January 29 2013
There is clearly "labor of love" being put into Red 5 Studios' first game, Firefall. Set in a distant future after a number of apocalyptic events have devastated the planet, this online shooter tasks you with fighting back hostile forces with an assortment of high-tech weaponry. It also aspires to offer a free-to-play persistent world with many RPG elements such as resource collection, crafting, and progression. I jumped into the stress test over the weekend, and these are my first impressions of Firefall.
The game's artwork and high production values are the first thing that grab your attention. Firefall has a distinctive cel-shaded look and lush environments that don't fail to impress. The world is large, seamless, and beautifully lit, complete with day and night cycles. It's unusual to see open spaces like these in a shooter, and Red 5 has built an enticing world to explore.
First and foremost, Firefall is a shooter. Twitch skills are required - there is no tab-targeting, and they've even decided to dispense with any sort of "lock on" weaponry. You can play from either first-person or third-person perspectives and switch between them on the fly. All of Firefall's "Battleframes," which are akin to classes, feature jet propulsion, so everyone has a high degree of mobility from the get go.
I spent most of my time playing a Dreadnaught Battleframe, which sports a large chaingun as a primary weapon. This gun has a slow wind-up period offset by a very high rate of fire once it gets going. Its alternate ability brings up a shield that helps protect you from projectiles. The first skill I unlocked for it let me root to the ground for improved damage.
Competitive PvP is played via instanced matches, with 3 game types so far including the ever-familiar team deathmatch. Red 5 is fostering an eSport-like atmosphere with an excellent spectator mode and match recording system already in place.
While Firefall's shooter mechanics seem very solid, the game's persistent world is probably it's most distinguishing feature. Granted, it's a work in progress, so it feels like some pieces are still missing, or could, at least, be better explained. You are given some direction through a series of radio messages sent to you by headquarters, but information is sparse regarding how difficult the mission is or even whether or not it can be done solo.
Unlike most shooters, resource collection and crafting are a big part of Firefall. Resources drop off the various creatures in the world, and they can also be obtained by calling down and protecting "Thumpers." These machines implant themselves in the ground and gradually fill up with materials, during which time the local wildlife gets very aggressive and tries to destroy them. It's a rather novel gathering mechanic that ties resource collection to combat, although there is a somewhat repetitive nature to it.
A major part of the PvE in Firefall involves fighting back an alien race called The Chosen. This ruthless foe will attack player outposts and take them over if players don't put up an adequate defence. All the mechanics of this don't appear to be in place yet, but it looks like they intend to make it possible for players to lose their territory completely, forcing some sort of restart.
Red 5 seems to be taking all the time they need to get it right, and it shows. Firefall has been in closed beta for over a year and they have yet to announce a release date for the game. There's a lot to like about it already so I'm looking forward to seeing how it shapes up.