Wednesday 9 May 2012

All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing

Browsing around GAME the other day there were a few boxes of Fallen Earth: Blood Sports for 98p (reduced from £9.99). With Fallen Earth moving to a free-to-play model late last year it didn’t quite qualify for “spot the box for the MMOG that’s closed down“, but I wasn’t sure if the physical game was good for anything more than saving a bit of download time. Displaying the sort of hard-nosed investigative journalistic instinct that’s become a trademark at KiaSA, without thought to my own personal safety I grabbed a box and strode up to the cash desk. If they recognised me as an International Blogger of Blogging conducting hard-hitting undercover research who knows what might have kicked off, so clearly a disguise was in order. Not a problem: I tucked one arm inside my jacket, closed one eye and said “Avast, landlubbers, I am Horatio Nelson, famed admiral and victor of the Battle of Trafalgar, although I was killed during that so obviously it hasn’t happened yet. I’d like this game please.” I was about to hand over my credit card to pay, but at the last second realised it would’ve been a dead giveaway as it had the wrong name on it, so rummaged around and fortunately found a pound coin. “Arr, here be a shiny doubloon to pay for it, me hearty, splice the mainbrace. Yes, put the receipt in the bag please, thanks.”

They didn’t suspect a thing so I made my escape, and got the game installed. Looking at the website it appears to be a fairly standard “freemium” model, and redeeming the code supplied in the case granted 30 days of “Wastelander” premium status with a boost to XP gain etc., usual cost $14.99, so not a waste of a box. I’m not sure if it’s worth stacking up a pile of the boxes, or if you can only apply one of those codes to an account, I’m afraid my unswerving commitment to investigation doesn’t stretch to another 98p.

I can’t make much of an assessment of the game itself as I’m barely out of the tutorial, but it reminds me of Star Wars Galaxies in some ways (not that I ever lasted past a trial in SWG) with FPS-ish ranged combat and lashings of crafting. Like early SWG, Fallen Earth doesn’t have classes; character creation is just about appearance with no worries about too much supermodel perfection in a post-apocalytpic wasteland, plenty of options for scars, wrinkles, facepaint, tattoos and piercings. As you level up you can put points into a mix of stats, skills and mutant powers, a slightly daunting array of options a couple of hours into the game when you’re not really sure how things will develop, like attending a careers fare at infant school:
“So, small child, what sort of field are you thinking about? Lawyer, perhaps? Archaeologist? Lead Senior Direct Corporate Dynamic Future Product Customer Investment Manager?”
“I like painting and running around and Lego and making dens”
“I see, so which A-levels are you considering to further your aims? Art and Physical Education would be natural choices, I’m not sure offhand if there’s a syllabus that focuses on Lego, I’ll need to check up on that.”
“Are there any where you get to be a Flying Robot Wizard?”
“I’ll put down General Studies…”

I figured a bit of research was in order, and a quick poke about on the forums turned up a most helpful Ultimate Guide to Fallen Earth. In the section on levelling it says: “It’s crucial to follow a template because if you don’t you end up impaired and have to buy expensive respecs or even start over.”, with suggestions for builds such as Assault Crafter, Buffer, Debuffer, Hybrid Crafter and Melee Gunner. Seems like, as is often the case, the freedom of a classless system is a vast array of doors spread out in front of you covering all manner of strange and exotic options, where you’re completely free to pick whichever one you want, only it turns out you’re competing in Takeshi’s Castle and only five of the doors lead to freedom, the rest are painted onto solid rock and bruise your shoulder when you try and barge through them.

Classes vs open skills is always fertile ground for debate, and reaching all of level three is no position to render judgement on the system of Fallen Earth. I posted about Pirates of the Burning Sea, how I started out as a Naval Officer and became interesting in the trading/crafting aspect later, but due to the fixed class system had to roll a new character if I wanted to be a Freetrader; I could see a similar path in Fallen Earth, starting out focused on combat then developing crafting skills later on, with skill system giving the flexibility to do that with a single character rather than starting from scratch. With a bit of a lack of gaming time I’m not sure how much I’ll get into it, but then the beauty of free-to-play is that the option is there without having to leave a subscription going; I can be a procrastinator, and have my apocalypse later…

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