Fallen Earth: The Review

[note: This review was reprinted at the request of R.W. Harper. It remains his property and is copyright by the author]

Fallen Earth:  The Review by R.W. Harper
Game Title: Fallen Earth
Developer: Icarus Studios, LLC
Publisher: Self Published
Website: http://www.fallenearth.com
Retail Price: $49.99 (including a 1-month subscription) – Note:  There is currently a special running where you can get the game for $29.99 as well as some other discount.  Check their site for details.
Subscription Price: $14.99 per month

In a time where you can’t swing a dead varmint without hitting a fantasy based MMORPG, Icarus Studios released Fallen Earth a few months ago to a gaming community looking for something new and different. I had the pleasure of playing it post release and pre-release in Beta.  It’s a new and refreshing take on MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) gaming and it holds up quite well as an RPG (Role Playing Game) type game – if not also crossing the boundaries into FPS (First Person Shooter) and social gaming.

Awesome Looking Creatures

I took a good bit of time to play the game before writing a review, since I had some doubts early on as to how I really felt about this title and wanted to give it a fair shakedown.  I think after about three months of playing I can confidently say that I like the game a lot.  The game experience is quite immersive and there is nothing about the game play that I find trivial.

Let’s break it down…

The Setting

The Southwest United States is not exactly the most happening place on the planet currently but it’s a bustling paradise compared to other places in the post-Apocolyptic setting that Fallen Earth drops the player into.  Essentially, the world (at least as we know thus far in the lore) is in shambles following a deadly virus outbreak that wipes out most of Humanity.  The environment is full of mutated folks and fauna that are just plain mean, nasty and out to make your time in their territory less-than-pleasurable.  I don’t want to regurgitate the lore, as I doubt that I will do it much justice, but there is a bountiful overview of this great storyline on their official web site.

The Visuals

There’s not much you can do about making the American Southwest more visually appealing that what’s done by the development team at Icarus Studios in Fallen Earth.  It’s just a hard place to make look cheery with inspirational color palettes.

A male character from the game.

There has been a good deal of discussion that the graphics are just plain and uninspiring but then again, what would you expect in post apocalyptic Arizona?  When taking a look at the clothing, vehicles, armaments, towns – it all fits in with the story and lore and I think the folks at Icarus did well to make their environment immersive through the visuals.

However, there are a few things that are annoying to me at the moment.  Characters essentially all look the same.  Body structure and shape is pretty much static and everyone has a strong mongoloid, middle linebacker profile (especially the males).  There are most likely technical reasons for this (texture mapping for armor, attachment placements for animations, etc…).  For some player like me, this is not that big of a deal since I think the game compensates quite well with more tattoos and piercings choices than you would find at a Marilyn Manson concert.

Animations, on the other hand, are the things that get to me sometimes.  Now, before I go into a negative mode here, let me prop up the developers a little.  I don’t hate the animation system – I just think there are some things that are annoying.  This game has a hybrid play style that is admirable.  Melding a first person shooter camera with the additional usage of a third person camera system makes for a long day in the animation department.  Those two view perspective brings with it, a truckload of work, both artistic as well as technical.  However, some of the animations are a little sloppy and blending is sometimes choppy and truncated.   Some animations are just too long and some just require some tweaking.

But, and I say BUT; let it be known that I have the utmost confidence that this system will be improved upon and these things will be addressed – or I will just become acclimated and it will not be annoying to me any more.   There are plenty more things in the game that make this observation trivial when compared to gaming goodness that abounds within this title.

The environments look like what I would expect a wasteland to look like and the creature models are very nicely done.  There’s a nice mix of recognizable flora and fauna along with some that looks like I would imagine mutated creatures would look like.

The Audio

One of the keys to creating an immersive experience in any game is creating an environmental soundscape that capture your attention, or set you at ease, to where you recognize sounds on a subliminal level.  Between the soundtrack (which is original and quite good) and the environmental audio, immersiveness is a guarantee if you’re playing with your sound on.  The areas where the sounds are lacking, or not very appealing, are few and far between.

The Features

If you ask anyone that’s currently playing what their favorite feature of Fallen Earth is, 9 times out of 10 they will tell you about the crafting system.  You create (and this quote varies from person to person) about 95% of everything you will use in-game.  You salvage and scavenge for materials and components to do your own cooking, armor creation, ammo and firearm creation, and just about anything else you would use in game – including mounts.  However, this is strictly optional, as you have ample opportunity to purchase or barter with other players’ in-game for the things you need.  Crafting is not for everyone but for those that enjoy it – you will truly enjoy this system found in this game.

Now that's awesome looking!

There are no classes or archetypes in the game.  You can’t sign up to be a Mage, Ranger or Warrior.  However, you can act like one by learning skills that are open to everyone else in the game.  You can hybridize your skill sets to your heart delight – or you can specialize in anything from Mutatations to Rifles or Melee.  The sky is the limit in defining  you character and just as if it was really you out in the wild of post apocalyptic Arizona – you need to have some sort of way to fend off those mean-ass Prairie Chickens that have just identified you as the “other white meat.”

You earn AP (Advancement Points) as you fight and earn levels. The player earns 20 AP per level that can be used to train in four different areas: Attributes, Active Skills, Mutations, and Tradeskills.  This is explained in great detail on the Fallen Earth web site.  I won’t even attempt it in this review.

There are 6 factions in the game that you have a choice of joining.  Each faction has two allied factions, one arch-enemy faction, and two enemy factions.  However, you don’t have to join a faction.  Being in a faction has benefits and I would refer you to the Fallen Earth web site where they explain it so much better than I ever could.

Combat in the game is a hybrid mix of your familiar FPS and RPG modes.  You can carry out combat in either the first person, or third person, camera perspective. I find myself switching between both a lot, since I like playing in both modes.  Even though the camera views may be different, the combat mechanics still work the same.  There is no target selection (read that:  no click, select and press button to make die).  As the player, you have to use your aiming reticule (which is different between melee and ranged combat) to put your axe or bullets into some poor critters or bandit (or other player’s) face.  The challenge is staying on target as your mark is moving around trying to place his/her weapon in your face at the same time.  It’s all good times.

Again, I refer you to the Fallen Earth web site for detailed information on this great combat mode as well as more features that are contained within this game.

The Community

It’s uncommon to join an online community (an in-game community) these days and not feel annoyed within the first few minutes.  General Chat is usually the bane of any MMO with its usual compliment of clowns and gold spammers.  However, one of the first things that you will notice in Fallen Earth is that these people are pretty decent and somewhat enjoyable to be around.  You can’t go too long in-game without seeing a real GM (Game Manager) or CM (Community Manager) in the chat channels helping out, offering advice, and being friendly and helpful.

Don't even try to be a Gold Spammer in this game or these guys come and visit you and womp you upside the head.

There is a Clan system that will allow players to assemble into an in-game organization complete with their own chat channels and Clan Vaults (to share loot and crafting materials).  This system is fairly typical of other MMORPGs.

The Fallen Earth web site has great community forums that are moderated and quite useful.  If you’ve been intimidated by visiting forums from other MMORPG game communities – don’t fret too much on the Fallen Earth forums.  It’s well moderated and quite tame compared to those other sites.  You will find that people are quite friendly and helpful for the most part, and your errant asshat will find a hard row to hoe, should they go to kicking up a fuss.  The GMs monitor the game and community quite effectively.

Summation

Fallen Earth is a solid game.  It has so many good things going for it that the few annoyances I mentioned above are trivial and not major at all.  Yes, there are bugs but the development team is quick to address them when they are discovered and even happy to offer assistance with work-arounds whenever possible or when they are required.

Those reviewers that have panned the game based on graphics and combat mechanics all had valid observations but it’s my feeling that they didn’t give it enough time to find the true rewarding qualities that this game holds.  This is a game that you have to play a while to figure out if it’s really the game for you.  It is not a game for everyone and the learning curve is steep.  However, it suits me, and I find that my casual play style is right at home in this game.

It’s refreshing to find a new idea or two in a game when so many MMORPGs share design philosophy and can be compared almost directly to one another.  With Fallen Earth, their design philosophy is something unique with some minor similarities to the other MMOs — but with just enough commonality to be familiar and enjoyable.

If there’s one final prop I can give this game, it’s going to be for the writing.  The script and dialogs in this game are just great.  The dialog, especially, is well done and entertaining.   The writing style sets the mood for the game in whole.  The designers and writers at Icarus deserve a well earned atta-boy for this effort.

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