Firefall and the Summer Milestone Update

We check out the major changes in Firefall's Beta Test!

A while back I had the chance to start play testing a new MMOFPS by Red 5 Studios making waves in online gaming circles: Firefall. I found that the most appropriate description I read was “Borderlands Online”; the game combined shooting with crafting and leveling… but unfortunately it also played a bit slow and clunky. Then came the summer milestone update: a large patch that completely changed several aspects of the game such as discarding the leveling system, replacing the Medic battleframe with the new Biotech battleframe, and upping the combat speed of the game overall. So how did the changes come out? Read on for our take on it!

Firefall takes place in a sci-fi future; in an attempt to create a sustainable power source on Earth, humanity accidentally unleashed a gigantic energy storm called the Melding that covered all but small pockets of the world, transforming everything it touches. Don’t you hate it when that happens? New players in the game begin at Copacabana, a central questing hub that also serves as a tutorial area for newbies. Similar to the time before the milestone update, players begin the game by choosing a particular battleframe (aka, class) and customizing their character’s appearance and voice. The options still seem a bit limited, but this is made up for through a completely redefined leveling experience.

Prior to the milestone, players would level up much like in traditional MMOs; killing enemies and completing quests would reward experience, and with enough experience the current battleframe would gain a level. The update changed this process; experience now accumulates like currency and can be spent in a tech tree. I spent most of my time with the Engineer battleframe: the first tier had roughly three paths that had different upgrades from new weapons, to increased rates of fire, to upgraded abilities. Experience only accumulates for one battleframe at a time; and at the end of the basic frames, depending on the path, an entirely new type (known as a tier 2 battleframe) will become unlocked. This means that, while banking experience isn’t necessarily a drawback, it also can’t be done to gain an edge in another battleframe. If you want to power up your Assault, you can’t just play as a Biotech.

Players start with five basic Accord battleframes. As mentioned before, I mostly played as an Engineer. Unique among the battleframes, Engineers can summon up to three turrets to attack an enemy from static positions. While not the most durable or damaging class, I absolutely loved the ability to turn an area into my own personal shooting gallery. It was also a blast to toss turrets up in trees or high up on walls and watch enemies struggle to find a path to attack them! For more traditional roles, Dreadnaught plays the part of the heavy tank: slow, but tough to take down. An Assault is more of an in-your-face damage dealer, while the Recon takes the role of the deadly ranged Sniper. The milestone mostly changed the Biotech class by completing changing the former battleframe of the Medic. Red 5 Studios mentioned that the Medic battleframe negatively impacted the fun of other players with its continuous healing abilities; the new Biotech frame still has some ability to heal but is more limited by cooldowns and gains a stronger ability to fight as well as support.

The battleframes and their abilities are now accessed through a new terminal in towns called the Battleframe Garage. Here, players can learn their new abilities purchased through experience and customize their characters’ equipped items and abilities. Players have three different metrics (CPU, Power and Mass), and each of these limit how many abilities and weapons can be used by a battleframe; the idea is to avoid overpowered combinations, although I never found an issue personally while playing. While the basic tier 1 battleframes will gain weapons through the tech trees, tier 2 battleframes will need to find them in other ways.

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