Firefall aims to alter the MMO space, blending shooter mechanics with traditional MMO staples, such as exploration, multiple playable classes and PvP. Dynamic events play a major role in the game, as you can come across random events when you are out adventuring. Most of the time you’ll have to collect pieces of broken equipment or thumpers, while defending against spawning enemies.
As you begin your career as a mercenary in the colorful and lush environments of Brazil, you are known as Ares 35. The world has been permanently altered thanks to the Melding that has covered landscapes in the bluish haze, bringing with it a new threat; The Chosen. At the start of the game, you’ll have access to five different Battleframes. Advanced Battleframes can be earned by leveling up or purchased through the premium currency store front.
After many hours grinding away doing repetitive Job Board fetch missions, and the more enjoyable Thumping and story missions, I’ve come to respect the things that Firefall does well for the MMO genre, but still think the game has a long road ahead. Being in beta for a long time, Firefall has clearly suffered from being pulled in too many directions. This hurts the overall experience, but also gives players the freedom to focus on what elements of the game they enjoy.
My early impressions of the Job Board hasn’t changed, even after spending more time with the game, I still think its a way to pad content into the game. Playing devil’s advocate, I can see the reason for the inclusion, as having a centralized location to easily pickup new missions in each of the regions is a convenience. My main concern is the content of the missions; having to travel across entire regions each and every time. Finish killing X amount of bugs/mercenaries, move to point B and do the same thing again while collecting drops, then return to someone else 600m away to complete the mission. Perhaps it was the repeating nature of the missions, as I returned to a previous location only to be served up the same exact ones I had completed hours before. While I couldn’t convince random players to group together for the missions (even if we were killing the same mobs), I did have the rest of the SelectButton PC team hop into the world of Firefall.
The vibrant and colorful world of Firefall is quite large, but moving across it is a slow process. Glider pads, usually found at the highest points in towns, allow you to glide through the air, speeding up part of the travel time in the process. Your jetpack allows you to scale even the tallest mountain cliff, granted you have enough energy. There are premium vehicles, both single occupancy and double occupancy that also helps reduce the travel time, but both types are clunky when trying to negotiate tight corridors or rocky terrain. Drop ships fly to and from the various regions, allowing you to enjoy a quiet ride to a different region. Even with all of these options, you’ll still be spending copious amounts of time simply moving from one objective to the next. There isn’t any way to instantly warp to a set location however.
Playing online games cooperatively with friends is the best way to add enjoyment to even the most mundane experiences. Each of us choose a Battleframe that would bring the group in line with the standard “Holy Trinity” of MMO classes; DPS, Tank, Healer. Being almost a dozen levels above the rest of the team and in a BioTech Battleframe, I thought we would easily grind through Job Board missions. At first we tried completing higher level missions with the goal to level the new Battleframes faster, only to be told that rewards won’t be given due to a disparity in levels. Attempting to complete as many lower level missions together as possible, the grouping system made things much more complicated than it should be.
I should mention that Firefall is an add-on friendly title, but the review is based on the core Firefall experience, without any third-party additions. As it stands, there doesn’t appear to be a way to share missions currently in process (you also can only have one mission at a time). Squad waypoints were used heavily to share the location of missions, even if the rest of the group wasn’t able to see the mission tracker or what needed to be killed. When one of us respawned near the Job Board, usually upon death, we had to constantly change leadership roles in the group. Accepting missions is a task only for the leader. Making matters worse, missions had the tendency to randomly not be assigned to everyone in the group. A couple hours later and we never wanted to touch the Job Board again. The caveat to this, these missions are the best way to level up your Battleframe and receive loot.
The story missions have been a highlight in the game for me, but when it came to attempt to complete them as a group, once again trying to complete them as a group added an unexpected complication. Each of the story missions are locked out (or gated) until reaching a specific level with a Battleframe. If one member of the group is eligible to start the mission, but the rest of the group has not reached the required level, it can not be completed as a group. The instance missions can be repeated, so it is possible to run the mission multiple times.
Thumping has been a solid enjoyable grouping experience at any Battleframe level. After figuring out the convoluted crafting and research system, I successfully crafted a Squad Thumper and began each day finding the best available spot of extracting resources. I researched upgraded weapons for my Battleframe, but still can’t figure out what it means. Throwing an invite to anyone close by at the time, players appear to naturally congregate near Thumpers. Everyone working together gets a share of the extracted resources, currency, experience, and any loot that drops from foes. The only downside for Thumping is the lack of advancement in the system. Regardless of what region you are in or your current level, Thumping will always be handled the same way. The enemy waves that will attack may change, but the experience grows stale without any noticeable changes.
The AI hasn’t improved much since launch, with many groups of enemies standing still while you unload your weapons into them before finally reacting. Although it looks like a shooter, with the option to switch from first-person and third-person with the click of a button, Firefall is an MMO first and foremost. Outside of shooting, you’ll find players are leaping into the air with their jetpack and spamming special abilities. The poison cloud is still a favorite of mine when using the BioTech Battleframe.
The free-to-play nature of the game doesn’t allow anyone to pay-to-win, which is a good thing, but allows for a ton of customization for your character and Battleframe. I’ve already covered the basics of the currency system in the early impressions, but all of the items that can be purchased with real-life money can be earned in-game through determination and hard work.
Firefall has the promise to be an engaging free-to-play MMO, but the current state of the game is far from a pristine experience. Endless repetitive Job Board missions will keep players from running out of things to do in-game, but you’ll stop playing well beforehand from boredom. Some of the higher level missions are much enjoyable, but you’ll have to find a way trudge through the early parts of the game to get there. Playing with friends certainly improves the experience, but be prepared for some frustrating moments, as simple mechanics like sharing missions in progress doesn’t exist. The inclusion of PvP allows you to test your Battleframe against others, but the reward system doesn’t appear to be worth the time investment.
Note: The Firefall review was written based on a digital PC version of the game.