Choose My Adventure: Next stop in Firefall, whirling death tornado

CMA: Firefall
In last week's Choose My Adventure poll, I asked three simple questions of the Massively community: What should I do, how should I do it, and how pretty should I look whilst doing so? The response was definitive; voters steered me toward PvE content, which I would approach with a mercenary "what's in it for me" attitude while wearing fabulous copper armor.

We also had a chance to leap into the game during CMA Live, with experienced Firefall-ers turning out in droves to take me on a whirlwind adventure through some of the game's most intense dynamic content. Overall, it's been a fun week of crushing Ares missions, repelling Chosen invasions, and of course, thumping the heck out of some resources.

But there's plenty left to do.

More than just thumping

One of the most frequently echoed criticisms of Firefall is that there isn't any PvE content beyond thumping for resources. For those of you not familiar with the world of Firefall's (read: not EVE's) New Eden, thumping is a method of resource collection that involves a protecting a giant machine as it gathers minerals, beset on all sides by angry inhabitants of the world around you. It's a necessary part of the game and one of the primary mechanisms for getting what you need to craft items and upgrades.

Firefall Thumper
In Firefall's early days, thumping was indeed one of very few things to do. But the game has come a long way since its initial beta, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of PvE activities scattered about the land. There are Ares missions, which usually involve clearing out a cave or facility of some sort of invasion or infestation; Chosen assaults that make real the war that's supposedly happening at all times in the game; and random little encounters with a variety of villains. You don't have to thump all day if you don't want to.

Firefall Sunken Harbor
That being said, a few hours of Firefall goes a long way for me. It's true that there's more to do than thump, but the bulk of the game's PvE activities are centered upon one primary mechanic: shooting things until there are no more things to shoot. And since Red 5 packed the world with dynamic content, it can get exhausting running from crisis to crisis and participating in massive group fights for any extended period of time. I am interested to know whether there is a method of interacting with the Firefall environment beyond pointing a gun at something and pulling the trigger.

The mercenary style

Voters gave our convict character a mercenary personality in that he doesn't roll with any specific group and instead works primarily for his own gain. I've tried to play as such, moving from event to event, thumping group to thumping group, working with whichever seemed to be most rewarding in the short term. Our convict has forged no bonds of trust and doesn't belong to any player organizations, and that's probably the way he likes it.

Firefall Cave
Still, this playstyle has left me wondering about what Firefall offers in terms of dedicated group content. While I'm content to run up on an event in progress, shoot some bugs, and collect my reward, I am also sure that I am missing out on some sort of interesting experience by eschewing the traditional group-based playstyle so common to massive online games. Firefall has squads for a reason, right?

Firefall Incursion
For our poll this week, we're going to give The Convict a mission: join at least one group and do something that specifically requires the aid of that group. Firefall has no endgame dungeons, but it does offer us a few options in terms of squad-based gameplay:
  • Incursions: Incursions revolve around pushing back a small contingent of Chosen and destroying their Warbringer device.
  • Meld Thumping: Thumping is integral to the Firefall experience, but thumping near the shimmering purple curtain of The Melding summons more powerful foes and offers a greater challenge.
  • Stage III-IV Ares Missions: Stage III and IV Ares missions cannot be completed alone due to the number and difficulty of foes. These missions are best executed with the help of a trusty squad.
  • Watchtowers: Firefall's New Eden is home to a number of watchtowers that are constantly under siege. Defending and capturing these watchtowers is no small task.
  • Invasions: The Siege of Sunken Harbor (or Thump Dump) is a specific world event in which The Chosen summon massive artillery cannons and work to seize control over one of New Eden's cities. If they're not repelled in time, the city is lost to The Melding for three hours.
  • Melding Tornados: Melding Tornados are hectic events that involve a spinning cloud of death and a temporary bubble in The Melding that allows for the collection of valuable resources. Dangerous and beautiful.
Remember, events in Firefall are dynamic, so I will try to hook up with a group specifically hunting these occurrences. Think of it this way: If you were trying to convince a friend that Firefall was the best game ever made, which of these activities would you show him or her first?
We're now four weeks into my Choose My Adventure run, and I'm having a blast. Firefall has turned out to offer far more activities than I initially expected. Still, I'm curious to see what it is that keeps people playing. Since all content is essentially accessible to everyone and there's not much in terms of vertical progression, what exactly are we all working toward? What keeps us playing once we've shot a few hundred villains and are looking for something else to do?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, Firefall-ers. And of course, I'd love to have your votes so we know what to do next!

See you in New Eden.

Mike Foster is leaving everything up to you in Choose My Adventure, the Massively column in which you make the rules (and hopefully take the blame). Swing by every Wednesday to help guide Mike along this fantastical internet-ready series and to read up on his latest triumphs and gaffes in the game you demanded he play.
This article was originally published on Massively.