Rise and Shiny revisit: Face of Mankind

Face of Mankind screenshot
It's hard to believe, but the last time I took a good look at MMOFPS Face of Mankind was almost a year ago! I've been wanting to go back and look at a lot of the games I've covered in past Rise and Shiny columns, but I was shocked to see that many of them have been shut down. Face of Mankind, however, is still chugging along, and a recent spate of PR emails and developer shout-outs had me intrigued. Let this be a lesson for any indie developers who are reading this: Reach out to the press. Even in all of my searching, I still miss updates and game changes.

So have things changed much since I last visited? I can't say for sure, being that the last time was sort of a blur of gripey FPSers who did little more than yell at me and shoot me in the face. I had fun with some of it back then, according to the article, but I'll be honest and say that I did not expect to have as much fun as I did in this third visit. If there was ever a doubt about the importance of revisiting titles from the past, it's long gone.

Face of Mankind screenshot
I'm not going to recap everything that was driven into my skull by the members of the EuroCore faction, my hosts for this week. The group's friendly leaders took care to teach me everything possible even while knowing there would be no way for me to recall it later. Also, gamers tend to have a muddled understanding of what a game "review" should consist of. I was asked at least a dozen times whether I was recording. I had to explain each time that, no, I only record on the first day of a Rise and Shiny visit. The leader of the faction, a very friendly (and very Face of Mankind-obsessed) player named Reefer, even seemed to worry that the players would curse while I was around, as though an embarrassing video would later show up on YouTube. I hate to use this word, but his concern was adorable.

"After all, Face of Mankind inspires the same passion and style of play that EVE Online does. These are hardcore players."

I was shown everything from how to teleport to different planets to how to stay safe during a firefight. After all, Face of Mankind inspires the same passion and style of play that EVE Online does. These are hardcore players. Rules are strict but not without flexibility. Sure, I receive special treatment when players find out I am the guy the developers were talking about, but I noticed the leaders of my faction were the same way with everyone. The head honchos wanted to run a clean, tight ship, and they wanted to be the most organized faction in the game. From what I understand, they probably are. They are definitely one of the richest.

They achieved these riches by organizing group crafting and gathering missions. Over the chat would come a call to "join the group!" and we'd all link up, teleport to a planet, and start mining and crafting items to sell and to use in battle. It was a bit frightening to see such dedication and passion and eye toward detail. It showed me that video games might be a waste of time for some people and an unhealthy obsession for others, but for most players, it is simply an intense hobby. I was brought along with other new players and shown how to build medkits, how to spread out in a fight so as to avoid shooting my mates, and how to recognize an enemy. I gave into it, something I have been trying to do for a while and something I tried to do last time. (If not for the last article, I would have never remembered.) The truth is that I really miss playing with other people. I just don't stay in one place long enough to join up with people anymore, something that is the opposite of what I believe we should do in an MMO.

Perhaps I had a bit of an Oprah moment -- Oprah with a bazooka, that is -- when I found myself really enjoying fighting alongside a group of players who all shared a common goal. One night earlier in the week, I found myself logging into the middle of a galactic political showdown. I'm not exactly clear on all of the details, and frankly many of them would make absolutely no sense to non-fans anyway, but essentially, the law enforcement faction in the game was accused of corruption. Lines were drawn; mercenaries were hired. For two days, they fought it out, and I lucked out to be part of it.

"We knew they were coming, so suddenly the leaders told us to "Form a line! Right here!" So we did."

There was one wonderful moment during an hour or so of intense fighting when we were warned that the members of the enemy faction were about to teleport into our location. We knew they were coming, so suddenly the leaders told us to "Form a line! Right here!" So we did. We literally formed a line of guns, some of us crouching to avoid being shot in the back of the head. We waited there, tense.

Suddenly the teleporters lit up, and my PC froze for a split second as though it couldn't handle the onslaught, but the next moment a line of enemies covered my screen. "Back up when they hit!" someone yelled. I fired a few rounds and hit a few enemies, then moved backward. Soon the entire room was a claustrophobic frenzy of gun blasts. "Spread out!" I heard again. I did what I was told, or tried to, and it even appeared I did some damage.

After the fight was over, someone noted that I killed (or helped kill) 12 enemies. I have no idea whether I did or not, but I felt proud. I was also beaming from ear to ear. I'd not had that much fun in an MMO in quite a while. That's when I knew that a game like Face of Mankind, even with its older graphics engine and intense bursts of combat followed by hours and hours of crafting, was a perfect example of why I love my job. It defines what an MMO is, something that we MMO fans need during these days of press releases that make you ask, "So, does anyone know whether this is an MMO or not?" Don't get me wrong; I am a fan of social gaming, FarmVille, Amazing Alex, and all sorts of oddness, but I rely on the persistence of the persistent nature of MMOs. Not only that, but I got into this field because I love playing with other people, joining up with them in groups, and helping each other out.

Face of Mankind screenshot
All of this interaction means that political games and intrigue can be found everywhere in Face of Mankind. Elections are questioned, people are accused of corruption, and friendships are ruined. You can't find a better example of gossipy, snarky teenagers than a group of grown-up FPS players. These men and women love drama, and Face of Mankind provides many opportunities for it. And yet even with all of that drama, I found what appeared to be a tight-knit community. Yes, there are plenty of smart-mouthed trolls in the game, but finding the right faction seems key in steering clear of the garbage. My experience was chiefly with EuroCore, but it seemed to be a fantastic group for new players.

So if you like intense combat between more common moments of crafting or scouting for enemies, Face of Mankind is a good game to play. You'll find some of that trollish, saucy language, and the developers don't seem to want to do anything about it, but a good faction will soon filter a lot of that out. Sure, I was babied a bit during my visit, but I saw how other people were treated. We all stood on the line together, and we all charged the enemy together. It was pretty damn cool. Face of Mankind still surprises me. Each time I play it, the game gets better and better.

Next week I will be taking another revisit to Allods Online. It came in second in my Choose My Adventure poll, but as with Face of Mankind, I would like to go back and really take a hard look at the game. I'll be streaming it live on Monday, the 6th of August, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our Twitch.tv channel! Join me in the chat room or during the week in game.

Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!
This article was originally published on Massively.