previews\ Apr 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Fallen Earth: Welcome to the Apocalyse preview


There are times when a title comes along and takes a player by surprise, providing a rich and entertaining experience with a robust world and plenty of things to do in that world.

That describes Icarus Studio’s Fallen Earth, a post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer online role-playing game that, on the surface, seems easy enough to jump into and play. But look deeper and that initial mask of simplicity covers a deep gaming experience sure to delight those into min-max’ing characters and intrigued by the possibilities of building the perfect class.

The setting for the game has a semi-Mad Max feel, and takes place amidst the destroyed towns that emulate Arizona and the southwest. The setting was the result of nuclear war in the wake of a nasty virus released on the world (the Shiva Virus), which has mutated just about everything, including the players’ characters.

In fact, the characters that players have in the game are not actually unique. They are clones, and with the original DNA destroyed, one of the early game quests will involve harvesting DNA to help recreate the basic code needed to regenerate the player’s avatar should death happen… and it will, perhaps often.

The game has a flexible class structure that enables players to built characters the way he or she sees fit. There are eight stat areas, nine skill areas (more about leveling these up in a moment) and the mutation tree that can be climbed. Of course, there are ranged weapons, like the beginning zip rifles and pistols, as well as melee weapons, and then there are the mutated skills – which are akin to magic and empower the players with some arcane skill sets.

Dual-wielding weapons are available at the start and characters will enter the world with a rifle, a two-handed melee weapon, pistols on the belt, and piercing/slashing belt weapons – all equipped and accessible through hitting the F keys. There is, though, a delay in equipping and ranged weapons will run out of ammunition and need to be reloaded (the supply of ammunition is finite as well). The weapons themselves range from familiar weapons like katana, to household items used as weapons – like corkscrews, a frying pan, or a garden hoe. One of the characters in the GameZone clan was dual-wielding lawnmower blades.

The NPC enemies are mutated or undead, or just crazed humanoids. The quest structure is pretty good and guides players through the early stages of the game easily. Want a mount? Run the extended tutorial and you will end up with a horse. However, horses eat grain and that involves a meter that needs to be kept up. If the horse’s stamina runs low (replenished with a feed bag), it will walk. Horses lead to ATVs, which lead to motorcycles, dune buggies and ultimately to the Interceptor automobile – think the car Mel Gibson drove in the Mad Max films and you have an idea. Each has storage space and helps players traverse the vast world a bit faster.

That may be one of the detractors about the game – everything is a long ways away, and some of the towns entered as a newbie may involve a trek through a PvP sector. However, while PvP in Fallen Earth is in place, most of the time (so far in my experience) the player-versus-player battles are linked to duels. In general, the community on the single game server is pretty friendly and helpful.

When it comes to the tradeskills side of the game, the mentality is that skills are raised as a task is done. Sure, there are books to buy to unlock, say, skinning a mutant creature, but generally if one harvests, those skills are raised. Crafting is partitioned into ballistics, science, weapons, food, armor and so on. There are 11 tradeskills in total.

As players go through the game, they earn AP – action points. AP is used to raise skills and helps a player specialize. However, during the course of playing the game (the level cap is 50) the AP accrued will narrow how many skills can be capped, meaning that – sooner or later – players find a specialized role in the game.

On the downside, there can be a sense of the familiar feel of the game betraying a player just trying to move through at a nice pace. Some quests are tied to levels or tradeskill levels (like a quest to build an ATV), and – of course – weapons and armor is tied to skill levels. And the interface has a mild learning curve.

But Fallen Earth is about the community and experience, and while there are a host of quests to undertake, and crafting to indulge in, players can also relax and gamble a little. Many of the towns have areas that feature slot machines and bars where players can drink and lose all their money. (No worries, most of the food and drink in the game does not intoxicate as much as it provides temporary player buffs.)

The language, though, is what separates Fallen Earth from family fun to a game geared more for adult/mature players. There is cussing in the game, and the player’s avatar may toss out a few choice epithets when hit during combat.

There are also various factions that players can side with and the clan structure is decently done.

Fallen Earth is a game that has done a lot of things right. The graphics are solid, the sound effects fit nicely, and the title has a great deal of depth to it. While there are core elements of the MMO genre that underscore the game, overall Fallen Earth provides a setting and is a title that steps away from the miasma of fantasy titles and forges a fairly unique trail in the MMO space.

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