Fallen Earth: Blood Sports PvP Impressions


phrase that I've heard tossed
around in the MMOG industry
with increasing frequency over the past few years is “easy to
learn, difficult to master”. Most often this will be said in
reference to something as core to the experience as combat systems, but
I’ve also heard the phrase applied to any number of other
gameplay mechanics. Yet I’ve only experienced relatively few
titles where that phrase rings true when you get right down to the
brass tacks. However, if there were ever a game that exemplifies a
truly easy to learn, difficult to master experience, that game would be

In many ways, Fallen
harkens back to a much
earlier point in the
industry’s history when MMOGs were a much more complex affair
and character advancement meant far more than new tiers of the same
skills you started with being automatically placed on your hotbar. A
time when exploration and the journey were integral to the overall
experience perhaps even more so than the final destination of being
clustered among the critical masses whiling away their days at the
level cap waiting for the next expansion to arrive.

At the same time, Fallen
also feels light years
ahead of many of
its contemporaries for the simple fact that it does not attempt to fit
neatly into any kind of preconceived notions of what an MMOG is supposed
to be. There is an interesting harmony of balance hidden beneath the
post-apocalyptic facade of the wasteland: for all of Fallen
's many complexities there
are also aspects of gameplay
that offer a high degree of instant gratification. For my gaming
dollar, I believe that it's this type of balance that sets
the true virtual worlds apart from the churning seas of surface level
theme parks that the industry seems so hell bent on achieving.

With that in mind, when I first
heard about href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/84071">Blood
Sports, I
didn't have all that hard of a time imagining where something
like a simple game of capture the flag fits into the bigger picture of
that particular virtual world. The controlled chaos of a fast paced CTF
match is one of the best things since cybernetic brain implants and
as awesome as Prairie Chickens. But the notion of classic arena
based combat scenarios such as CTF, Survival, and Deathmatch, along
with the Fallen Earth team's interesting take on team
objective maps ala Assault does fall neatly into that category of
long term goals with more immediate and tangible gains.

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Last week I reported on my
visit to Icarus Studios and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/interviews/fallen-earth-downsizing">the
team's take on the company downsizing,
however a good portion
of my time and the main focus of my visit was spent sitting down to
take an in-depth look at last Friday's Blood Sports update.
This, folks, is the kind of content
where that phrase “easy to learn, difficult
to master” fits snug as a glove made from scavenged scraps of
leather you found stuffed into a bandit’s back pocket.

While a good deal of time was
spent discussing many of the intricate
details that went into the overall package of patch 1.4, what most
intrigued me was the thorough walkthrough of the Deathmatch and CTF
maps. One of my absolute favorite things is witnessing someone
passionately present one of their creative endeavors, and the
presentation of these maps given by Lead Environment
Artist Cory
Farris, Senior Game Designer Marie Croall and Lead Scripter Michael
Broadwater certainly did not disappoint.

On the surface you may not
realize just how involved a process it can
be to create something as seemingly simple as a CTF map. However, the
attention to detail on the Blood Sports maps is simply mind-boggling.
Not only did Cory point out many of the graphical nuances that have
been added to give each map a layer of visual polish that goes above
and beyond anything the team has managed to create so far, but
everything from the placement of sniper
lofts to the height and shape
of placed objects was carefully scrutinized to provide the most
enjoyable and balanced experience possible.

For example, what appears to be
a reflective surface in Deathmatch
might actually turn out to be a two-way mirror masking the presence of
another player who could then pop out and crack you over the head as
you run past if you're not careful. But were you to approach
that same location from another direction that player would be fully
exposed and potentially even cornered if they're not paying
close enough attention to their surroundings. Even simple objects like
barriers were specifically made to be the same height as a crouching
player, providing a much needed form of cover should you find yourself
pinned down by rifle fire.

Having lived a previous life as
a competitive Unreal
junkie, I was also
pleased to see that the CTF map features
multiple paths for both flag carriers as well as teams attempting to
infiltrate the enemy flag room. But what would Blood Sports be without
a Fallen Earth
twist to the tried and true CTF formula? Rather than
having the flag strapped to your back as you make your way across the
map, you literally carry it in your hands. And as any FE player knows,
if you can pick it up it can be used as a weapon which is exactly what
the flag becomes in the hands of a player.

I left Icarus Studios
thoroughly impressed by what I was shown, but as
the saying goes the proof is in the playing. Since players can dive
into Blood Sports from the surprising early entry point of level 5, I
decided to whip myself up a fresh clone to see if I could put some of
the excellent insights gleaned from Cory's walkthrough of the zones to
good use.

A quick return trip through
Midway later I hit the magical level 5 and
hopped on my horse to set out for the nearest NPC who could register me
to participate in Blood Sports. I naturally made a few stops to
scavenge along the way, and after being slaughtered by a pack of angry
Blood Rabbits that apparently weren't all too keen on me
butchering their friends to make a new pair of shoes, I was feeling
pretty confident with my melee skills. And what better place to put
them to work than in some CTF matches?

Once registered, you can queue
for Blood Sports matches from anywhere
you'd like with a few clicks of your mouse, but rather than roaming too
far away from town,
instead I opted to scan through the list of available rewards. Needless
to say, the devs did a good job of creating gear that certainly makes
it worth your time to dive into PvP. At the end of a match
you'll be rewarded Deathtoll which is a form of currency that can be
used to purchase the
available items for your current tier. The amount you gain depends on a
number of different factors such as your overall performance during the
match, and in the case of CTF a larger amount of DT is awarded to the
winning team.


can queue for a Blood Sports match from
anywhere in the world.

As I tend to keep some pretty
nutty hours, I was pleasantly surprised
that matches opened up fairly quickly even in the lowest tier in the
wee hours of the night. I'm sure the shiny newness played a
role in that part of things, though given how enjoyable the overall
experience is I expect that Blood Sports will become a staple activity
for many players in each bracket. I personally found the hectic nature
of my first matches provided an excellent contrast to the much slower
pace of the lower level PvE aspects the game. Additionally, I suspect
that Blood Sports will ultimately breathe new life into conflict towns
once more players become hooked on the experience.

In the coming weeks, I plan on
diving headlong into the other various
aspects that make up the larger whole of the update. In the meantime,
Blood Sports is just what the doctor ordered and is an excellent
addition to
Fallen Earth. The new content it provides is polished, easy to get
into, but most importantly it's fun to play.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Fallen Earth Game Page.

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