Brian's F2P Vision Quest: Firefall

Welcome to Brian’s F2P Vision Quest! Every week, I’ll pick a new free to play MMORPG or game and play it for at least an hour a day to try and get a feel for the game. Then I let the world know my findings so they can try it for themselves or just let it die. There’s a lot of F2P games out there, so let’s get started: this week’s subject is the long-in-development and just released Firefall.

Firefall did not leave me with a very good first impression when I opened it up. I started up the game and hit new character. It threw me into the game, right out, telling me nothing except go to a location with no context at all. At this point I said “wait…did I miss something? Did I miss a character creation screen or something?” Nevertheless I pushed forward, picked up my starting battleframe (or class) and finished the intro where we killed some enemies to defend a couple points. Still no character creation.

So I started a new character, which begged another issue: you’re tied to only one character per account. In context, it sort of makes sense as you are able to switch battleframes at will and they each have their own level tied to them, but it still struck me as odd. I created my character again, and no customization. But this time, the intro bugged out on me, and I was unable to fire my weapon. At all. Even after the intro finished.

Okay, round three of making a character and doing the intro. Finished, no problem. It wasn’t til I Googled “Firefall Character Creation” however that I found out it was done in stations scattered around the world called “new you stations.” Still, after several hours and no sign of character creation, I was wary.

That’s my main problem with the game though: it doesn’t tell you anything about how to do almost anything. It leaves major things like crafting, character creation, and even the secondary fire of the primary weapon i up to the player to figure out. These are all things I could easily figure out by Googling, but why should I have to? A game should be able to tell you about itself without having to Google “How do I craft items” in game. I imagine these tutorials or explanations will be added later in the game’s life cycle, but right now it’s just unclear.

All of that aside, how is the game itself? The word “bland” ¬†comes quickly to mind. Every battleframe has jump jets on them that allow you to fly around and jump higher, making combat have a sense of Titanfall-esque verticality to it ii. Aside from that, combat is standard FPS fare. The different classes have different primary weapons and abilities that do different things, but it all comes down to shoot the bad guys til there aren’t any left.

The questing structure also just comes across as bland. Instead of having quest givers like traditional MMOs, players take randomly generated quests from a job board. Randomly generated quests could be an interesting concept, except the quests almost always boil down to “go here, kill some things, go over here, kill some more things, go over there, kill some other things. Come back, and you’re done.”

It's a big world with nothing to do, and not much to explore
It’s a big world with nothing to do, and not much to explore

To add to frustration and to pad out time playing the game, the quest locations are almost always random and very far apart. This means you spend a lot of time running from place to far away place just to kill some more things. Apparently, you can buy vehicles with the real world bought currency (more on that in a second) that make travel easier, but as a free player it was like hitting my head against a wall. Central locations have gliders you can use to fly around for some distances, but those only help so much.

Every once in a while, a story quest will pop up that takes you to a different location to do something, and these can be interesting, but it still comes to the same “kill things, defend location, collect items” stuff. Not bad, just bland.

One thing I found interesting in the game, was the way crafting materials were obtained in the game world. This was done by scanning a location with a hammer for raw materials. If you find some, you can call in a “thumper” which will come down and mine the materials you find. The thumper will attract nearby monsters’ attention though, so you have to defend it until it can finish its mining duties, and often times players will come and help you out. These are some of the only times I felt that a community was truly forming in the game, moreso even than the random and somewhat useless “world events” that pop up in the game, similar to fates from iii Final Fantasy XIV ARR.

It’s more interesting than crafting, anyway, which simply comes down to drop materials in a thing and watch them come out as stuff. You can research new blueprints that act as basic tech trees, but honestly it’s not worth delving into on here, it’s all still pretty bland and exactly what you’d expect.

One last thing I feel the need to touch on is the currency real-world money gets you in the game. The currency is what they call “red beans.” What’s kind of interesting is the fact that red beans can be bought using in game currency if you have enough of it. There are three main “types” of currency in the game: crystite (which is gained through gameplay), credits (bought by spending 25 crystite per credit. It’s used for trading house transactions and buying red beans in-game) and red beans (which can be bought with real money, and spent on new classes and other pay-worthy stuff).

As of my last playing the game, the exchange rate was about 100 credits to 1 red bean. This means, theoretically, you can get the new classes and subscription benefits without ever paying money, but it would take a very long time, definitely a lot longer than I would be wanting to put into it. There are also other minor currencies like vouchers to buy health pots and base weapons at vendors, but the crystite -> credit -> red bean system forms the crux of the economy.

Now, the first part of my long, long vision quest to play a ton of free to play MMOs is over, and I will move on to different and (hopefully) better thingsiv. Did I like Firefall though? Not particularly. It’s obtuse, bland, and generally not a whole lot of fun to play right now. On a good computer the world looks nice, but it just simply isn’t a whole lot of fun to explore, and it definitely doesn’t give you enough incentive to explore it v.

A year down the line, after it takes care of it’s launch bugs and adds some content I think there could be a game worth checking out here. Also, keep in mind I’m only looking at the early game content to get a feel for these games. The end game could be a blast so really it’s up to you to see if you want to play it for yourself. Even for a free game, personally, I cant imagine wanting to return anytime soon.

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