The road to obscurity is paved with good intentions and Firefall has an express pass securely affixed to its dashboard.
I really, really wanted to like Red 5 Studios’ free-to-play MMORPG Firefall. Though I’ve lost years of my life to MMOs in the past, they were all fantasy-flavored realms filled with dragons and orcs. The closest thing to a sci-fi FPS MMO I’ve played is the Borderlands series, but even that was wrought with restrictions and on a much smaller scale. Firefall doesn’t do much in terms of advancing the sub-genre, and ultimately… unfortunately… plays as if it was still in development.
Firefall successfully follow many of the conventions that we’ve come to expect from an MMO, but that’s not always a good thing. There are five Battleframes (classes) available: Assault (warrior), Biotech (healer), Dreadnaught (tank), Engineer (support damage), and Recon (ranger). Completing missions and killing baddies grants experience that allows said Battleframes to level up, unlocking Advanced Battleframes that grant new active and passive abilities.
You’re going to need some of that firepower to face the Chosen, the alien opposition that has emerged on Earth after fragments of a shattered asteroid sent it into darkness. In the time I spent playing Firefall, fighting the Chosen made me feel like I was back in Azeroth slicing up boars ad nauseam- simple, repetitive, and without much reward. Enemy AI in general seems to be a bit off, content to just stand there as you pour rounds of bullets into them between fetch quests.
The PvE quests themselves fare little better than the enemy as far as diversity and complexity goes. If you’ve spent time in an MMO yourself, then you know the drill. From Copacabana, the first central hub in Firefall, you’ll be running, rocket-jumping, and gliding between destinations. Occasionally you’ll run into other players outside of Copa, but the world feels far too sparsely populated to be entertaining for an extended period of time. Sure there are PvP duels, random instances, and even some end-game content to keep you busy, but I’m a firm believer that a game shouldn’t feel like a chore before it reaches its potential.
With so many more polished FPS and MMO options available out there, even free-to-play ones, Firefall is a really hard sell. Why spend time grinding away in a world where most of your time is spent running back and forth between NPCs if there’s no promise of an epic endgame experience? Sure, Star Wars: The Old Republic and DC Universe Online weren’t fully developed when they were released, but there was a rich lore behind them that drew people in.
While the upcoming Destiny might end up being better received, you have to factor in the cost of the game and a current-gen console to determine its true value. Firefall is free, and can run well even on my moderately powered stock desktop PC from a few years ago. For all of its drawbacks, Firefall is still a distraction worth checking out.
Firefall is out now on Steam – check out the trailer here: