First Impressions of Firefall’s Open World Gameplay

Updated Mon, Aug 29, 2011 by Sardu

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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