Welcome to Earths…December 4, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
Tags: fallen earth, game design, Hawley in love, LotRO, MMOs, squee
Whenever I see comments on various blogs, at least one person will state that they’re not quite sure what to make of Fallen Earth, or exactly what it is about Fallen Earth that attracts them, but invariably they state that whatever it is, it’s working, and they’re enjoying the game (somehow).
Well, that’s prompted me to not only put down why I’m playing Fallen Earth, but also Lord of the Rings Online; They’re both games I love, but sometimes it’s good to actually think of *why* I love them, as opposed to taking it for granted.
Let’s start with Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been playing it longest after all:
I like a number of things about the combat system used in Lord of the Rings Online. The combat isn’t as fast and frenetic as in some other MMOs, but it’s fast enough that combat is a time when making the right choice of what to do (run, fight, which skills to use) is important enough to get right first time, but will rarely punish me for needing to change tactics part of the way through. And I like the way that I have plenty of options for what to do in a fight. Lots of skill options mean combat rarely follows a strict rotation of key-presses. And seeing that combat is a large part of fighting evil, that’s a good thing.
Okay, the Radiance Gating has annoyed me, and I don’t think it’s a good inclusion, but for most of the game, opportunities are not limited by equipment worn. A case in point is my LoreMaster, Herewerd. Poor Herewerd got a pair of trousers at level 35, and for one reason or another, I forgot about them. Herewerd went to most if not all of the instances in Shadows of Angmar (poor chap didn’t do much in Moria, as I was concentrating on Hawley), and went to The Rift numerous times. Every so often someone would inspect him and giggle, but I honestly kept forgetting to change them, because they were okay enough, and game-play wasn’t suffering. It’s only now, at level 53, that a quest reward of a pair of pants has meant that Herewerd has new pants.
I love the look and feel of Middle Earth. The ruins of Annuminuminuminas are wonderful, and I love the way that the landscape seems to behave in a way that doesn’t make it look overtly themed (this is the volcano zone!) or too overtly fantastic. It looks like it could exist, and that makes me smile. What also makes me smile is seeing so many places from my childhood imagination, realised on screen. Bree is a lovely MMO town, and looks like it developed organically, rather than being created all at once. And all the little places from The Hobbit make fill me with wonderful nostalgia; I honestly teared up when I found three stone troll “statues” around an old campfire in a recess in the Trollshaws that first time.
I love the way that the classes interact with each other in a group. Bringing the player rather than the class is all well and good, but such a noble sentiment can destroy some wonderful individuality that, when in a group, forms a synergy where the group is far stronger than the sum of its parts. Or something.
Having a defined role is one of the things that makes grouping attractive, and all the classes in Lord of the Rings Online are valid thanks to the class design. Apart from the Captain, which is obviously evil because of the fact that they make groups just… more. Evil. Evil I say! And yes, I’ll be levelling mine up with skirmish after skirmish. Oh yes… I can be evil too…
That Middle Earth thing:
The whole Lord of the Rings franchise doesn’t grab me in the same way Star Wars does. But I think the books are wonderful (claims they’re not well written is a little unfair; try reading some other literature from the same period. The writing can be a bit… dense. In the same way that neutron stars are bit dense), and the films were some of the best fantasy films I’ve seen. But whilst it’s not my favourite, the intellectual property does give everything within the game a resonance that other MMOs can’t. Going to Northrend meant a new area to play in; levelling, instancing, grabbing trez. Going to Moria meant following in the footsteps of The Fellowship.
That’s a whole different league of fantastic, and one of the many reasons why I’m so excited about Besieging Mirkwood.
And now the new kid, Fallen Earth:
I haven’t spent this much time focused on crafting since Star Wars Galaxies. And whilst I sometimes wonder if Icarus are all frustrated Star Wars Galaxies fans, I don’t care overmuch because they’ve made a game where the time I spend crafting is as valid as the time I spend doing quests, or killing mobs.
They’ve even made resource nodes plentiful. Suddenly it’s not about finding a node as you wander around; I’ve been following crazy dot-to-dot routes as I’ve been questing. Just a few minute’s resource hunting can net me enough to keep my crafting queue going. Nodes are plentiful, but even if I’m short of a couple (or more) things then I can find them for sale at vendors.
And the stuff I’m making is useful. It changes the way I look, it improves my ability to do things within the game. And eventually I could make a car. Fantastic!
I love the difficulty curve. Getting my head around combat took a while, and is still taking it. Spending APs is something I’m learning as I’m going along, and I’ve probably made horrendous mistakes already. I’ve only just got to level 5, despite several hour’s worth of play.
Right now, the last thing I want is another cookie-cutter MMO that shares so many similarities with the last few games that all that seems to change is a few names and the associated new gimmick.
I always think that humour is a dangerous thing to put in a game. Not only is everyone’s sense of humour different, but it can be really hard to make humour that fits within the game, and isn’t just self-referential.
I play World of Warcraft despite the humour, which for me has become worse and worse through the years. Lord of the Rings Online is very po-faced, but then again I’d much prefer that to some ill-judged comedy.
Fallen Earth, being set in a Post Apocalyptic version of Earth, seems to be getting its humour just right. It’s sarcastic, it’s rude, and it’s coarse. But then again, it’s a world that has lost pretty much everything, so you can imagine that survivors might well be sarcastic, rude and coarse. They’d have earned the right to be all three…
Much has been remarked about the way that Fallen Earth looks. Usually it seems to be negative comments. Well, the game quite obviously doesn’t look like it was made in the same century as Aion, and Lord of the Rings at three years old still looks far, far better. But what Fallen Earth has achieved is a look that brings forwards the feel of a world that’s hit the end. It evokes emotion (in me at least), in a way that something over-polished might not.
Starting the game in the Embry Commonwealth, there’s a mish-mash of ruined and partially ruined buildings, with oriental-themed tents and pagodas sitting incongruously alongside them. Towering over everything, like the spine of some long-dead dinosaur, are the ruined remains of a monorail.
But the strange vista works, as it’s the clash between pre- and post-apocalyptic worlds. It hangs together because everything that’s seen has a sensible rationale behind it. The tents and pagodas are new buildings created by the Lightbringers, one of the factions within the game, and their Taoist leanings influence their architecture, whilst the ruins of a bygone age speak for themselves.
I think what I love most about the game is that I don’t feel forced to play at any speed but my own. So what if I decide to stop and smell the roses? Do I have anywhere to be? Fallen Earth seems to have attracted players who don’t feel that the end-game is where it’s at; Icarus seem to have decided that the whole of the game is important, rather than the content at maximum level. This is more than refreshing; it’s fabulous to find that there’s a game that wants us to experience every moment of playing, rather than rush us through the early part of the game.
To this end, gaming life seems to be designed to be more fun and less grind. I’ve not been bored yet; with so many valid options for my game time, I’ve found (like many others) that I have too much to do in the game. And this is me having just hit level 5, with too much to do.
Right now, it’s a great time to be playing in either Earth. I’m finishing typing this as Siege of Mirkwood finishes expanding my Lord of the Rings Online, and I’m starting to look for a clan in Fallen Earth.