Two years after the fall of the world: Fallen Earth's second anniversary

Fallen Earth second anniversary
It's no secret that Fallen Earth is somewhat of a staff favorite here at Massively. While its combat system may not hold the same polish of other titles, it more than makes up for it in sheer exploration, incredibly deep crafting, an engagingly different game world, and the dark humor that seeps into every aspect of the game. In fact, Massively is what convinced me to give Fallen Earth a shot when it came out two years ago.

At the time, I was just a regular gamer looking for something a little different than the elves-'n'-fantasy fare that 99% of MMOs were dishing my way. Fallen Earth's semi-familiar setting -- modern guns, post office boxes, motorcycles, sunglasses, giant mutated ants -- was at once familiar and foreign. It took me two solid tries to get into the game, but once I did, I was hooked.

I've always felt bad that Fallen Earth never got more popular than it already is, although I can understand why. The post-apocalypse setting is enough to weird players out, and the paradigm shift from getting your gear via looting to building your own gear via crafting takes some getting used to. Plus, the troubles that Icarus Studios ran into early on didn't help matters any.

Fortunately, the future looks bright for Fallen Earth, and as it celebrates its second anniversary, we should look back at this past year to see just how far this cult MMO has come. Clones, assemble!

Fallen Earth progress town
Combat gets an overhaul

All MMOs are a work in progress, and Fallen Earth is no different in that regard. Out of all the game's systems, combat saw a major overhaul over the course of the year, starting last October and continuing until just recently. Everything from armor usage to healing to combat skills to how NPCs attack was adjusted, changed, and in some cases, replaced outright.

The combat changes have proved to be a controversial issue in the game, but it seems as if players are coming around to the new system and adjusting quite nicely.

Fallen Earth-Mart goes big

Possibly foreshadowing future events, Icarus Studios greatly expanded Fallen Earth's item shop over the course of the year, adding luxury items such as shirts, mounts, pets, and expanded vault space. Some players were miffed that previously exclusive items were now on sale for everyone, but most accepted the blurring of the luxury lines, particularly in light of the in-game reward store. GamersFirst then threw one heck of a sale in August, giving players a 100% store currency refund of anything they purchased during a set time period.

Icarus loses more staff

It's one of those stories nobody likes reporting. Icarus Studios, already having gone through one round of layoffs, was forced to let a number of team members go in November, including several high-profile developers.

Suffice to say, this event didn't make anyone happy. Not only did several people lose their jobs, but studio layoffs erode player confidence in the long-term survivability of a title.

Fallen Earth sledgehammer
Boneclaw reinvents itself

What used to be a fairly blah starter town became one of the crown jewels of Sector One when Icarus reworked the CHOTA town of Boneclaw from the ground up. With additional quests, a wicked awesome new look, and a gripping storyline, Boneclaw suddenly became the "go to" place for beginners wanting the best newbie experience.

I can say from a recent trek to Boneclaw that it is indeed loads better than it used to be. Several of Sector One's starter towns hover around the "meh" point, so I'm all for injecting more life and story into each one of them.

AP lessens its stranglehold on player advancement

Two major changes came to the all-powerful ability points (AP) system this past year. The first was a cap on AP, meaning that while players could earn all the AP they wanted, they could only spend a maximum of 25 AP per level. Icarus also modified the game to allow players to earn bonus AP in a variety of new ways -- including gaining them during random events -- so that players weren't forced to scavenge around for every last AP mission or flip the wheel to gain them.

That's what the game calls Progress... Towns

Ever since the construction tradeskill went in the game, players have been clamoring for player housing. Progress Towns became Icarus' answer to the plea (or at least part of it), as a trio of player-created towns could be built up and defended from NPCs at special locations in the game.

Terminal Woods and Alpha County expands the map

Terminal Woods, the not-quite-a-sector area, added an intriguing lush forest to the game that took the edge off the wait for Sector Four -- or just riled players up to want more, depending on whom you asked.

The long-awaited Sector Four began to take shape this year, as Icarus announced that it would be released in four "counties," starting with Alpha and a level increase to 55. Sector Four was designed as a radically different experience than what players had encountered up to that point, as Globaltech has been messing around with experiments, which has changed the flora and fauna in the area drastically. Alpha County officially went live in July.

Fallen Earth ATV
Fast travel arrives

Since the game world had grown considerably larger, the demand for some sort of quick travel between sectors grew. Fortunately, in patch 1.9.2 the devs added a fast travel system between strategic locations in the world. The catch? Each fast travel locale had to be unlocked by players first.

GamersFirst acquires Fallen Earth, free-to-play announced

Hot on the heels of Alpha County came the announcement that GamersFirst was coming to the rescue of beleaguered Icarus by inviting Fallen Earth into its fold. Because GamersFirst specializes in the free-to-play business model, common sense dictated that Fallen Earth would be given this conversion, an assumption that was quickly verified.

The first step of the transition required Fallen Earth's players to integrate their accounts with GamersFirst, a process that began in late July. Soon thereafter, a chart detailing the four levels of subscriptions was released, along with the news that F2P would hit the game on October 12th.

Here's to year three!

Looking back, we think it's astonishing just how much happened in Fallen Earth during its second year. The layoffs and patch delays were troubling, but the release of Alpha County and the GamersFirst merger are reasons to celebrate. As we stand on the precipice of free-to-play, there's a bright hope that Fallen Earth will finally gain the crowd it deserves and will continue to grow big and strong into 2012.

This article was originally published on Massively.