I have to conclude I’m either missing things, or doing them terribly wrong. Just to give it a fairer shake (and to keep Psychochild from hitting me below the belt) I went ahead and grabbed a trial key for Fallen Earth. I didn’t think it twice when I saw them available because, one, that was one of my original semi-complaints -the lack of a trial- and two, it wouldn’t be the first time I had to eat crow about a game I originally disliked for whatever reason and ended up winning me over big time. I don’t mind being proven wrong if I end up with a good game.
Problem is, it’s not really clicking. In fact, something funny happened; my original complaints about the visuals, while not entirely invalidated after judging the game “the way it’s meant to be judged”(tm), have been lessened. While the rest of the stuff in the game, which I had no way of experiencing from mere screenshots and which I had assumed to be good because of comments from a lot people whose opinion I value, ended up being quite the disappointment.
Let’s go piece by piece, like Jack the Ripper:
First off, the visuals which I had heavily criticized. Are the visuals in motion, environments and the whole shebang better than what you can glean from the official screenshots? Yes, no doubt. The people who told me not to go strictly by shots and try the game to evaluate them properly, were they right? Without a doubt. But are the visuals -that- much better? Honestly? No, not that much better. Better than what I had initially given them credit for, sure, no doubt. But I don’t think it’s -that- much of an improvement.
In any case, my original judgment based on screenshots was technically -wrong- (the best kind of wrong there is), but to be perfectly honest, wasn’t far off the mark either. Environments, wearables, scenery, models… they all look and feel plain, repetitive and unengaging. I’ve rarely seen a game which is so afraid of color and intensity in its art like this one.
So I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong, and doubly-pleasantly reassured that I wasn’t that far off initially. So far, so good. Moving on, this trial was also a nice little excuse to sample all the stuff everyone else had been raving about, a.k.a “the rest of the game”. That… didn’t go so well. In fact, the disconnect between what I had been hearing about some parts of this game, all the raving comments, and what I actually got to play and was in front of me was so large that it prompted me to post this. I surely must be missing something, otherwise the disconnect is too big and I have to conclude everyone else is just doing LSD.
In no order of importance:
– Maybe it’s me, my setup, my configuration or what have you, but my avatar is -constantly- slightly pushed off center on screen. Slightly to the left. -Just- enough so I can notice it all the time. It drives me absolutely off the wall. Whether this is a bug, something that happens only to me for whatever reason, or this is done on purpose I absolutely despise it.
– The animation when your avatar runs diagonally is tragically awkward. The jumping visuals are ridiculously stiff too, but that’s par for the course in games it seems. The whole visual representation and feel of the process of jumping is just awkward.
+ It’s nice to be able to access personal transportation (horsie) early one. Kudos there.
– Yeah, you can see for miles and miles, but it’s miles and miles of naked and utterly boring terrain in shades of brown and cream.
– The two starting areas I’ve tried look essentially the same: Uninteresting, run down locales placed in a terrain that visually looks the same. The only difference being more or less variably different structures around, and more or less players gliding around you. The areas are different enough so you -know- you’re in a different place, but barely. Just there. Throw sticks and stones at me if you have to, I don’t care, but for example coming from the difference between starting near Stormwind or near Darnassus (huge visual difference), the difference between starting near Bree or near Thorin’s Hall (huge visual difference), the difference between starting in Shing Jea or near Kamadan (huge visual difference)… and then coming to this utterly meaningless visual difference between starting in Clinton Farm and Zanesville is quite an awful shock.
– The much celebrated crafting system. I found it more cumbersome than anything. I’m sure it’s deep, in the sense that I’m positive there’s a zillion things to craft. Bully for the system. But it’s awkward and not really very intuitive. And buggy. In the short time I spent with it, I had one cooking quest which asked me to cook some radish, I had all the ingredients for it, I was right next to the cooking location, but it wouldn’t let me. Even tried logging in and out, nothing. Stopped for the night, went to bed, picked it up again this morning and behold, for some reason it let me. Great, maybe they fixed it overnight. Well, no… I rolled another character and ran into the same bug.
Bugs notwithstanding, I think the system aims for complexity but it falls short and remains squarely in complication. I haven’t found a way to see at a glance which items can be used for recipes and what is just trash. Maybe there is a way and I haven’t found it, maybe there isn’t and you can use everything you pick, so naturally you pick everything until you run our of room and go vendor stuff which potentially you might need later but you have no idea right now. It’s also exceedingly granular (which I guess it has to be if it holds a zillion items) but sometimes granularity taken to these extremes can be counterproductive. I think it’s quite silly that on top of the zillion items, and the apparent no way of telling if something is useful or not, you also have a hojillion books to buy to learn the bazillion minor incremental upgrades to your crafting abilities (such as there being a book to harvest reptiles, another to harvest insects and another to harvest animals, I think. Come on now).
I say this with a lot of love, really I do, but I think when people talk about this crafting system being one of the best, they should really start saying “It lets you craft a zillion items”. It’s not the same thing, and this crafting system isn’t the best by a long shot. It just lets you craft a lot of stuff, but the simplicity that should accompany something like this is killed by granularity. If your measure of a crafting system is how many items it lets you craft, then good for you. For people like me, having something that’s easy to use and actually provides some degree of fun is also important (we’re talking about crafting here, so any fun to be had will be lower case ‘f’ anyway. *dodges more sticks and stones*).
– Skills, stats, mutations, etc.: I have trouble trying to understand where one ends, the other begins and just what exactly governs what. And I’m a player with some experience. Granularity once again. Seems that everything affects a little bit of everything, and while that’s an interesting concept on paper, having to base your decisions and plans from a single pool of non-refundable APs is not exactly super. At least to me. Your mileage may vary.
– Combat is just plain atrocious. I don’t really know how to put it exactly. Clumsy. Unresponsive. Clunky. Incredibly poor feedback. Visually boring. Combat animations are not as tight as they should be. Hit distances are off, I was constantly being hit by enemies when they were visually too far away to hit. The biggest feedback you get when a hit lands is a tiny number scrolling up and maybe a grunting noise; there are no recoiling, blocking or jerking animations that I could see and I’ve always thought that was crucial. It doesn’t matter -how- you do it, but having a visual, timely and clear representation of hits and misses is essential to good feedback. As it is now, it’s two figures gliding around one another, exchanging combat animations which might be a second or half a second too early or too late, never quite knowing for sure when a hit actually connected. I could never find a good groove or rhythm to my combat actions, something which I’ve always found not to be a problem in other games.
Ranged combat is marginally better, and having an increased chance to miss if you fire while moving is a nice touch, but that crosshair is not as good as it should be and I had quite my fair share of stupid misses when you can tell visually the target was so close it was harder to miss than to hit.
Maybe it will get better at higher levels. Who knows.
– Way too many NPCs related to way too many tradeskills? I’ll just put that out there in case someone wants to pick it up. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on this, but it does routinely confuse me as I’m not sure exactly who to talk to get what I want.
+ Quest texts I’ve come across ranged from above average to quite good, and little touches like the occasional ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ during combat should be required from now on in games. All games.
+ The tutorial/intro portion in the Hoover Dam is nice, but except from the ATV part, it’s nothing that System Shock 2 or Deus Ex didn’t do one way or another over ten years ago. No need to get carried away for no reason, guys.
Overall: Awkward. Most things. Majorly. That’s the best way I can put it. I had an easier time and a gentler learning curve with EVE, ffs. So, help? Am I condemned to be unable to connect with this damn game? Or am I right and it just isn’t all that? I’m perfectly willing to chalk all this to me, but I wanna learn.