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Firefall Launch Impressions

Red 5 Studios and Firefall have been a long time coming since we first got a glimpse many years ago at PAX. The free-to-play game is now live on Steam and has undergone significant changes during an extensive beta phase. The game can be enjoyed in first or third person and has a wide variety of different classes (battleframes) that a character can explore on a single character as they journey through Firefall’s vast, ever-changing world.

Firefall takes many of the aspects of the MMORPG like leveling, crafting, persistent resource acquisition, grouping to take on encounters, optional PVP, and archetypal classes, and rolls them into a fast-paced FPS-style sci-fi open-world framework that lets players explore on foot, in the air with their jetpacks, and on gliders and vehicles.

There’s a satisfying level/crafting loop that has players crafting weapons and abilities to suit their playstyles. I’m a fan of the engineer, and my loadout has multiple smaller turrets and a giant superturret that can be manned by a player to unleash rapid-fire destruction. My sticky-grenade launcher allows me to saturate critical areas with explosives and then unleash a series of devastating, damaging bursts. A lot of the time in combat I’m taking advantage of Firefall’s jump jets, so I can lay down an assault from the air and protect my stationary cannons. I’m free to change my toolkit up anytime via crafting to make exactly the pieces I want for an engineer of a different playstyle or a different battleframe altogether.

Combat can happen anywhere, as world events are always popping up on the map and players are always dumping Thumpers (Hi-tech mining vessels) all over the environment, which attract both creatures and players to come out and play. Combat is smooth and fairly enjoyable, but this is where my major qualm with Firefall rears its ugly head – The fights feel like they lack impact. They feel dry. They feel bland. They just don’t evoke a feeling of excitement.

This is a tough pill to swallow in a title that clearly has a lot going for it in the realm of mission/mining reward loops and pick-up-and-play world encounters, but even zipping through the air unleashing destruction on my enemies just feels rote and uninspired after dealing with a few waves of bugs and Chosen. Perhaps the endgame, with its tactical titan fights and special encounters addresses this issue.

Player advancement, crafting, and missions all take place in streamlined “town” areas where players can restock and resupply. Missions give players special tokens on completion that they can use in vending machines to collect additional resources and cool cosmetic options. If you find something useful that you’ll probably never use, take it over to the marketplace (auction house) and get paid. Whatever you choose to do, from missions to wandering to thumping, you’re going to be acquiring plenty of resources to help you get the gear you want.

Firefall has solid systems at work that by all rights should easily keep a player interested as they work up battleframes, create and discover new weapons and abilities, and explore the world. These systems just don’t resonate with me as much right now, as I’m struggling to enjoy combat that should feel fast and exciting, but comes off as repetitive and bland. That said, since the game is free and available on Steam, I do encourage you to take a peek to see if Firefall is what you’re looking for in a MMOFPS.

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