The First Look at Fallen Earth

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.

8 responses to “The First Look at Fallen Earth

  1. I’ve managed to re-install Fallen Earth. Wasn’t too hard. A lot easier than re-installing Allods, which I also did this weekend. Only logged in once so far to check my old characters were still there, which they are.

    Consequently most of my information on the game is dragged out of my ever-unreliable memory from the three months from launch when I last played. Back then you definitely did not have to rely on player-made gear. You could buy decent gear from NPCs. I believe that was changed specifically for the F2P launch.

    People always used to be comparing FE to pre-NG SWG in chat back then, but there didn’t seem to be much consensus whether that comparison was a fair one or not. Since I only bought SWG a week after NGE I’m not in a position to judge. Personally, I never found FE to be all that much of a sandbox. It’s chock full of quests, for a start. There must be thousands of them. They aren’t optional, either, because you have to do quests to get AP and if you don’t get AP, while your level goes up your effectiveness doesn’t.

    There are indeed instances. Quests quite often send you into buildings or caves that turn into private instances as you enter. The process isn’t all that obvious and I sometimes didn’t even realize I was in an instance for a while.

    I really don’t remember feeding my horse. Maybe it’s just one of those having to have the feed on you things? I thought I did remember horses having a clear advantage over vehicles in that you definitely can’t run a car without gas while you could just get a horse and not have to worry on that score. maybe they changed it.

    My highest character is 22nd and, as I say, I haven’t played since about three months after launch. I did think at the time, though, that all the talk about FE being old-school and “hard” was wishful-thinking. At that time it was no more “old school” or “sandbox” than LotRO or Vanguard, and it was considerably “easier” than either.

    What Fallen Earth was that probably reminded people of the good old days was slow. Distances are vast, travel speeds were glacial even with a vehicle and doing anything at all took an absolute age. I suspect people mistook the funereal pace for difficulty.

    I look forward to finding out how much this has changed.

  2. Well, I can’t speak to how things were prior to this week, but offhand:

    You get APs at random intervals from doing stuff, including harvesting, mob kills and crafting. Some but not all quests also give you APs. As long as progression isn’t actively locked out in some capacity by avoiding quests, I don’t see any fundamental reason why having a lot of quests is incompatible with a sandbox (although in practice it often seems to work this way.) The non-Boolean sandbox vs. themepark variable is worth a blog post in its own right. On the other hand, just having a heavy emphasis on crafting doesn’t make it a sandbox either. Which is why I’m hedging my bets on that.

    On the horses, you definitely have to hit a button to feed them, although it may happen automatically when endurance goes too low. When it dips below 100 or so, riding speed slows way down, and when it goes below 20 it slows to a crawl. I believe I did get some feed along with the horse, but I burned through it; I’ll have to pay more attention to how it works now that I’ve made some of my own.

    As far as how old-school it is, I think it feels old school due to the graphics, the pace and the detailed systems. I’m not sure how old school it is, and I’m not sure I’m ready to place it on any kind of EQ-SWG-Vanguard scale at this point. I also don’t see where it’s super challenging if you’re patient and persistent, but I’m still very low on the leveling ladder, so that could easily be something that changes.

  3. Um, there are, near every town small and large, “gas stations” where you’ll find the stable manager, and there’s another NPC right near him that sells horse feed. I’m a bit surprised you reached level 5 without finding the gas stations — unless you literally didn’t leave the town itself, as the gas stations are a very short walk out of town, but nonetheless they are outside of the towns.

    The “log in so we can drop you back to your desktop and stare at a web-browser opening with an ad” is literally the most annoying thing that has happened to this game. They get rid of that stupidity and my score for this game goes up dramatically.

    • I’ve been out of South Burb a bunch, but I haven’t made any serious effort to survey the outskirts completely. And I’ve avoided going to the next town, in an effort to finish everything on South Burb first – which I’m nowhere close to. I will check around for this next time I’m in game.

  4. The gas stations (that’s what they look like) are usually along the roads as you leave the area of a town. I think in North Burb it’s heading out to the north of town. Can’t remember where it was near South Burb.

  5. I’m really glad to hear you’ve liked Fallen Earth well enough at this point, Ardwulf. I re-subscribed (I’ve been on-again, off-again since lauch) just before the F2P conversion and I’ve been playing this exclusively since. To build on some of Bhagpuss’ comments, the game used to be ridiculously easy – he’s right about that. With a “normal” melee build, you could literally wade through the NPCs without a scratch. However, that all changed with the combat update a few months back. Mobs are serious business (at least much more so than any other MMO save perhaps Darkfall that I’ve played) and in pairs or more *will* kill you. Also, the horses have always required food. The advantge over vehicles is that it’s cheaper than gas.

    The gas stations are generally along roads as mentioned by Mike, but it is much cheaper to make your own horse feed than it is to buy it from the stable guy (as is generally going to be the case).

    If you ever need anything crafted, just let me know. I’m up to level 39 now, my character, Slimm, is a dual-wielding pistoleer / crafter. See you in the Wasteland!

  6. Sounds like you are off to a rocking start, and I am sure an opinion will start formulating as you get deeper into the world. What’s your character’s name though?