Editor note: the review was written pre-1.3 update
I wonder how the world will finally come to an end, like the press has been preaching for a while. Will we all succumb to yet another aspirin-resistant swine flu? Or will some mad dictator throw us all into nuclear winter? It appears that even the designers of Icarus Studios were a bit undecided when they created Fallen Earth, one of the few post-apocalyptic MMOs out there, in which the action takes place in a devastated North America, ravaged by both the Shiva virus and some nuclear warheads.
You are a clone which has somehow earned its freedom after chaos engulfed the world, and are now free to search his destiny around the Grand Canyon, where whatever is left of humankind is struggling against irradiated coyotes and glowing zombies.
Fallen Earth is looking to break the monotony of regular MMOs right from the character creation area, where you will quickly discover that there are no classes to speak of. You can only define your avatar’s looks, including the eyebrows, piercings and tattoos, but since all gear will reflect accurately on your character in-game, there are no supersized or anorexic options. Some may be thrown-off by the fact that you cannot distribute your complimentary 10 points into Strength or Charisma, but the producers are firm: if you see someone role-playing a Paladin, try to ignore him.
Should I go for a tank or rogue?
Instead, everyone is free to model his character as it sees fit, and it’s good to know that you can make wrong moves and end up with a level 45 turd. We do have the usual attributes, such as Strength and Dexterity, which aside from increasing hit points or various resistances, represent the algorithm for the skills. For example, the maximum level of the skill for using Rifles is based on Dexterity and Perception, and you will need to max those in order to use high-tier weapons.
There are only three combat skills – Melee, Pistol and Rifle – which may seem a bit low in terms of combat strategies. However, the variety of items and tactics make up for this. There are also a few support skills, such as First Aid or Armor Use. Duel-wielding is also available, meaning you can carry a baseball bat in one hand and a Desert Eagle in the other, which is an interesting combination, although the other survivors might think you’re a little confused.
The actual combat depends mainly on the skills you choose to concentrate on, meaning close combat for Melee or medium / long range for Pistols and Rifles. But the fights do not rely completely on gear or skills, because here we have an interesting combination between FPS and skill-based action. This means you can use various abilities, such as smacking an enemy with the rifle right in the head or knocking him to the ground, but the outcome of the battle also depends on the ability of the player to aim properly and hit the target in the soft spots.
More FPS elements include the aiming reticule changing according to position or movement, but strangely enough, enemies can shoot through buildings and other obstacles, which wouldn’t be so annoying unless they chose to hide behind said obstacles as well. At which point you cannot see where to shoot anymore. Despite that little drawback, the combat is dynamic and interesting, depending on gear, skill as well as the player’s proficiency.
A third category of skills is the Mutagens, which are beneficial effects of radiation. No less than nine categories of Mutagens are available, such as Empathy or Nano-Manipulation, but these shouldn’t be confused with Magic in other games, as they have more of a support role than being a main combat option. They can augment your armor, or increase damage done but they are not vital and can be disregarded completely.
This is because, as I said in the beginning, everyone is free to shape their character as they see fit. You can increase your skills and attributes by means of APs (Advancement Points) which are earned gradually during a level, or are received as rewards for certain missions. And you will soon realize that you cannot earn enough APs to maximize all your skills, hence the variety of characters.
Killing mobs is the boring way to win experience, or you can choose to complete the large number of quests which are available. These missions aren’t too bright in the imagination department, because being sent to collect rat tails or assassinate someone is not something you haven’t seen before, but the name and description of each mission is well thought out, which says something about the producers’ involvement. Most of them also have follow-ups, some even have choices and the rewards are well-designed for each level.