Wasteland Diaries: Tester-day

I spent an entire day on the Fallen Earth Public Test Server (PTS). I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with what I saw. The development team over at Fallen Earth, LLC is making some sweeping changes to the game. I wasn't just impressed by the new artwork and the smoother game mechanics; I was also impressed with the amount of communication the Fallen Earth dev team is giving to its testers. And why not? We pay the devs to test their product.

While there is a lot of new stuff to check out, I spent the majority of a day trying to digest as much of this new content as I possibly could, and I didn't really even scratch the surface. I spent a good eight hours on the server, though about four of those hours were devoted to testing the combat system. I did a few bug reports, but aside from grenades being totally broken, most everything seemed to be in order. After the break I'll give you some first-hand accounts of what I've discovered. You could just read the patch notes, but it just isn't the same.

The recent line-up changes at Icarus seem to have also resulted in a change in player-dev communication. The devs seem to keep us more informed about what their plans are. Well, they still have secrets, but they don't seem to hold their hands as close to their chests anymore. One of them even posted a synopsis on how the code that determined Death Toll rewards worked. It was glorious (to me at least).

I checked out the new tutorial. While it is reminiscent of the old tutorial, it's been totally re-done. There are a few cool elements from the original tutorial missing now (like being level 40 and blasting giant mutants with a rocket launcher), but it still gives you the knowledge you need to tackle the extended tutorial. Overall, I enjoyed the new version, even though it was a bit shorter than it used to be.

The most obvious change, at least the one that was instantly noticeable, was Boneclaw. I don't know what was in that missile that Alec Masters detonated there, but it made Boneclaw look worlds better. The terrain is beautifully sculptured and textured, and coupled with the new lighting effects, it looks fantastic. Kind of odd that a CHOTA town would be the nicest-looking town, but it is. I took it upon myself to run a mission or two there, one of which was a quest line that awards an AP, given to you by a fellow named Longshot. It's actually a very rifle-centric counter-sniper quest (I know, a CHOTA quest involving rifles, crazy huh?), but with the de-factionalization of skills and mutations, it's just another quest.

The quest itself was a bit tough for a fresh clone, but we all know the key to conquering tough quests in Fallen Earth. No, not grouping. We out-level it and come back later. I kid, I kid. Either way works, but we should be seeing a little more grouping now that the Dodge skill is no longer the key to invincibility. While PvE combat is still fairly easy, you can be overwhelmed much more easily by groups of mobs that no longer miss 90% of the time. Dodge does seem to help, but it won't let you AFK-pwn the mobs anymore.

The combat system has been changed drastically in the way mitigation is handled. Dodge will mostly affect the chance of a critical hit when compared to the attacker's weapon skill. And armor, as usual, reduces damage by a percentage. I do have some good news for the number-crunchers: The mitigation percentages are now listed in the gear window for all to see. It cuts back on the amount of guess-work necessary to find that armor-wearing sweet spot.

Knockdowns are still fight-enders, as weapon damage has increased from lower mitigation. The stuns have all been shortened to one-second durations, but knockdowns last for what seems an eternity when you're the one on the ground. If you do get up from one, you will find yourself nearly dead at best. I was lucky enough to fight a few dozen duels against a variety of opponents of all three weapon classes. I have to say that, aside from the duration of knockdowns, I like the new combat system.

At one point I was dueling another player with one of the devs present. We tried out some grenades (which had their range increased) only to find out that all of them were broken. It was fixed in a matter of hours, and I'm happy to report that longer-ranged grenades are coming to Fallen Earth soon.

The AP cap works. It caps spending of AP, not earning. I was stopped dead at 1250 AP at level 50. Those who are good at math have already guessed that the magic number is 25, that is, 5 bonus AP is spendable per level. Those of you with 1300 or more can relax (just don't respec). If you have currently spent more than 1250 AP, you will get to keep them, but will not be able to spend any more until the level cap exceeds your spent AP.

Apparently there are three new serendipity mobs (one per sector), but I wasn't lucky enough to chance upon one during my short stay on the PTS. So I don't have any news for you there.

Faction Control Points have been reduced in number. They have also been made more influential in the capture of the conflict town that harbors them. Each one must be held for five minutes now to be officially captured. The guard will announce any attacks in region, which will hopefully bring help and spur on some sorely needed factional PvP. We are also told that the flags will be better fortified and more defensible in the future.

Conflict towns with faction control over 100,000 will now lose points until normalized. Park City and Haietta might one day not be Traveler-controlled (sorry, Twista).

The Death Toll rewards for open-world PvP will be increased significantly. I am very pleased with this change, as it has been one of my biggest complaints in the past few months. You will also drop your PvP flag upon death now if you respawn in a cloner. Your flag will stay current if you are resurrected, though. This is one possible fix for the PvP immunity confusion/exploit and will suffice for now. It remains to be seen whether a more elegant solution can be procured.

The NPC merchants will also no longer carry high-end materials. Refining tradeskills will be made less labor-intensive to offset the difficulty of obtaining higher-tier materials. This has created quite a stir in the forums. The developers are striving to have a more player-based economy, and this is just one of many coming tweaks. There aren't really any rare materials to speak of aside from some of the paint colors. This is one change that will have to go live to be tested. Fallen Earth's economy is in desperate need of a wake-up call, and this is another step in that direction.

Until next week, if you don't see me in the wastelands, it's probably because I'm on the PTS.

Ed Marshall has been playing Fallen Earth since beta and leads the KAOS clan. Wasteland Diaries is his weekly column that covers all aspects of Fallen Earth: PvE, RP and PvP. To contact Ed, send an email to edward@massively.com, find him on the official forums as Casey Royer, or hunt him down in the wastelands as Nufan, Original, Death Incarnate, and Knuckles Mcsquee.
This article was originally published on Massively.