Fallen Earth Review - The Post-Apocalyptic Sandbox MMO
By Kat (Sareini) Miller , OnRPG Game Journalist
The apocalypse has come and gone, rage-infected monkeys or zombies didn't cause it, it wasn't super-heroes and it wasn't some jumped-up hippy blue dragon. It was caused by Icarus Studios in the form of the game, Fallen Earth, and now we just have to survive it.
Fallen Earth (FE) has been out for about ten months now, and during this time it's gone from being a small MMO from an indy developer that was only available to buy online to being available in shops in physical form (along with various perks in-game depending on where you bought your copy). Recently, the devs behind the game at Icarus Studios released their "State of the Game" for FE, which included their upcoming plans for improving PvP, the ability to customizing vehicles and armor, a limited respec and more, all coming in their upcoming patch. Despite these things as well as a small but solid player base, FE seems to have slipped under the radar of many.
The year is 2156, and the human race is in ruins. Some time in the past, a virus known as Shiva ravaged every living thing on Earth, causing massive, fatal mutations to the majority of people and animals and leaving most of the survivorsdrastically changed. In the aftermath of all this, society collapsed, and when the dust settled the survivors were left to scrape out an existence in shanty towns and ruins dotted throughout the Grand Canyon where the game is set. You enter the game as a clone, spawned by LifeNet to help defend Hoover Dam in the game's opening tutorial, and later you are 're-cloned' as a kind of 'thank you' for your actions there. After that, the only real aim given to you by the game is to survive, and it's up to you as to how you do that.
With that in mind, FE is very much a sandbox MMO. From whether you choose to use melee weapons or guns, to what areas of crafting you focus on (if any) - just about everything is a valid choice in FE. Rifles, pistols, swords, big poles with lumps of concrete on one end - these are just some of the weapon options available to you, and all of them are effective. Furthermore, FE is unusual in MMO circles in its method of combat - instead of targeting your opponent and hitting auto-attack and a series of buttons while standing still, you actually use an FPS method of combat, adding an extra layer of skill in keeping your target in your crosshairs while you're attacking (and yes, headshots do bonus damage).
In later levels of the game you get to ally with one of six factions, which include the Lightbearers, who are best described as tea-drinking ninjas and healers; the Vistas, who are hippies with rifles; and the Enforcers, the last vestiges of the military forces from before the Fall. Each faction gives you access to particular abilities and powers in the form of mutations. Of course, once you pick one faction, their enemies become yours, and that includes their opposite numbers in the factions, who will attack you on sight. If you're willing to do some reputation grinding for each faction, however, you can get hold of the mutations for all six factions. Other than the factions, though, FE is very much a classless game - you can choose what you want to do and who you want to do it with, and you're not penalized by the game for it.
Crafting is also a big part of FE. And by 'big' I mean that just about everything you can and will use can be crafted by you. The food you eat to buff yourself before a fight? Made by you. Your gun and its ammo? Made by you. Your cavalry sword? Made by you. Your armor (be it a reinforced kevlar vest or a checked lumberjack shirt)? Made by you. In FE, crafting really does mean something - it's usually far cheaper to gather the various ingredients and make things yourself than it is to just buy them, even if it might sometimes take a little longer.
Regarding the technical stuff, FE's graphics are very good indeed. Some may say that they seem rather repetitive in their choice of colors and textures, but that has more to do with the size of the world map which means you spend a lot of time riding round in a post-apocalyptic desert, than any limitations on the game's part. The mobs also have very intuitive AI - when you fight human mobs they will duck your shots and blows when they can, and move around to try to keep you from getting a bead on them. It can be challenging, but well worth it in the end.
Of course, it's not a perfect game. There are still bugs that pop up from time to time, necessitating a reboot of the game or help from one of the GMs. There is also no fast travel in the game (apart from a bus service between each of the three sectors of the game world), and the game world is very large indeed, so you can often find yourself riding (or driving) for fifteen minutes or even more to get from one town to another.
There's also the issue of PvP. Currently in FE, PVP is limited to PvP zones in each sector and instanced PvP matches brought in by the Blood Sports free expansion. This is a point of contention for some players who feel that there isn't enough PvP in the game, particularly between the six factions. This may change when the option to flag yourself for PvP anywhere in the world is added in the next couple of months, and there are apparently plans to look at factions in relation to PvP in the future. In the meantime, however, PvP seems to be only really happening in the high levels and end game, whilst the PvP zones in Sector One are almost deserted.
As for the end game... well, truthfully there isn't much. Currently the level cap is 50, and while there are plans to raise that, add more zones to the game (they potentially want to have ten zones in the game) and raise the level cap along with that, at the moment those who have hit the level cap are quite limited in what they can do. Then again, FE is not the sort of game where you really need to rush to the level cap; indeed, the game seems to encourage you to take your own meandering path to 50.
I cannot do a review of FE without including a mention of the game's community. Although small compared to other MMOs (there is only one game server, or shard), the community is solid, and the majority of players are happy to help out new players. There is a dedicated Help channel (actually the only global channel in the whole game, another point of contention for some who would like a more general global channel as well to talk to other players) and there is nearly always a GM "on duty", or a member of a player volunteer group who are there to help new players as well. The players and staff of FE really do work hard to make the game as welcoming as possible for new players. The players and GMs also work together to organize a lot of events such as PvP nights or crafters' markets, to help new and old players alike and to just generally have fun.
Overall, FE is not going to be a game for everyone's tastes. Things like the limited PvP and the lack of fast travel are bound to put some people off, and the game admittedly does have a learning curve that is less "intuitive" than other MMOs. The fact that it is not as linear as other games is a factor as well, and of course there is the inevitable comparisons to Fallout 3. In the end, however, FE stands out from many other MMOs because it's different, and if you are looking for a new or different experience in your MMOs, it is certainly worth a look.
Freedom in choosing what you want to do in the game
Limited PvP at the moment
Lack of fast travel
Not very much in the way of an end game at the moment