Firing up the standalone launcher for Firefall, the Community feed tab emits the warm glow of a new welcome message for players. It notes that the official launch day for the game has been a long time coming – a sentiment that reflects my own thoughts precisely.
Having had access to the game client for the better part of two years at this point, I’ve had the opportunity to witness Firefall not just evolve, but recreate itself at numerous points in between. What began as a stylized third-person competitive shooter with just enough PvE to keep you busy between multiplayer matches has since morphed into more of a full scale MMO.
Admittedly, it had been some time since I’ve last played the game. Not so much due to lack of interest, but the downtime was merely symptomatic of what happens when you’re exposed to a beta client for such an extended period.
The new generation of Early Access titles on Steam and paid betas masquerading as “founders programs" can likely learn a lot from the team at Red 5 Studios if any of them care to listen. In many ways, Red 5 has helped pioneer the concept of massive, extended beta periods that so closely resemble a live game scenario that it can be difficult to tell the difference.
For all intents and purposes, the line in the sand used to be that if money is being accepted to access your software or for associated perks or benefits, your product is considered live in the market. This was definitely the perception of Firefall for quite some time, for better or worse.
What this can lead to is that bizarre phase where press outlets attempt to pin a review score on a piece of software that is still experiencing growing pains. The fact of the matter is, a review for Firefall penned a year ago would horribly misrepresent the now properly launched game.
In fact, as of this writing there is a lone review listed on Metacritic for FireFall. Our friends over at MMORPG.com saw fit to review the game nearly one year ago (August 14, 2013 to be exact) even though the game was still deep into its beta phase. See the above notes on press having a difficult time determining when to review a title that is accepting real cash payments, yet still labeled a beta (meaning, not final) product, and you’ll understand why I don’t fault my peers for jumping the gun by almost a full year with their review.
Still, that review is now baked into the metascore of Firefall, exposing potential readers who might not pick up on the original run date to direct quotes such as:
“It’s a little rough around the edges…”
“Just be prepared to roll with the work-in-progress nature of the game…”
Not exactly the stuff of great television marketing campaign quotes.
So how has Firefall changed over the course of the past year, and does the official launch client represent more than a definitive line in the sand for the game?
I’ll be diving back into the game and addressing those questions with my rolling impressions over the next couple of weeks. I’m reluctant to call it a review in progress, though I suppose you could pin that moniker on the resultant series of articles if you’d like. A key difference for me is that a review needs to be definitive, while this series of impressions articles are far more organic in nature.
We’ve also heavily reworked our review process in hopes of increasing transparency, and cutting more directly to the answers consumers are seeking when checking out game reviews in the first place. Is the game fun? Is it worth my time to download and play? Are there any monetary gotchas with the business model? Will the game appeal to me based on similar genre experiences?
Diving into the live game client of Firefall, I hope to discover the answers to each of those questions along the way. I’d welcome and encourage you to follow me during that journey of rediscovery, but if you want to cut to the chase stay tuned for our full review within the next couple of weeks.
Have some thoughts you’d like to share on how Firefall has evolved into the full game launch? We love discussing games with our readers as much as we do informing you about the MMO industry, so be sure to drop a comment below.