While it could be plain bad timing, it's a little difficult to get too excited about another apocalyptic game at the moment. That is strike one. That Fallen Earth attempts to do some new things with the genre -- high-speed transportation from the start, FPS-like handling for ranged attacks -- is great, and a lack of grinding is refreshing. However, at its core the game just isn't really any more fun to play than any other MMO.
- Interesting attempt at FPS-style gameplay
- Early access to vehicles
- Mission assignments in the field
- FPS-style gameplay doesn't really work
- Low-rent graphics
Once upon a time the apocalypse was something to be feared--a looming threat, just a call on the red phone away. Now that idea seems quaint. People today are less concerned with death from nukes than with the death of their iPhone batteries. The result: virtual Armageddon playgrounds, and that’s exactly what we get with Fallen Earth. It’s a post-apocalyptic MMO with shooter aspirations. Does it deliver? Not so much.
Welcome Back to the Wasteland
Fallen Earth gets the first plot twist out of the way within the first five minutes, so I don’t feel bad spoiling it for you here. Turns out, you’re a clone bred specifically for the evil whims of Brenhauer, a man seemingly working to rebuild human civilization after its decimation by a nasty virus. In actuality, he’s chasing more nefarious desires. One of his associates is trying to take him down and has enlisted you-- straight out of the birthing chamber--to join the fight. Along the way you’ll perish early and often, but fear not: clones are easily reborn, keeping you fighting as you explore the wasteland.
You’re not fighting on the Capital Wasteland, but it is mighty close. The game takes place on a thoroughly brown expanse filled with mutated beasts that alternate between “peaceful grazing” and “ferocious attacking,” just like in other MMOs. Given the familiar feel and comparisons to the two other wasteland games that have been popular of late, it’s hard not to feel like this is a bit...derivative; however, it’s not all sameness.
You do, almost immediately, get yourself a mount: a horse requiring only occasional care -- the odd bag of grain will get you by. Upgrades to slightly more exciting motorized buggies and ATVs aren’t far off, either. However, they’re no more exciting to ride than the starter nag. The driving experience here makes the simplistic vehicle physics in Borderlands seem positively rich in comparison. Sure beats walking, though.
Class and Care Free
Character creation is typically expansive, offering plenty of visual tweaks to sculpt a character to fit your desires -- so long as you don’t mind a weather-beaten visage. (The wasteland is hell for complexions, apparently.) What you won’t be picking is a class. Progression here goes in whatever direction you like. There are various templates that can be selected based on whether you want to be a long-range shooter or a short-range brawler, but they provide nothing other than suggestions about where you should spend your ability points, which there are never enough of.
One place you’ll surely need to allocate those precious digits is on abilities having to do with crafting. Items like bandages and weapons are hard to find. It makes sense, this being an apocalyptic wasteland and all, but I’d much rather go and drop a few poker chips for some goods (a Vegas-based economy rules here) than spend 20 minutes crafting them. But, if you’re one of those rare souls who’d rather meld a collection of junk into something usable then go and explore the land looking for things to kill, this is, certainly, the game for you.
Meanwhile, those who prefer combat may or may not feel fulfilled. The melee combat is just like in any other MMO – click to attack, then watch the numbers fly – but ranged combat attepts to be different. Select a weapon that launches something and crosshairs will appear on the screen that get bigger as you move and smaller as your skills improve, indicating accuracy like any other shooter. That is definitely what Fallen Earth is trying to be -- a shooter -- but it doesn’t quite work. It could be said that Hellgate: London missed the boat on the MMO side of the merger when it unsuccessfully tried to bring the two genres together. Fallen Earth instead misses the FPS angle.
The fact Fallen Earth falls short is largely thanks to the targets you shoot at. Your average shooter has opponents with at least a modicum of intelligence (whether human or artificial) that require cunning and skill to beat. Here, opponents will typically stand still, ignoring your zeroing in with a glorified pellet gun. Once hit they’ll come a runnin’, zigging and zagging wildly while occasionally warping from here to there, making continued hits difficult. An optimist would say they’re trying to avoid your fire, but they just look confused. And, with no PvP gameplay at all, those brain-dead goons are all you have to shoot at.
While apocalyptic wastelands are supposed to be nasty, that’s no excuse for the lack of visual fidelity here. Textures are necessarily drab, but they’re also repetitive as tufts of scrubgrass and the like offer the only variety. The game takes place in the rocky desert near the Grand Canyon, a place that in real life is filled with beautiful colors and landscapes. It’s all brown here. Player and character animations are similarly simplistic and the models wouldn’t have stood out a few years ago. It all works and works well enough, but pales in comparison to the visuals provided by other recent entrants to the genre.
On the audio front, there’s a similar lack of variety, with opponents all issuing similar grunts and war cries as they attack or are attacked. Vehicle exhaust tones are universally monotonous, but the various whinnies and grunts from your early four-legged whip are at least authentic enough.
Crafter’s Paradise, Gamers’ Delight?
While it could be plain bad timing, it’s a little difficult to get too excited about another apocalyptic game at the moment. That is strike one. That Fallen Earth attempts to do some new things with the genre -- high-speed transportation from the start, FPS-like handling for ranged attacks -- is great, and a lack of grinding is refreshing. However, at its core the game just isn’t really any more fun to play than any other MMO and that, combined with a middling graphics engine and storyline, means Fallen Earth blends into the background like a desert texture on a sea of brown.