FireFall Hands-on - PAX 2011

By Alexander Bevier in Hands-on, PAX 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:00 pm
At PAX 2010, FireFall had a modest booth in the center of the expo hall and generally positive buzz. The game was announced on the show floor and promised a free to play, open world experience similar to Borderlands. I covered it, and found that it showed a lot of promise.

At last week's PAX 2011, no attendee could turn around and not see FireFall's logo (which looks confusingly like the StarCraft logo. Jus' saying). This independant company is self publishing their game, but where did they get the kind of money to put window decalls on the bathroom and their name branded on every PAX sign?

After a few questions, I learned a surprisingly simple answer. I also played the game. Check both out after the jump.
First off, Red 5 is publicly owned, and their biggest shareholder is a company called The9. These are the guys that published a little game called World of Warcraft in China. That's how this little company (with no games published) managed to have one of the largest marketing budgets at the show.

Now, time to talk about playing FireFall.

FireFall jumps players into the game early. At least, the demo did. I played the open world section showed on the floor, and it had me dropped off into a mall-esque area about to be attacked by the Chosen (the bad guys). 

The game played like a third person shooter, but the MMO mechanics also shined through. The ability to change classes by changing gear (an exciting thing I pointed out last year) works extraordinarily well. This gives players the ability to play the game without having to commit to a long-term character class. 

The social functions were also a lot of fun. After playing three upcoming MMOs at PAX, I can easily state that public quests are now common, and they all mostly work really well. FireFall--being a shooter--does it a little bit more like a shooter would. There are more drop pods sending enemies your way during combat. It keeps the players shooting stuff, and that's pretty important for stuff like this.

Unfortunately, I found this game less exciting from a playing perspective than I did Wildstar or Guild Wars. The three are all very different games, but something about FireFall felt slightly older than I thought it would. Maybe it's because the game is relying on Tribes mechanics mostly, but I couldn't really place my finger on why this seemed less exciting than the other online games at PAX. Maybe it's because no one could escape FireFall all weekend.

Anyway, the game will still be completely free to play, and the micropurchases will only be for cosmetic goods. The game almost seems too impressive to not check out, especially at that price.
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