A common thread shared by most shooters is that story driven single
player campaigns and multiplayer PvP tend to be wholly separate
experiences. While the genre has certainly been trending towards
progression or unlock systems that attempt to bridge that gap, there
are truly only a handful of shooters that successfully merge the two
gameplay types into one cohesive experience. Sure, plenty of titles
offer a solid co-op option for campaign modes, but that’s not
the same as a shared, persistent open world.
The open world experience in Firefall
is far more akin to the kind of gameplay we take for granted in MMOs,
but is a definite rarity when it comes to shooters. Red 5 is promoting
the game in a massive way at PAX Prime this weekend with an all new
show floor demo featuring the first chance for gamers to dive into Firefall’s
vast, open world.
To help reinforce the notion of a persistent world in Firefall
the demo at PAX features a pretty interesting twist: show floor
persistence. Anyone who plays the demo during the event will be able to
log into the game using the same character name throughout the weekend.
So any upgrades or advancement made will be saved to your unique login
name between demo sessions, which is a pretty cool way to give fans a
better idea of how those systems will play out in the live game.
Moments after my demo began, a giant Chosen ship appeared directly over
Copacabana, the main town being featured in the show floor demo, with
drop pods dotting the sky before descending upon key locations on the
map. The map itself will change color in the area under attack as well,
giving players another visual queue that a major event is taking place
even if they’re not in the immediate vicinity of the attack.
At this point, players in the area will need to defend the town by
protecting three capture points being targeted by the Chosen. Depending
on how many other players are in the area, defending these points can
be difficult, but manageable. Meanwhile, your main objective will be to
destroy the Chosen ship using large turrets whenever the ship lowers
its shields to reinforce the enemy ground troops with additional units.
According to Lead Class Designer David Williams, this type of event is
designed to dynamically scale depending on how many players
participate, but only slightly. The goal is to make them a challenging
experience, and not penalize anyone just because more players showed up
to help defend the town and drive back the attackers. At the same time,
there is a limit to how much the events will scale so if enough players
participate defending the town becomes a much easier task.
Selecting the newest battleframe include for the Firefall
demo, the engineer, I decided to set up shop on a small hillside
overlooking one of the main capture points. As a support frame, the
main skills I had access to as an engineer allowed me to place a small
turret and force field up, and my primary weapon would slowly repair
any damage they sustained. The turret functions somewhat like a more
traditional MMO pet in the sense that it would remain dormant until I
engaged an enemy target within range. The benefit to this approach is
that you won’t end up drawing more agro than you can handle
without support from other players, however, when grouped the turret
will also attack the targets of your teammates.
The engineer’s weapons are mainly energy based, so
don’t consume ammo like the other frames. Instead, ammo will
slowly fill up a small wrench icon that, once filled, can be used to
upgrade your turret or shield. During the course of the fight I managed
to upgrade both fairly quickly, making it much easier to keep them up
and running as more enemy drop pods landed in the area.
As the event progressed, the three enemy capture points began to
sustain a fair amount of damage but we managed to successfully defend
them as the encounter timer ran down. With the town’s safety
secured, I spent the rest of my demo time getting a feel for the area
surrounding the town, and what kind of PvE content Firefall
has to offer.
Through the course of normal gameplay, new missions will show up as
opportunities for you on your map. Most of these will be opt-in, though
you’ll occasionally be given set missions that will be
actively pushed to you. The mission I selected involved going out in
search of a local NPC’s robot that had gone missing.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to complete the mission before my
demo time ran out, but I did get to scamper around long enough to get a
better sense of the enemy AI in the game.
In most cases, the AI tended to be highly aggressive and agile, making
for some pretty intense combat experiences. Considering that the area I
was in was intended for beginning players, it was also refreshing to
see that the mobs weren’t your garden variety rats, snakes,
or other small critters you find in most MMO starting zones. There were
some very large, mean creatures that took a fair amount of skill to
fight, and it was a total blast even if I was on the verge of taking a
dirt nap more than once.
Overall, the open world content in Firefall
shown so far is easily just as compelling and fun as the
game’s PvP, and offers enough variety to make level
progression and finding upgrades for your battleframes a total blast.
Larger encounters like the one with the Chosen ship won’t
necessarily be the norm, but are an interesting variant on the concept
of public quests.