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If I were to ask you what was the most story-intensive, roleplayer-friendly MMO released this year, Fallen Earth might not be the first title that comes to mind. Sure FE gets bonus points for sheer genre-busting prowess - it's certainly the only active game of its kind in our list of 300+ MMOs. But if you can get past the somewhat wooden animations, middling graphics, and occasionally flaky AI, you might find yourself on the cusp of the kind of ensconcing setting and story that few MMOs can top. We'll deliver the opening salvo of our opinions on the newest indy title on the MMO block in Loading... Fallen Earth First Impressions.
Here's today's top 5 Pulse results:
target="_blank">World of Warcraft
- href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/254">Aion (UP 1)
& Dragons Online (down 1)
- Age of Conan (UP 1)
2 (down 1)
Biggest movers this past week:
- 10/1 -
10/3 - href="http://fanfest.eveonline.com/">EVE Online FanFest
- 10/23 - 10/24
Of all the scenarios explored in the sci-fi and fantasy genres of fiction, nothing strikes a chord like the post-apocalyptic setting. Skillful fantasy storytellers can use orcs and elves to draw interesting paralells to our own world: R.A. Salvatore's insights into racism and prejudice are a major theme in the Drizzt series, for example. Stories about space travel thrill the imagination, but the ugly truth is that we're an impossibly long way from anything possibly worth the trip, and will be until science makes yet another leap of Copernican proportions. Knowing what we know of human nature, survival and the rebuilding period following a cataclysmic modern event seems like the most likely and perhaps the most instructive of all imaginative works set in the near future.
It's just this sort of world that Fallen Earth drops us into, and its not nearly as unwelcoming as it sounds. You'll find yourself a newly awakened clone - the last possible clone of your kind at this facility, just to up the ante a little - deep in the depths of Hoover Dam. A madman has been using LifeNet (the combination respawn / fast transit system) for his own experiments, and in a grudgingly rare display of teamwork, the major factions of the area have teamed up to take him out. Not to spoil any surprises (and there's quite a few surprises to be had), but you need to get out of the dam, and quickly. In other words, you won't be killing ten rats or delivering any letters in this starting area.
But before players even get into the game, character creation deserves more than a passing mention. While I've seen more detail-oriented character creation systems, I've never seen a game offer so much variety with character appearance. You won't be able to adjust the bridge of your nose or the height of your cheekbones, for example, but tattoos for the face and every limb, face paint, hair and the ability for males to tweak the color of your hair, sideburns, and facial hair independently (females get belly tattoos and piercings) are all fair game. You'll also get a fine assortment of skin colors, hair styles, shirt and shoes options, facial features, and the ability to scale your body from gnomish to he-man. The only thing you won't be able to customize right off the bat is, interestingly, your pants. For whatever reason, you're stuck with New York Knicks warmup pants to begin your dystopian journey through the dam.
Two things that character creation doesn't have is point assignment or class selection. Fallen Earth is a class-less game, and you'll be assigning APs (ability points) as you level up. But I can't emphasize enough how very different, even with the passing glance we usually give NPCs and player characters. Lead Game Designer Lee Hammock promised that we'd never see our likeness in-game, and in light of how character creation turned out, we'll consider that a promise kept.
After you get over the character model options, the graphics begin to pall a bit. We hear art director types speak of photo-realism and stylized realism - Fallen Earth uses more of a suggestive realism. The setting, though interesting in the abstract, appears fairly flat - there's little dimensional feel or a mood-enhancing use of darkness. The splayed corpses of the Hoover Dam dead evoke less a feeling of widespread and grizzly loss than maybe an unending string of storage rooms for castoff muppets.There are also minor problems with scale - the huge fireman's axe you'll yank from a corpse's head to first arm yourself looks more like a hatchet in its former nesting place. The animations are a bit jerky and stodgy too - characters don't appear to react to damage at all and, most unfortunately, running down an underdweller mutant with an ATV doesn't appear to have any visual impact whatsoever, not even a little knockback.
Gameplay likewise takes some getting used to. When approaching my first enemy, I couldn't figure out how to wield said axe, and thus ensued an impromptu Three Stooges routine where the merc was slapping me and missing and I bobbed, weaved, and backtracked while trying desperately to pull up a keymap from the options menu. Tto save you the same indignity, [tab] puts you in aiming mode. No doubt the ever helpful Ellen Winters voiceover was trying to impart this information (the high quality of the voiceovers were a very nice surprise), and as I found out, it's helpful to play the tutorial with the volume up or some headphones. Subtitles or log messages are always a welcome addition in a game that relies on voiceovers, as it's easy to miss some important instructions in the heat of combat.
Later on, at one of Hoover Dam's more evocative moments, you'll jump off a ladder only to find yourself overmatched and pursued by mutants to another ladder. Not knowing the keymap actually saved my life at this point, since after jumping off the ladder I was unarmed and, with two weapons equipped, hitting tab put me in unarmed aiming mode. I ran for my life and only afterward figured out that Crtl-[number] changes your weapon. Restoring your former armed state after hopping off the ladder or by default allowing players to select a weapon by scrolling the mousewheel would have been welcome FPS-inspired features but, as we've been told countless times, Fallen Earth is not an FPS. You'll stay in third-person, for one thing, and there are no "zoom in" aiming options for basic weapons. It's all about skillfully using your abilities and keeping the target inside your range and reticule as you pull the trigger or swing your melee weapon.
The AI was surprisingly daft at times, too. On approaching a group of mercs, I was able to fire on and kill each of them in turn without as much of a raised eyebrow from the other enemies in the group. Perhaps I unknowingly went off-script, but later on I was tasked with defending some survivors against an enemy that never showed up. I'm not complaining too much, since I got the quest update and went on my merry way (I like to think that the mercs saw me standing there with the Chota and high-tailed it) but it's a little worrisome that the starting area had several bugs that (while not game-breakers) nonetheless detracted from the overall experience.
But Hoover Dam is really just a prologue, and when you find yourself on the other side tasked with ensuring that your next death won't kill you (how's that for pressure in an MMO?), you'll start to feel yourself being drawn into a story experience like few other MMOs can offer. After all, you're just level 2 when you come out of Hoover Dam, and while the starting area had a few memorable meetings, Zanesville is already showing me that Fallen Earth isn't the sort of game that puts it's best foot forward in the tutorial.
While the setting and style aren't for everyone, Lee and others have told us time and time again that Fallen Earth is certifiably a niche MMO, meaning on their budget they'd be ecstatic with a number of subscribers that probably seems like chump change to other games. And, as niche MMOs go, Fallen Earth provides just the sort of hooks and compelling experiences that could, with a little imagination, provide the right sort of post-apoc inspired playerbase with years worth of enjoyment. It's like Phillip K. Dick wrote a choose-your-own-adventure novel and you get to be the protagonist. To me, that's well worth putting up with a few bugs and graphical stodginess for.
Played Fallen Earth? What's your opinion? Share it in the
forum. You can also check out some screens, trailers, and video of Fallen Earth at our game portal here.
This just in... Star Wars: The Old Republic beta signups begin (thanks AngryBeaver!). I know at least a few of you will want to pounce on that news!
Shayalyn's Epic Thread of
From our SWTOR General Discussion forum
it comes to Star Wars, we've witnessed the firepower of a fully armed
and operational battle station, but when it comes to Star Wars: The Old
Republic, what does it mean when BioWare says their game is fully
operational? In MMO terms it might mean that all the groundwork has
been laid, or that the game is ready for closed friends and family
beta. We've decided to speculate in today's epic thread. Join the discussion!
Awesome Quotes from the
"I take it to mean that they have
a solid working version of the game and now the focus has switched to
the details. Sorta like when a car has a working engine but still needs
body work before it's road ready.
Hopefully, what it really means is we will be seeing more of it! "
Have you spotted an Epic Thread on our forums? Tell
5 new Ten Ton Hammer MMOG features today! 85
September! 1,037 in
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Dragon Age: Origins An Overview of Classes and Specializations
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Champions Online Comic: Zeroes - "Super-Impotence"
Champions Online is based entirely off of superheroes. The big, the bad, and the bold all share Millennium City as their home. But what about the less than average caped crusaders? Who will tell their story? This week a poor young lad experiences a certain lack of power in a certain part of his anatomy... don't worry, it's sort of kid-friendly:
- Intro to PvP in Aion
- Dragon Age: Origins An Overview of Classes and Specializations
- World of Warcraft: Ulduar - General Vezax Strategy
- World of Warcraft: Onyxia Guide - How to Slay Dragons
Ton Hammer's Aion Screenshot Contest
New Player Portal
to Aion Graphic Settings
Ton Hammer's Aion FAQ
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Thanks for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network!
- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer team
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Fallen Earth Game Page.