Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fallen Earth Beta - Initial Impressions: Part II

Follow the link below for my further thoughts and experiences in the Fallen Earth beta.

My Kingdom for a Horse

So here I was, still at Embry Crossroads. I had completed a good portion of the quests in the area, but my main focus was on crafting, and that semi-confusing, overly-complex system had taken most of my time and all of my chips (which is the currency used in Fallen Earth). But it was time to move on, and there was no way I was going to cross the barren, scarred wasteland on foot. I needed one of them horses that it seemed everyone else already owned. But the various parts needed to 'craft' a horse, as well as acquire the necessary training manual, would cost me several of the larger size chips.

Well I didn't have much cash, but I did have a ton of crafting materials in my various bank vaults. I figured that I would just see what I could make, and then sell the resulting product to an NPC vendor for a nice profit. What proceeded from there was an odd little dance I had with myself and the various merchants. I would look for items I could craft where I already had most of the ingredients, purchasing the missing parts, then selling the resulting end-product. Sometimes I netted a few chips, other times I lost some. I didn't seem to be getting anywhere closer to acquiring a horse. So I opened up my vault with all my food-type resources and took everything out. With only a few minor purchases, I soon had a good dozen items queued up for cooking. As these foodstuffs were busy percolating in my pack, I poked around to see if I could secure some other parts I needed. Luck was with me that day, for I found a rusty car outside of town that yielded no less than eight scarp fasteners (which are used often and are also relatively expensive to purchase from the NPC vendors).

While on these excursions, I was also trying to fill out some gaps in my crafting knowledge, namely ammo for my revolver! I finally located the ballistics trainer, and also figured out what skill book I needed to purchase. Aha! It turned out that actually crafting the ammo was an easy task, using fairly common materials, so I soon had enough ammo to last me for a while, especially since I had begun using a sword as my main weapon.

After much brewing, grilling and preserving, I managed to sell enough cooked goods to gather the necessary cash to purchase the horse materials. I completed the horse-training recipe, and voila, there she was! I hopped on and took her out for a spin. It was a sweet ride, one that I wish I had gotten much earlier. And even better, the horse comes with its own pack slots! My mission completed, it was time to move on. I had a couple of quests directing me to Oilville, which was just a short jaunt to the north, and so to Oilville I went!

The Bustling Metropolis of Oilville

I thought that Embry Crossroads was a happening place, but Oilville was even more active. More players, more quests, and a token system for acquiring gear. A number of quests around town gave out special 'gears' as reward. These gears could then be turned into an NPC just outside of town for various armor and weapons. I took a glance at what was offered and realized that what I already had was equivalent or slightly better than what they offered. I guess all of that time spent on crafting had paid off after all!

So I begun the great quest project, cleaning out sandworms, assaulting raider camps, and various other odd jobs around town. Not far from town I ran across a few foes on the road, so I jumped off my horse and waded into the slaughter, patting myself on the back for a job well done. But then I turned around and witnessed a horrifying sight! My horse lay dead on the ground!! I'm not sure what happened, but a CoG (one of the enemy factions) was wandering around nearby, whistling innocently. My vengeance was both swift and deadly. I took a look at my preciously acquired horse, hoping that there was some way to revive it but I quickly realized that I had no veterinary skills. Luckily, by this time, I had more than enough chips from completing quests. So I hoofed it back into town and went over to the stables area to see what my options were and to train a new horse if need be. But I noticed that the stable master had an option for 'towing' my horse. It only cost a single chip, so I gave it a shot. It seemed to work as I then had the option of removing the horse from the stable. Would it be whole and healthy? Unforunately not. Instead I was suddenly presented with the corpse of my equine companion being tossed at my feet. Hmmm... that wasn't quite what I had expected. On to the trainer, where I picked up a vet book. Sure enough, the repair skill worked and my faithful mount was soon back in action!

So I booked around the Oilville area for a while, completing numerous quests and shooting up through levels 7 and 8 very quickly. Focusing on the quests also rewarded me with lots of money as well as the experience gains. I was well on my way to level 10 when the closed beta ended, having gained 2 & 1/2 levels with only a few hours of gameplay after leaving Embry Crossroads.

At one point I had a number of fedex-type missions to a nearby town of Kingman, so I hopped on my trusty steed and rode over there, encountering a large camp of bandits who had taken over the main highway along the way, and spotting an imposing structure on a hill in the distance. As it turned out, this was the infamous Kingman Prison, and the local townspeople had plenty of killing that wanted me to take care of for them inside. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see much more beyond riding around the outside, but it is a very impressive structure that can be seen from miles away. I believe this is the first major instance/dungeon in the game and it's domination of the local skyline really drew my attention and fostered a desire to see what was inside.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Horses are great! I like that they have a 'fuel' meter that needs to be replenished. But it seems to be a large enough pool that it wont be a constant maintenance chore. Their extra pack space is a nice addition, and the fact that they can be killed adds another point for realism (though it's absurdly easy to 'tow' and revive them afterwords). One side effect of the fuel meter for horses, is that players tend to park them in town rather than riding them everywhere, including inside buildings. This little touch of seeing several horses lined up outside of various buildings really helps to give Fallen Earth that feeling that it is something special. But of course, once the teeming masses hit the game, I suspect that people will be more than happy to ride their horses up and down the stairs rather than leaving them outside.

I am a little worried about buffs. It seems that there are quite a lot. Even with my newbie self I can eat, drink and take painkillers, all of which provide a 30-60 minute buff, and then on top of that, I have two mutation powers that provide more temporary buffs. I've heard that following a mutation path in character development will open up even more buff options. One player on the forums said that he generally has 17 buffs going at the same time! This is a bad trend for several reasons. 1) Reapplying multiple buffs is a pain, 2) When you start stacking buffs on buffs, at some point they become required in order to compete with other players, 3) its just confusing and hard to keep track of when you have a dozen little buff icons with various effects.

I've also heard rumor (though it should be taken with a grain of salt as I haven't experienced the clan or faction systems yet), that player clans have no faction restrictions. If true, this is a huge blow to the PvP potential of the game and kind of destroys the point of even having factions in the first place, especially if players can teach the faction-specific recipes to other players.

The game does have an auction house, but there was almost nothing for sale. But that's pretty typical for test/beta servers, so I not worried about the lack of auction activity. But given the crafting-oriented nature of the game it will be interesting to see how the economy develops once it goes live.

I never had a chance to experience any PvP in my time in the Fallen Earth world. At one point during my wanderings, I did have a message flash on my screen that I was entering a PvP area, but there was noone else around, and I wasn't even sure what it was that made this a PvP area, as there didn't seem to be anything interesting or useful in sight. But, from what I understand, there is no open PvP in the game. There are 'conflict' towns, but apparently not a whole lot of PvP actually happens there, though that might be due to the beta mentality. It sounds like this part of the game hasn't really been fleshed out. Hopefully that is something the devs will work on in the near future.


And that's pretty much it for my gametime in beta. Though I found the game difficult to get involved in initially, once I passed that first invisible hurdle, I began to enjoy it a lot more. I'm still undecided as to whether or not I'll make the purchase for launch. I have several other games awaiting my attention, including a Blood Bowl league and guild leadership in Warhammer Online.

I suspect that this is one of those games that will have a rocky launch and a lot of mediocre reviews, but given the chance, it has enough potential to develop into an engaging MMO with a unique niche. There does seem to be plenty to do in the starting zone, but those who prefer racing to the endgame will probably end up bitter and disappointed.

So, if you enjoy crafting and are willing to deal with various UI issues and a semi-clutzy combat system, then this is probably a game that you will enjoy. If you're a PvE-raider type, or someone looking for fun, meaningful PvP, then you probably won't find enough entertainment in Fallen Earth. If you're just looking for something different from the saturated fantasy market, then I recommend giving the beta a whirl to see if the game catches your attention, though I do suggest that you give it enough time to get out of the starter towns and into the wider world before passing judgment.

No comments: