The Los Alamos auction house
Fallen Earth is officially free-to-play with patch 2.0. There are very few restrictions on the free accounts, so if you haven't at least tried it out, you really have no excuse. If it's been a while since you've played, you might want to pop in and check it out. A lot has changed, and there's no need to sub up to take a look. The world is pretty well populated now. Even Los Alamos was crowded again, like it used to be over a year ago. The starter towns were packed with new players all running around with their axes and air rifles. The population is certainly healthy at the moment; hopefully it will last.

It's been over two years since Fallen Earth went live, and it's also probably been over two years since the wasteland has had so many people in it. LifeNet gear is back in style again. Players are trotting around on "Old Nags," and the Help channel is a fusillade of questions that many of the more helpful and knowledgeable players try to keep up with. I spent a few hours traveling around and watching the crowds. Seeing the swarms of players and the dead mobs littering the desert sand in Sector 1 reminded me of launch day back in September of '09. But the difference is this: There are more players everywhere, which means many of the old players have returned as well. I've noticed some big changes already, and I'll share those with you right after the cut.

Froobs everywhere
I have the Commander Aura for the remainder of this billing cycle, and I like it so far. There was a small skirmish in Haietta last night, and it was nice to get a little bit more faction rep and Death Toll than normal. Almost everyone in our team was running the aura, so we had it capped at tier 6, and that gives a 30% bonus to all point gains. It's also nice for grinding XP, even though that isn't currently a concern of mine. Crafting and scavenging is marginally faster, but it's noticeable, so I wouldn't want to do without it. Harvesting a node is only a second or two faster, but I'll admit it: It's pretty nice. Am I going to upgrade to Commander level when my free ride ends? If I were to give an answer to that question right now, it would be yes. Thirty dollars a month is a hefty price tag, but it's the only MMO I really play (bleh, tab-targeting games make me cry), so I see it as money well spent.

The tradeskill kits are no longer tiered. You can call it streamlining, dumbing-down or simplification -- that's up to you. The change takes a little of the complexity out of the game, but being complex for complexity's sake isn't always the best policy. If you use your old intermediate kits, they will all be simultaneously replaced with the new universal crafting kits and you will be refunded a couple of red chips for the lot. I wish the game would refund me for all the skills and mutations I bought prior to the skills and abilities revamp. There's a new item available on the reward merchants and the item store called the Commander's Best Kit. It counts as all of the kits as far as crafting is concerned, but not scavenging. You'll still need to carry a Geology and Nature kit around. Despite that, and the silly name, it's a must-have item for all crafters.

The mobs seem to drop more stuff now, so combat-oriented players have a better way to make chips than simply running missions. This is a blessing since missions in Fallen Earth generally have poor rewards, be they items or chips. I really miss the fact that the car nodes drop only up to three mats rather than nine; I hope that comes back.

A full lot in Los Alamos
I'm not entirely sure whether it's because of the economic changes or the increased server population, but the auction house has been on fire. Bandages have been added back to the merchants, but they are still more expensive than they were before the patch. Thirteen chips was far too cheap considering the price of cotton. Only five cotton is required to make 10 bandages now (down from 20), so they are much cheaper to craft than they used to be. It is still far cheaper to buy the bandages outright than to buy cotton and make them. You could always harvest your own cotton for free for the most cost-effective solution.

The increased population did result in some server crashing (even once while we were battling in Haietta). But we have been assured that the dev team has its best and brightest shoring things up behind the curtain. As desolate as the Grand Canyon Province has been these past few weeks, I'm almost happy to see the servers going down because there are too many people on them.

I visited Boneclaw (the CHOTA-themed starter town) just to see how the population was looking. During EU peak time, there were literally three players for each Blade Dancer. It's sad when the PCs outnumber the NPCs, but in (normally sparsely populated) FE, it's a good thing. For their entertainment, I showed them what an Interceptor Security Model can do to a herd of prairie chickens. I'm sure they would have said something favorable had they known how to use the chat window. I quickly drove out of there before they started asking a ton of questions. The new chat bubbles look cool, though. You should log in just to see those.

Outside Credit Bend
I haven't tried out the new wardrobe slots, but then, I don't have much interest in that kind of stuff. If it keeps people around and makes money for the devs, great. Slots seemed way too pricey for me to bother with them, but I'm sure there are many players who will buy them, and that's good for all of us... even if you decide to PvP in the new wedding dress added to the game (which I might do myself on one of my male clones).

The wasteland is officially open for business and is taking all comers. Hopefully this is just what Fallen Earth needs. The past few weeks have been depressingly lonely; the PvP of late has been teams instead of raids. The conflict towns (as pointless as they are) sit empty most of the day. Even though Fallen Earth hardly advertises, hopefully the word will get out about it and bring in more and more players. Hopefully the PvP-base will increase before territory control hits live. My fingers are crossed. Until we meet again, I'll see you out puttering around in the wastelands on your new chopper... because you no longer have any excuse not to.

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.