I don't know about you, but when I think about a post-apocalyptic future, I think about bands of merciless raiders, anarchy and danger along every roadway. Does Fallen Earth have all of these things? Yes, but it is hardly the lawless, danger-ridden place (once you get acclimated to it) that you would expect to find when civilization has collapsed and there are mutants running amok. Fallen Earth is hardly the quintessential post-apocalyptic future. Games like Gamma World (a pen-and-paper RPG from days of yore) and Wasteland captured the bleakness of a destroyed world much more convincingly.

But who knows. Maybe the folks at Icarus got it right. We'll never know until the earth is destroyed. And games won't be such a matter of import when almost everyone is gone. Anyway, what I am getting at is the setting. The setting looks fantastic; the art department has certainly captured a desolate wasteland. The writing is great, and the towns and encounters are well-designed. Fallen Earth has the ambiance nailed. But the wasteland just doesn't have that sense of danger about it. Not for me, at least. After the cut, I'll discuss what I thought FE was going to be like, what it is, and what I think it should be.

My first foray into the wasteland was dripping with ineptitude. I was killed by prairie chickens very early on, and my first visit to a PvP zone resulted in my being shot in face with a crossbow and dying instantly. The apocalypse was a new and undiscovered place. It was also a scary and dangerous place. Swift death was lurking around every corner. But the sense of danger didn't last very long. Once I got into the swing of things and figured out the game mechanics, I was pwning mobs and other players (more often than not) with ease. The dangerous feeling of the apocalypse slowly but deliberately vanished. I was strutting around the wasteland like a king among men mere weeks after launch.

My inability to find much danger in Sector 1 made me wonder what I would find up in Sector 2. There were mutations and factional warfare. I thought: That's the place for me. I'll join a faction and go to war with the bad guys. I envisioned a line of dug-in enforcers preparing to defend a prepared position against a horde of charging CHOTA warriors. What I found were players riding around in New Gallows, looking for people to fight. In many case I wound up fighting with allies as well as enemies until I carried a clan tag. Then it was all about clan, not faction. It kind of killed the immersion of the so-called faction war. Then I would go into a town and see a Tech and Vista chatting happily about great scav spots. They should have been killing each other.

Flagging for open-world PvP helped me find that sense of danger again. Well, for a little while. After the novelty of watching my back wore off, open PvP kind of lost its luster, and the apocalypse seemed nice and safe again -- especially in the PvP zones. When you are flagged for PvP, the PvP zones are the only place you can really relax. Considering that the penalty for dying in FE is so minimal, the danger-factor was again nullified. If FE were a full player-looting system, then there would be a hint of danger. I would never suggest such a thing in Fallen Earth, though. An army of rabid carebears would be up in arms from my mere uttering of such a thought. Besides, the game is far too gear-driven to incorporate player looting.

I could even live with towns being safe havens. It makes sense. But on the roads between towns? These places should be dangerous to travel on. Going from town to town, I don't have much to be afraid of. Even the most noobish of players would still be far wilier and much more of a threat than the NPC buffoons we effortlessly kill by the thousands. It would be interesting to see how it would play out. But I guess that would force people to have to PvP and wouldn't appeal to the masses. But seriously, places like the titanium pits east of Black Hills should be PvP zones. It pains me to have to race someone to get the titanium-dropping mutants first, when it would be far more efficient and fulfilling to simply crush the other player's skull with my kinetic hammers and gather all of the titanium for myself.

Clan warfare has always seemed more important than factional warfare in Fallen Earth. A clan is close-knit group of folks who help each other regularly and know each other well. A group that communicates through voice comms, such as Ventrilo or Teamspeak, seems to forge stronger bonds. A faction is a seemingly random group of players whom you may not even like. That makes factional warfare even less appealing. Then there's the prominence of omni-clans, which were formed out of tactical necessity. The factions were the de facto "weapon classes," so in order to have a more effective combined arms force, many of the PvP clans ignored factions altogether. All of my visions of what the factional war would be like were fully shattered.

After giving it some thought, I think the factional choice should have been more married to PvP. As it stands, factions are a very PvE-oriented convention (and clans are the PvP-oriented player groups). I'm probably going to be mauled by vicious carebears for saying this, but... I think that once you choose a faction in Fallen Earth, you should be flagged for PvP with all three of your hostile factions. If you don't want to PvP, why would you join a faction that is the sworn enemy of other players? And if someone didn't want to get caught up into the factional struggle (which involves other players), he could simply remain neutral and unflagged. He could play the lone-wolf scavenger turned war-profiteer.

Instead, we get factions that only fight the others in specific places. And the conflict towns are captured by players doing repeatable PvE content. That was just a bad idea, though it was somewhat alleviated by faction control points. By limiting the factional war to specific places, the devs ensured that the PvP action is spread too thin. Much of my actual PvP time was spent waiting for something to happen. The fact that the factional war in FE is an opt-in system is a big part of the reason it isn't working. A lot of players are calling for factions to mean something or to be worth fighting for. Making open hostilities between enemy factions the rule and not the exception would create a lot of action for everyone.

I literally dreamed that Sector 4 would be a full PvP sector. The whole sector. Then I woke up. Probably just wishful thinking on my part. I know the devs have to do what they have to do to keep the servers running and the bills paid, but it can't hurt to dream. I am happy to see that we will be getting a new conflict town in Terminal Woods later this month called Blockade. Finally -- a new place to fight until it too loses its luster! I hope to see grand rewards for holding the town, something to fight for rather than just bragging rights.

Until next week, I'll see you either here or out in the wastelands. If I see you out in the wastes and you happen to be in an enemy faction, I may just give you a French taunting, because I really can't attack you without your consent.

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.