Wasteland Diaries: Loyalty

In Fallen Earth you start out as a confused clone. You don't have any idea who you are or what to do. The answers are there if you choose to seek them out. But you may also choose to ignore your greater purpose and carve out your own little niche in the wastes. You may form bonds with other players during your journeys, and you might join a clan at some point. But there is another factor that might divert your moral compass from that of your colleagues: Fallen Earth's six factions.

The factions add a bit of flavor to the game, but they also complicate matters for players who have formed friendships in Sector 1, before the factions had any sway. Sure, you may learn a little bit about the various factions during your adventures in the Plateau Province, but you won't choose sides until you get to Sector 2. You can always remain neutral, but that would be akin to playing the game blindfolded. You would be severely gimping yourself for no good reason. After the cut I will take an in-depth look at loyalties in Fallen Earth and how they might be torn between three different entities: factions, friends, and clans.
The factions in Fallen Earth are spawned from a rich game-lore history. It's a bit corny, but it's a well-thought-out account of one possible future of mankind. The factions are all very opinionated, narrow-minded, and not above using violence to further their agendas. But they are all quite different from one another in various ways. While these differences make them more unique and interesting, they also serve to unbalance the game. The factions are unbalanced to the point that players will perform wheel flips, which go against the spirit of the core game design. The faction imbalance has also brought about the so-called omni clans.

An omni-clan is a clan that has no factional allegiance. It has members of any given faction, and in some cases, all factions might be present in a particular clan. There is currently no substantial benefit to having a clan swear fealty to any one faction, so the omni-clans take advantage of the diversity of their memberships (this goes back to the factional imbalances). Some clans are simply social clans. The members of these types of clans don't care about factional loyalties -- they just like to team up with their friends. Some omni-clans are more PvP-centric but don't fight as a faction; they fight as a clan.

Many clans are founded on and are representative of a specific faction. The decision to stick to the game lore and the spirit of the flawed design is admirable, but it doesn't benefit the single-faction clan much. The developers of Fallen Earth have stated that the days of the omni-clan are numbered. If they do intend to get rid of the omnis, they will have a huge balancing act on their hands, not to mention faction repecs. Gah, I don't envy them. I think there will always be omni-clans, no matter what the incentives or penalties are. As long as there are players who enjoy each other's company, there will always be social clans.

A new addition to the game that was mentioned in August's state-of-the-game will be in the form of progress towns. These towns will be factionally aligned, but built-up by the players. NPC aggressors will try to destroy the towns; players will have to work together to achieve victory. I see this being much more popular than conflict towns are. In case you didn't know: conflict towns are typically ghost-towns. I think the main reason for that is the fact that they are full PvP areas. Progress towns will be PvE-oriented, and I think people will have less of a problem banding together with different, even rival clans under the same factional banner.

Faction control points will be an entirely different story, though. These will be control points that can be captured for a specific faction. The more flags that the faction captures, the more that faction benefits. Some of the benefits include faction-specific guards, buffs and scavenge nodes. These nodes will be much more popular than conflict towns, if I understand how they will work correctly. Conflict towns are captured or controlled by doing repeatable PvE missions. This is a terrible system, as PvPers want to kill each other, not do repetitive PvE missions. The way I understand faction control points is thus: You occupy them to capture them, like in the Battlefield series of games. This would be a much better system and would prove to be much more popular.

The faction control points will be utterly useless to omni-factions, just as the conflict towns were, except on an individual basis. But there is still clan warfare. I would assume that the faction control points will be in a PvP-enabled zone, so an omni-clan could conceivably deny control of that point from a single-faction enemy clan. What happens with the faction control points remains to be seen. There are still far too many unanswered questions about it for me to speculate any further. I can say, however, that I am dying to see how this will all play out.

As a member of one omni-clan and the leader of another, I will have some decisions to make when all of this stuff hits the live server. I am leaning toward clan loyalties, of course, because my four characters belong to three different factions anyway. It's hard to take a particular stance when you are attacking a game from so many different angles. If I had to place myself somewhere in the faction wheel, I'd be kind of a CHOTA-tech hybrid, but definitely not a traveler. But my faction choices weren't made on ideology; they were made with game mechanics in mind. It's too early to tell what I'll do until I see how the dev team decides to balance out the factions.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the six factions of Fallen Earth. The fine folks at Fallen Earth, LLC and Icarus Studios have impressed me with most of the changes they have made, and most of the bad changes have been corrected or will be. I have faith in their ability to revitalize PvP and group PvE with the new features. The real, daunting task will be balancing the factions while still retaining their individuality. But given the companies' track records, the future looks promising. Until next week, lock and load, and don't trust anyone in the wasteland (regardless of faction).
This article was originally published on Massively.