Fallen Earth: A Front Row Seat to the Apocalypse Pt. 1

Updated Mon, Apr 27, 2009 by Sardu

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to attend the first stop on the Fallen Earth development team’s grassroots tour at a swank little club in downtown Raleigh, NC. Between the informative presentation and getting a chance to see the upcoming post-apocalyptic MMO in action, I walked away from the event impressed and hungry for a more in-depth look. The opportunity arose to do exactly that this past week when I paid a visit to Icarus Studios.

Icarus Studios, home to the Fallen Earth dev team.

The sun marched lazily across the Cary, NC skies when I arrived at the studio, a slight breeze stirring on an otherwise calm April day. The entire scene struck me as an interesting contrast to the setting in which Fallen Earth takes place. In Fallen Earth, the world as we know it has all but come to a grinding halt thanks to a combination of the Shiva Virus’ devastating effects on humanity and the fallout from multiple nuclear detonations. The sun may shine high in the desert skies of the Grand Canyon Province, but there’s certainly an underlying darkness that permeates a setting in which players will be fighting tooth and nail against their environment and one another in a struggle for survival.

Having seen an earlier build of Fallen Earth at the IDGA event in February I already had a feel for the game’s visual elements, but the demo I was shown during my studio visit showcased a game world where even the ruins of civilization can pack an impressive visual punch. Speaking with Lead Game Designer Lee Hammock it was revealed that the team has been hard at work tweaking many of the environments, adding in numerous looming structures that help set areas apart from the desert landscapes such as the crumbling remains of a massive monorail system that cut through the high level area being shown in the demo like an ancient concrete snake on stilts.

PvP zones in particular have been getting some extra attention as Lee stressed the importance of keeping the maps balanced enough to insure that no one particular combat specialty could dominate the others too easily. Those of you who prefer the idea smacking some kneecaps with a baseball bat or cracking some skulls with the butt of your rifle can rest assured; even though Fallen Earth’s combat is heavily influenced by the FPS genre, players will always have a place on the PvP battlefield whether they opt for the intimacy of melee or the longer range of pistols and rifles. Though there were no PvP battles raging during the demo, the attention to details for getting the flow of these areas just right was certainly apparent.

We also discussed some of the ways in which character advancement will work, as I was particularly interested in hearing more about Mutations and their effect on gameplay. While we didn’t discuss any of the finer details, Project Manager Colin Dwan gave me a “30,000 foot bird’s eye view” of what makes Mutations tick. One way to look at Mutations is to think of them as a distant cousin of EverQuest’s Alternate Advancement system, a key difference being that unlike recent MMOs that have iterated on the concept by presenting players with a clear path to follow ala World of Warcraft’s talent trees, Mutations in Fallen Earth will typically contain an element of discovery. For example, one way of altering your character might occur by ingesting some toxic water, which sounds much cooler than simply obsessing over an illustrated graph for hours on end.

While it’s inevitable that complex charts, graphs and cardboard dioramas will be built by players to illustrate the specifics on Mutations, Colin stressed that the developers are keenly interested in keeping an air of mystery surrounding what is or isn’t possible with the system. So while normal combat skills and abilities will be presented in such a way that players can plot their advancement early on in the game, Mutations are somewhat of a wild card thrown into the mix, made all the more intriguing thanks to some of them being linked to the 6 distinct factions players will ultimately ally themselves with by the time they hit some of the mid-level zones of Sector 2.

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