Orson Scott Card is a man whose politics I refuse to gratify with discussion today but he has long been a gun for hire on the writer circuit for video games and corporate comics (I’m still shocked Bioware would hire that man to taint the Dragon Age universe). I made a decision a long time ago to not support any work of that man’s, unfortunately I had already handed over my founding membership funds before he was announced. What change he had on the actual product I don’t really know, he and his daughter were brought in as writers to flesh out the backstory (something that already seemed firm in hand). A web comic was drafted written by them and I walked away. When I left I had ground out all the content that was available at the time and the thought of what he would bring to the game certainly didn’t entice me.
I recently returned to see how the game was and play through the first five levels. A starting area had been added to the game creating a tutorial where you run through a sim of one of the major hubs Copacabana. Immediately I noticed the graphics were in many ways worse than they were when I had played it back in 2012. The environments were solid enough and at times quite beautiful but despite my machine which had undergone some serious rebuilding with an AMD 290 video card and 18 GB of memory the character models were something out of a game from 2002, while the animations were smooth the models were downright ugly and VERY low on detail. The character creation screen has a limited number of bodies, hair styles, and cosmetic options and most of them are only available for purchase with real world money some cosmetic options costing 12 dollars or up. While the item shop was always there (and as a free to play title should be expected) I also remember the character models being more detailed and in many of the teaser images they appear like I remember them.
I found the flow of combat to be uninspiring, the game was initially developed by a team made up of colleagues of Carbine so I found it interesting that they would go for a similar cartoon like style (probably a holdover from their time at Blizzard) but also a sci-fi title. In many ways these games could have been quite similar but in practicality they couldn’t have been any more different. In Wildstar there are no visual sacrifices when it comes to the characters, it does maintain a cartoonish visual aesthetic but the characters feel as much a part of the world as the foliage and creatures inhabiting its wilds. This can’t be said for Firefall, they look broken and apart from the environment and adding to that they have some of the flattest most uninspired voice acting I’ve experienced this side of the first Resident Evil.
What are you doing in this place?!
Ah yes, the bare midriff random exposed bits of flesh and boobie enhancement school of armour design, a time honoured classic. *sigh*
Each frame does feel different with differing mobility and weapons load outs but the weapons seldom feel satisfying and many feel unfinished, one assault rifle I picked up had a HUD on the handle showing the amount of ammunition, or at least that’s what it looked like. Unfortunately who ever designed that weapon didn’t bother with an animation as it drained ammo the animation remained full. It’s little details like this that break the immersion and make what could be a good game in to a passable one and with the poor graphics layered atop bad voice acting (like your weird vaguely European handler and your Cowboy techie buddies who pop up on your communicator from time to time) it really just becomes annoying.
There are some solid elements here, this could be a good game maybe even a great game but the entire thing felt unpolished. There was a flight system using glide pads where you could glide across the environment (neat) that would strangely just spontaneously dive straight down (not neat). You would have events pop up like “downed thumpers” and Chosen spawn points (cool) but the dialogue discussing these events would be reused over and over and over (not cool).
This game has its good points, the environments are at times stunning and varied with an interesting use of vertical space, the movement can be fun with a real Tribes like feel to gliding along the landscape, and public events like Meld storms, outpost raids and thumping keep the game varied. The rest of the game rings a bit shallow and unpolished (see missing animations), the quest lines feel boring at least at these opening levels and don’t really engage, PVP was recently reintroduced (on July 15th) but only an open world end game PVP with none of the Tournament style play promised when announced.
Here’s the silver lining of this, the game is free and available for download on Steam or from the developer. There is no cost to trying this out and it may be for you. For whatever reason this game just didn’t sit well with me and I didn’t enjoy it but as the title says this is the “First Five” and the game may open up at later levels or become more compelling and maybe the voice acting improves (I doubt that) but the game is riddled with content that feels shallow or rushed and may take some teeth gritting to get past and in to the meat of the game.