the ends of the world will likely yield more valuable items, but the enemies that appear while mining are far more powerful.
These mining excursions are an important aspect of the game, as players will call down devices called thumpers to dive into the earth and produce resources. The thumpers must be protected while they search for valuables, and players simply passing by can choose to aid a fellow player if they wish. In fact, most of the game’s battles and dynamic events can be avoided or joined at any moment.
Aside from thumping challenges, other randomly generated events will pop up, including tornadoes swarming with monsters to defeat. Multiple players will most likely be required to actually defeat these storms, but never expect an easy challenge no matter your party size. While playing alone, I found myself heading straight for a calamitous storm, and in my attempts to avoid it I stumbled upon another almost right next to it. Though I would have proved no match, it was an impressive sight to see such destruction randomly appear.
I had the opportunity to play by myself and in the game’s standard deathmatch, but even in my hour I only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. For players willing to devote the time, Firefall offers more than enough content to keep them busy for possibly hundreds of hours. Having not even touched on the story, which puts players in a unique South American locale on an Earth facing total annihilation, there is an entire aspect to the world of which I only witnessed enticing hints.
With warring factions, varied locations including jungles and futuristic, anime-inspired cities, Firefall should keep players engaged by constantly offering new and unique content. For those looking for a deep, third-person shooter, look no further than Firefall. Just don’t expect to have much time for that whole living thing.