by: William Usher
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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The biggest new MMO to land on the market is Icarus Studios' Fallen Earth and it's time to find out if it can manage as the new WoW killer of this generation.
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Take A Tour Through The Wasteland
Icarus Studios and developer Fallen Earth really went outside the box with one of the biggest game releases of 2009, Fallen Earth. The game is just mammoth…so much so that one of the only major flaws the game suffers from is that it actually has too much to offer: from the bevy selection of crafting options to the awesome range of vehicles and horses, to the incomprehensibly large cache of weapons, there’s just tons of content in Fallen Earth. Of course, with a flaw that positive it’s difficult to understand why more gamers aren’t swarming to this unique new MMORPG/MMOFPS that broadens the horizon of the typical MMO genre in so many ways worth praising.
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Where do I begin? It’s tough to simply say, “Yeah, Fallen Earth gets just about every aspect of its gameplay spot on" but I’m sure a lot of gamers might take that as “Ah, this is just another post apocalyptic, Gears of War type, craft-heavy MMORPG". The truth of the matter is that Fallen Earth offers so much that it’s almost too much.
The general gameplay usually revolves around grabbing missions and scavenging the massive game world for goods. There’s also a large portion dedicated to combat, which ranges from hand-to-hand fisticuffs to straight-up dual-wielding shootouts involving projectile weapons of all kinds. And by all kinds, I mean zip guns, pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, crossbows and more.
One thing of particular note is that the first-person shooting mechanics are just spot-on. Not only are the FPS mechanics great, but the developers made it convenient for gamers who enjoy over-the-shoulder, Resident Evil 4-style gameplay, too. Players can zoom in and out using the mouse wheel, perfecting the third person or first person view to their liking and it works wonderfully for this game.
The gunplay and two-handed sword-play looks especially good in Fallen Earth, but I can’t say the same for the dual-wielding mechanics when it comes to using a knife and a gun at the same time. The animations get a bit jumbled and it becomes increasingly difficult to melee properly. It has little to do with the actual function of melee/projectile dual-wielding but everything to do with the character animations: they just don’t follow through with the button combination or actions taking place on screen.
Other than the minor problem with the gun/knife/makeshift weapon dual-wielding combo, Fallen Earth’s general gameplay works like a dream.
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One of the biggest elements of Fallen Earth is crafting. It permeates the entire landscape of the interaction and it's used to make necessary in-game items. The crafting mechanic is fairly easy to utilize and can be leveled and employed right at the start of the game.
Being able to make simple things that range from fried meat to weapon ammo to vehicles to camp sites make Fallen Earth’s crafting one of the most engaging and robust systems available. It’s hard to find any fault with the mechanic given that there are no limitations on how many items players can make or how they can develop their character using tradecraft skills.
The system is not only affluent with a large quantity of items to craft but it’s also a quality designed system that new and veteran players can take advantage of early on in the game. Gamers who like using weapons and wearing armor that give them a slightly different look from everyone else in an MMO can easily do so using the crafting system in Fallen Earth, and that makes the feature one of the real highlights of this MMORPG.
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Graphics And Sound
Visually, gamers can go into Fallen Earth and expect nothing less than what you might see on the Xbox 360. In fact, I’m sure most gamers won’t be able to get the full effect of the game due to the strict requirements. And by strict requirements, I mean that gamers who have the game running on the lowest graphics settings may still have a tough time running Fallen Earth smoothly on a dual-core with 2 gig of RAM.
The animations and character designs are appeasing enough and the horse animations are particularly noteworthy and extremely well done. The only minor quirk with the visuals is probably with the melee animations when dual-wielding a gun and a melee weapon at the same time, as they lack some of the polish put into the rest of the game. Otherwise the graphics leave little to complain about.
Fallen Earth’s soundtrack is a mixture of Borderlands and Anarchy Online. In other words, it has a lot of guitar strums fused in with a mild science fiction overtone. I don’t think they could have done a better job composing the soundtrack for this game and if it sells separately it’s almost good enough to pick up as a standalone CD.
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It would be difficult to argue that Fallen Earth is “just another MMO" because it certainly is not. The game’s travel-based premise and massive playfield makes for an interesting concept alone, but then there is nothing standard-fare about the gameplay experience. There is no area-grinding (or rather, there is little benefit in doing so if there is an area to grind) and grind-quests are actually a complete rarity in the game -- yeah a complete rarity. Instead, the progression concept revolves around traveling, questing and scavenging.
The mix of being able to use melee weapons, projectile weapons and having the option of mixing makeshift blades or blunt weapons with pistols or zip guns is a truly novel concept, especially considering that all the combat takes place in real-time.
The vehicles play a particularly important role in the game and players are introduced to them early on in Fallen Earth. It’s not just that vehicles are essential for travel but crafting motor transportation or breeding horses can be a tradecraft all on its own. It’s an awesome concept that works wonders in the game.
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I’m not going to completely knock the party system in Fallen Earth, but the major problem is that it’s not really necessary to party in the game. That's not to say that it's hard to find people to party with, because it's actually easy. But I found myself passing up a lot of good scavenging opportunities because some party members were in a hurry to complete a party-specific quest. Serioualy, it's not really convenient in Fallen Earth to ever pass up scavenging opportunities, because most of the supplies are essential for crafting something. This isn’t really the fault of the game but more-so players always being in a rush. I think this could have been remedied if players received more rewards for scavenging while in a party, sort of like IGG's 2029 Online.
Nevertheless, Fallen Earth at least excels in pacing missions so that the ones that require parties are usually around areas where players travel frequently; this results in having a nice pool of various leveled players hanging around the same areas and usually most of them are willing to party-up.
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I have never played an MMO with more diversity and originality in its mission structure than in Fallen Earth…and I’ve played a lot of MMOs. The questing in the game is extremely unique insofar that the quests take full advantage of the game’s variety and it has a heck of a lot of variety.
The quests range from scavenging materials, buying an item (or crafting one) for a specific NPC, they include traveling to scout an area, they include defending an area from enemies, killing bad guys, finding a rare item, recovering supplies, escorting an NPC, making meals for a group of people, building vehicle parts, and so much more. In fact, I’m going to go as far to say that this game has a better quest setup than most single-player games. Yeah, that’s a bold claim but the only other MMO that might come close to Fallen Earth’s impressive questing setup is Red Cliff Online.
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Fallen Earth aims to incorporate new gameplay mechanics into the MMO genre by combining real-time action-oriented gameplay with the traditional leveling and RPG setup. Yet every new attempt to broaden the spectrum of online play has paid off greatly for the developers because the game works like a charm. The first-person shooter mechanics and excellent scavenging and crafting mechanic will probably lead to a lot of gamers needing to check into an MMO recovery program after becoming addicted to the game.
Icarus Studios and developers Fallen Earth have a surefire winner on their hands and this game easily marks the next step in the evolution of the MMO genre. Hopefully the subscription-based model won’t come back to bite them on the rear end, but it is one of the few games that justifies the pay-to-play paradigm.
If you have a computer that can muster the hefty requirements, there’s literally no reason to avoid Fallen Earth if you remotely enjoy adventure games likeFallout 3 or are looking for an open-world action game with a lot of depth and player interactivity.