I am still not ready to lay my cards on the table regarding Fallen Earth. I’ve been a bit frustrated with it, a bit impressed by it, and very reserved all around. A solid opinion has not yet coalesced. I did, however, play for a few additional hours over the course of the weekend and reached level 5, questing and harvesting and crafting in and around South Burb.
The biggest issues I have had so far are various logon, authentication and disconnect issues, which it seems like G1 is having a tough time with in the wake of the changeover. I’d thought that this was me and my flaky internet connection (I have someone coming out to look at it on Tuesday,) but it seems from perusing the forums that I’m not the only one having similar problems. Logon issues, whatever the cause, are hugely problematic and even damaging for an MMO, so this is something that needs to get resolved speedily.
I have nevertheless managed to log about five hours in total now, and what I see in the game, so far, is rough around the edges but extremely promising. It does not appear to have the sandbox potential of an early-era SWG or an EVE Online, but I could easily be wrong about that, and at the lowest levels at least it seems to be developed well enough on the mechanical side. I’m especially impressed with the focus on crafting; pretty much everything is player-crafted, even in the early game, outside of the very first set of crappy gear you get in the tutorial and first couple of missions.
You get a horse, for example, shortly after the tutorial, but it needs to be fed – vehicles in Fallen Earth have an endurance which needs to be replenished via horse-food or fuel or whatever. In the horse’s case, this regenerates glacially slowly on its own – it seems like it would take days to regenerate fully, and I’m not sure it would regenerate at all in the case of gas-powered vehicles. Nowhere could I find (other than the auction house,) a place to buy horse feed – you have to make it. Vehicles (including horses) are also persistent; they stay where you leave them instead of vanishing into thin air when you dismount. There’s a marker for them on the map, and you can go to a stablemaster and pay them to tow a vehicle in, but that can be costly.
Fallen Earth also has a nice post-apocalyptic vibe going on. It’s more Road Warrior than Fallout, which is something I appreciate. Goofy ultra-tech is kept to a minimum outside of the necessary in-game rationale for endless resurrections, and the immersion is pretty strong, especially considering the dearth of background music and environmental effects. The world is (once you’re out of the tutorial, which happens before you hit level 2,) shardless, instance-free and enormous, and the draw distance seems pretty high. There’s no housing, although it’s a feature that’s been promised. You can also play in either first or third-person modes; and unlike, say, Darkfall, the interplay between the two is not clumsy and both perspectives actually work.
The free-to-play model, though, is clumsy. The Fallen Earth marketplace is external to the game – clicking the menu item in-game takes you outside the client to the website – and it contains relatively few items, some of which are priced… oddly. Extra character slots, for example, are $30, the highest price I have ever seen for such a thing. Not everything is similarly high, though, and you can pay for everything, including subscriptions, through PayPal, which is nice. The idea seems to be to give people a taste and drive players toward subscriptions rather than microtransactions, more so than other converted western games. Those other examples have by and large moved away from this, but they also all have in-game marketplaces. An external store that requires a separate login will cut down on impulse buys and I think it’s a big hindrance. Whether this or whatever it evolves into will work or not is something that we’ll have to see.
It seems to me that what Fallen Earth needs is some love in the form of development dollars. The question is whether or not f2p will bring in as many new people as the developers hope. Although the early areas are chock full of people, I’m not sure it will; it appears on the surface to be a grind-heavy sandbox, and games like that have trouble getting traction in the marketplace. But, if they do, they tend to retain loyal and forceful audiences… which can even be pretty large, as EVE attests. Personally, I’ll take ambition over flawlessness, and Fallen Earth is a more ambitious game than anything that’s come out since, and more than anything on the horizon right now, with the possible exception of Guild Wars 2. More importantly, it’s one of those games that, even if it’s imperfectly implemented and (it seems) underfunded, hasn’t completely lost track of what an MMO is supposed to be. That is very rare. And it makes it worth checking out.
EDIT: Apparently I’m wrong about it being instanceless. I’ll be looking to learn more on this angle.