Firefall is a free to play first person shooter MMO with a lot of ambition. Dwarfing the other booths at PAX East, Red 5 spared no expense in creating a mammoth of a presentation. I was able to get a short hands-on and ask a few questions about the game, and the direction it was going and I can definitely say, if they manage to pull off what they’re aspiring for, Firefall will be one of the most impressive F2P MMOs out there.
While it has a lot of the MMO tropes such as collection quests, leveling up, etc, the actual core game system is more akin to something like Planetside. Coming from the team lead and designer of such games as World of Warcraft and Tribes 1 and 2, it's easy to see these influences in Firefall. The core progression of your character is tied to the different battleframes that you may equip. Currently there are four released battleframes: medic, assault, recon and engineer. Each of these confers you different sets of stats (movement, damage mitigation, etc) as well as a set of different abilities and weapons. As you progress in the game, you’ll be able to upgrade these suites gaining access to additional abilities and modifications.
Customization is heavily emphasized as well. Everything from the way your character looks, to your battleframe load-out and even to your individual weapons and how they work can all be customized. The monetization model is to provide various cosmetic customizations, as well as boosts to experience and other resources. Obviously, Red 5 Studios is dedicated to keeping the playing field level for those players who decide to invest money vs those that invest time into the game instead.
The meat of the gameplay right now is focused on the PVE aspect of the game. Fighting against NPCs, players are driven by dynamic events and quests that allow them to reclaim the world one outpost at a time. The NPCs, however, aren’t willing to just give up the hard won ground so easily, as they will fight back and even re-invade player claimed regions in these dynamic events. As more areas are reclaimed, the larger the world becomes which will eventually open up vehicles and fast travel.
One of the biggest components I had questions about was the social aspect of the game and how player factions would work. While it is not yet in the beta, they are planning to implement player armies, which is their version of a guild or clan. There is PVP in the game, which just consists of basic team death match/objective based matches, but the intent is later on to have full scale army vs army faction battles. Having a focus on eSports, competition and tournaments are definitely in the forefront of the PVP component here.
In my brief hands-on, I created a character and started out in an assault battleframe. While I played with a mouse and keyboard, it apparently is also possible to play with a gamepad. The game felt and played closely to Tribes 2 but without skiing, and including MMO style special abilities. Visually, the game is very nice to look at; instead of your bland brown shooter, they went with a much more vibrant color pallet which complements the world design very well. I jet-packed around to the various quest points unloading rounds of ammo into alien bugs to turn X valves and pick up Y minerals (all very typical MMO formula). While I’m not exactly sure if health is regenerated, there are health boots that drop out of enemies you kill that will heal you slightly. If you switch into a Medic battleframe, you gain the ability to heal yourself and allies.
Once I got back into the outpost, I changed my battleframe to an engineer to get a feel for how differently the various battleframes played. The immediate differences are the visual appearance of your character as well as the guns and sets of skills they have. As an engineer I was able to drop a turret and have it fire along with me at enemies. Though I didn’t have much time in this battleframe, it played pretty differently from the standard assault battleframe and I look forward to exploring the other classes and seeing how they can be upgraded.
As for my overall impressions, I’m rather positive on the game. I’ll be checking out the beta as it progresses to watch how these various promised features unfold. If Red 5 Studios can actually meet these aspirations, Firefall will definitely be a big contender in the MMO market.