WHAT IS IT?
Firefall is a free-to-play, massively multiplayer shooter. Set in a post-apocalyptic Brazil, the main plot revolves around the titular fire fall; an asteroid shower that devastated much of the planet and the Arclight – a massive interstellar spacecraft that crashed into the Earth, causing a strange purple deathcloud to cover most of the remaining inhabitable space. This is the ‘Melding’ from which emerged a race of beings called the ‘Chosen’, accompanied by all manner of hostile flora and fauna that now inhabit most of the planet Earth.
This is what you shall face as mercenary Ares 35, accompanied by your handler, Aero. Equipped with a variety of exosuits called ‘Battleframes’, your time in post-apocalyptic Earth will be spent pulling jobs for the citizens of Brazil, whilst fending off the ever-present threat of a Chosen invasion. Firefall revolves around its dynamic world events, random team-based encounters that spawn throughout the world, placing emphasis in its class-based/skill-based shooter system that promises deep team-play and rewards co-operation against overwhelming enemy forces.
Visually spectacular, Firefall’s developers Red 5 have run deliciously amok with the post-apocalyptic creative licence, rendering little of actual Brazil’s landmarks in the world. Instead Red 5 have created a lush, tropical paradise filled with towering coral structures, rocky outcrops and volcanic peaks, all set to an ominous backdrop of deadly purple ‘Melding’. It’s mesmerizing to look at, with much of my initial time spent simply climbing to new vistas via my trusty jetpack and glider wings and simply gazing across the landscape. Though there are some inconsistencies up close, Firefall delivers big time in the graphical department, especially for a free-to-play title.
HOW FREE IS IT?
Being a player-versus-environment, or PvE title the phrase ‘pay-to-win’ is redundant here. Firefall’s in-game cash shop reflects this, stocking mostly cosmetics, an array of transportation options, and a blatant cash-grab offering in its tokens system. Players are able to buy tokens with Firefall’s premium currency ‘Red Beans’ and offer them to vending machines in the game world, which spits out one of a select group of rewards. The higher the token quality, the better the reward group. Pity though, as whilst the featured rewards of each category are desirable, most often players will be rewarded instead with a measly cosmetic or a lesser rarity, limited use variety of said desirable item.
The other list on offer is Firefall’s variety of ‘Advanced’ Battleframes; variants of the game’s 5 starter frames each equipped with its own set of skills and weapons. These offer a much more rewarding play experience, but for strictly free players you’ll have to level a starter frame to the level cap. You’ll be rewarded with 10 pilot tokens which can be either redeemed for an advanced Battleframe or spent on rare endgame modules to augment your gear; a rather large opportunity cost all things considered.
Finishing off the deal is Firefall’s VIP subscription program, offering experience and reputation boosts, extra marketplace and crafting slots, and a special Glider pad that launches you into the air and deploys your wings with an extra jet boost. There isn’t much here that adds any real value; definitely not worth a priced subscription akin to your standard MMORPG.
Luckily for those who aren’t willing to lay down real life bucks in a video game, Firefall allows conversion of its in-game credits into premium Red Beans, albeit at a fixed exchange rate, with a daily cap. It is tedious and those credits could be spent on something more meaningful, but for those who remain insistent it is entirely possible. Firefall is, for most part, very much free to play.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Despite its technical and visual prowess with a well thought out variety of classes and skills, Firefall seems to lack variety and falls well short of expectation. There’s a set of interconnected systems that attempt to work, but don’t seem to mesh well and deliver an overwhelming lack of direction.
Take for example Firefall’s eclectic roster of Battleframes. With such variety one could almost see the potential in a frantic PvP shooter, a MOBA type experience that encourages teamwork to achieve victory. In the midst of a large-scale event, with legions of players fending off insurmountable odds, you might get a glimpse of what Firefall could have been; frenetic weaving in and out of battle with your trusty jetpack, blasting hordes of Chosen whilst laying down the wreckage with player skills ranging from deployable auto turrets to flaming afterburners. There’s fun to be had, though occasional.
When not experiencing the thrill of large-scale firefights, Firefall is largely relegated to the drudgery of MMO normality; that is the tried and true formula of point-to-point questing. Adding to the tedium is the stunning lack of variety in mission design, which shows not only in NPC-given quests, but also the dynamic events that spawn throughout the game world. They all feel rather samey, mostly involving clearing out entire areas to collect items or defending against waves of enemies. Adding insult to injury, most missions require repeated trips between points, often for a simple meetup with an NPC and little else. Most frustrating.
I suppose Firefall’s greatest flaw is its complete lack of respect for your time. The largely redundant crafting and research system is set to a timer, markets have a daily exchange cap, dynamic event timers and even the travel distances between objectives are unreasonably huge. For new players, the horizon seems rather bleak when any leveling you do here will all be for naught when the inevitable upgrade to an Advanced Battleframe comes. It’s all designed to seemingly expend time for little reward. Reaching the endgame reveals little incentive to keep playing as well; between a sparse, unpopulated PvP zone and some uninspired raid experiences, Firefall comes across as an awkward and unsuccessful mashup of shooter and MMO, lacking the mechanics to be a truly good FPS experience, but also bereft of the systems that keep the MMO leveling tedium bearable.
From a background perspective, Firefall’s numerous rehashes throughout its lengthy and troubled development are made painfully obvious in the final product that Red 5 Studios have presented. At its core, Firefall is a solid shooter with many good ideas on show, but suffering from poor implementation. It’s a game that feels like it wants to be a PvP shooter but failed to make the cut, instead relegating any potential to stomping aliens over and over again. Unfocused, repetitive and overwhelmingly stagnant, Firefall is undeserving of much commitment, whether it be you time or money.