August 21, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Red 5 Studios
Publisher(s): Red 5 Studios
Platform(s): PC
Release Date: Unannounced

While browsing my email this weekend I discovered an invitation from Red 5 to join their closed beta for Firefall. Luckily for me, I had the weekend free to take the title for a spin - and I’m glad I did.  Firefall starts you out in the city of New Eden where you’re promptly introduced to the dismal state of affairs that is Earth in the year 2233.  The failed launch of an experimental ship, the Arclight, has resulted in the vast majority of the planet being engulfed in an energy storm called the Melding, which transforms all forms of life.  Surviving in a small pocket of normalcy at the eye of the storm, the human race has become embroiled in a war with an alien race that’s emerging from the Melding, called the Chosen.  Now it’s the players’ responsibility to save the world and make sure that nothing bad ever happens again. Good luck.

The Good
- 5 very fun classes to choose from
- A beautiful open world to explore (via jetpack!)
- Three different PvP modes to play
- Quick and easy class progression
- Free-to-play

The Bad (remember it's Beta)
- Some of the animations are lackluster
- Crafting isn’t very exciting or rewarding
- Lag issues with increased mob presence
- Character creation was very flat and boring

With an extremely limited character creator, I setup my name, my gender, and most importantly: my battleframe.  So far, there are a total of five battleframes (or classes) available to players at the start of the game. These run the usual gamut of FPS classes: the Assault, the Recon, the Biotech (Medic), the Engineer, and the Dreadnaught (Heavy).  Because I’m such a nice guy (and healing is the only way to make up for my usually abysmal kill count) I chose the Biotech, much to my chagrin.

Each class starts out with a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and a single ability. In my case, the ability was, of course, the healer.  A less than spectacular healer on a long cooldown that, paired with my tiny needle and tricky grenade launcher, left me salivating over all the other battleframes I was seeing around town.  I immediately set out to discover if a class change was possible or if I should just reroll my character while the day was still young.  Luckily Firefall allows any character to switch between any of the battleframes, provided you’ve unlocked them first.  To do that, you need a little bit of in-game currency, or “crystite”. I had my first goal.

Hungry for cash, I tacked my first quest to the HUD’s quest tracker as well as queued for a couple Player versus Player matches - something that the game lets you do from the get-go. PvP is Firefall’s star player and I’ve broken down some of the highlights below:

- There are three modes available at the moment: Team Deathmatch, Sabotage (Round-based Attack and Defend), and Harvester (Domination)
- TDM has three different maps available, while Sabotage and Harvester currently each have their own unique map.
- You earn crystite, XP, and even crafting materials through playing PvP matches.
- Players can revive allies and execute downed enemies for extra XP.
- The multiple classes (each with a healthy supply of unique and fun abilities) make each match different.
- You can join live PvP matches as a spectator or watch recorded matches to review different strategies and up your game.
- Despite the PvE elements, I found my time with PvP to be fairly balanced and a joy to play, regardless of my class progression.
- Red 5 is gearing up for Firefall to be a new eSport and there is talk of ranked play, ladders, tournaments, clans, etc.

All of that is great, but what makes Firefall really fun, regardless of the mode you’re playing, are the jetpacks.  Every battleframe in the game has a jetpack and they really make my Tribe’s heart melt.  It was when I happily bounded across the tropical terrain of the starter zone, on the way to a kill-and-collect quest, that I encountered my first thumper and was introduced to the real meat of Firefall’s PvE sandwich (don’t ask me what the bread is).  Thumpers are essentially large drills that players can call down from space to harvest crafting materials.  Seems pretty spectacular at first, except that they attract waves of monsters and are not nearly as invincible as they could be.  I was amazed: Red 5 has turned the usual click-and-wait of MMO mat gathering into a rousing Horde mode match.

Setting up a thumper is essentially a three-part process.  Players use what is called a “scan hammer” (it’s exactly what it sounds like) to strike the ground and send out a shock wave that essentially tells you if there are any good minerals in the area.  Then, once you’ve found a good place to start drilling, you call down your thumper.  This summons the hordes and, should you succeed in keeping the thumper from being destroyed long enough for it to harvest what it needs, you and anyone on your team will reap the rewards.

What I really love about thumpers is that they call so many monsters that there’s always plenty for everyone.  Often times you will see the community get together and just set thumper after thumper down as if it were a big party. After just a few of these and a handful of PvP matches, I had enough crystite to return to the battleframe garage and change my battleframe. But I realized suddenly, that in spite of my previous dissatisfaction, the Biotech had really grown on me - really grown, for that matter.

Whether you’re just queuing for PvP or out calling down thumpers, you’re always earning XP in Firefall and that XP goes to your equipped battleframe. This means that, while if I were to purchase the Engineer battleframe, I could still switch back to my Biotech at any time, my Engineer would effectively be at level one - if there were levels in Firefall.

Experience points in Firefall are a unique currency that goes toward moving along a sort-of talent tree to unlock different mods which you can plug into your battleframe.  These include new abilities, new weapons, improvements upon old abilities, and even the next tier of battleframes.  Mods are well balanced and in my time with Firefall I found that no one class, or one player, had an unfair advantage over me.  I was beating people who’d been in the game longer than me and losing to people who were still fresh.  Red 5 has put in a solid effort to keep the game skill-based and it shows.

There are plenty of little kinks to be found throughout the game, but they were never enough to deter me from having a good time, and with the game’s official release still unannounced, I think Firefall is a game to keep your eye on.  It wasn’t until I was jumping back and forth up a waterfall to meet up with my squad to initiate a particularly dangerous thumper-run before we queued for the night’s PvP that the real beauty of the game hit me.  Red 5 will be releasing Firefall on the PC entirely free to play. And that’s a pretty amazing value.

Review by Jeff Ellis

Final Score “And there’d be jetpacks for all” 8.0
The characters and environments look as though they popped out of your favorite sci-fi comic book. However, the animations are lacking a bit in some places.
I never found myself without something to do in Firefall and the multiple classes and easy progression had me chomping at the bit to try it all. The beginning can feel somewhat dull, but it won’t be long before you’re staying up late to do another thumper run.
There’s currently a large open world to explore and multiple PvP game modes to battle your friends in – and all of it is free.
The voice acting for the story bits is actually pretty well done and the sounds effects all feel solid, but there are some voice clips that really started to grate on my nerves. For instance, every few kills, my friendly Biotech would shout out “Like shooting a fat kid in a barrel” and I’d have to roll my eyes – which often got me killed.
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  1. hahahaha, the graphics remind me a bit of Borderlands. Actually the whole thing looks like a third person Borderlands MMO....which is a good thing!

  2. Really digging the overall design of the game. Seems like it'll be a winner if the can iron out the bugs.

  3. Haven't played the game but I'm thinking about it now! Great review!

  4. Is that the American Gladiator Lee Reherman doing the cos-play for the game? what the hell?! that's badass!

  5. This looks totally badass. I'll have to check it out. Nice review!!

  6. There's been a lot of cool free-to-play stuff lately. this loks really great.


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