So I’ve gotten back on the Fallen Earth Wagon several months after quitting in a fit of annoyance.
Why was I annoyed? I was one of those unfortnate to suffer the random Crash To Desktop errors that caused no end of hassle.
So why did I rejoin?
Firstly, I really enjoyed the simplicity of the game. Yes, simplicity. While the levelling system, powers, skills and minuté of the character development process is incredibly complex, the rest of the game is very simple. Simple, and beautiful.
Secondly, any developer worth their salt would have fixed the crash-to-desktops by now, and added alot more to the game.
Thirdly, they just did their big spangly graphics update.
So I brushed off Dave here and plunged head-first back into the Apocalypse.
As level 19 hurtles its way towards me, I’m faced with the prospect of leaving the Plateau and heading onto Northfields, and everything that entails.
I actually took a jaunt into Northfields today, a bit premature maybe, but I was curious. I checked out the faction towns and the main city, New Flagstaff, which looks like a more friendly version of Glasgow’s south side.
It is at this point that I realised something. Something that sets Fallen Earth apart from other MMOs.
In World of Warcraft, or in Champions Online, or in LOTRO, every town, every enemy, every building, every nook and cranny, every hill and valley are involved in a quest. Not only that, but it’s likely to be involved in a quest that you have, is easy to get, or are indicated to go there by some other NPC. You are discouraged from exploring by the pure fact that in all likelyhood you will go there for a quest anyway. You find somewhere new, with unusual enemies. You might kill a couple then go off, there really isn’t any reason to be there, you think “there’s probably a quest for these guys somewhere”, and go off and look for it.
Not so in Fallen Earth. In New Flagstaff there are countless redundant buildings. They’re just ‘there’. They have no use because there is no-one to use them. You really get the feeling that this is all there is, what you see is all that’s left. None of this warcraft lore that Stormwind holds 100,000 residents when you all you see is maybe 50 vendors and 50 guards and a few cottages. Those towns you see really do only have 20 people living in them. You’re encouraged to explore these places to see what you can find. To see if you can find people. When you do you’re always rewarded, normally with a quest or two, but sometimes with a vendor, sometimes, even, with a small town.
Not every town is marked on the map in Fallen Earth. It’s not like any other MMO in that you have your map written for you, by someone else. It’s full of scribbled notes of new towns, old towns fallen into hostile hands and miscelaneous grafitti, but the person who made the map hadn’t been everywhere, or they had written it some time in the past. There are white square nodes where ‘something’ is along roadways. Usually it’s just a Respawn point and a garage, sometimes it’s a settlement over-run by bandits, but there are a few out there that are full, working towns and quest hubs that just havn’t been added to the map. The Oasis for one, a north-plateau outpost of Franklin’s Raiders, or the tragic story of Roads End, wiped out by marauding mutants, with only one mouring survivor hoping for revenge. Not only that, but not every road is marked, just the main highways. I found an offshoot road with a tunnel guarded at either end by opposing but friendly families, lots of quests to be had there too, from bandit attacks to a hidden love afair involving pies.
You are encouraged to explore, find things out for yourself. Open your eyes and look. To hit the road and have an adventure. It’s something missing from most sandbox games, that sense that by following the plot you’ll miss out on so much.
Exploring is something I love, which is why I’m currently training my crafting up so I can start making better vehicles, so that I can go off into the wild yonder and just look for things.