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Second Wind: Fallen Earth

Fallen Earth Sector One
My favorite thing about the Second Wind column is the idea of coming back to a game you once loved and rediscovering what made you once love it. It could be a game that possibly burned you with a new update or left you heartbroken after a patch, but you just can't get that game out of your mind.

For me, that game is Fallen Earth. It's not so much that the game burned me at any one particular time; it was a gradual decline in respect for the game after years of playing through horrible AI, broken pathing, and unfixed lag that made the game unplayable at times. The changeover to F2P didn't help anything, and when most of the core staff was eventually laid off, I lost interest.

But what always kept me going was the overwhelming good points about the game. The setting is perfect for me, the faction wheel is (was) genius, and the sense of humor is unmatched. I played Fallen Earth relentlessly since beta because it scratched so many itches for me, but the problems soon became too much to overlook.

But I just can't get her outta my mind.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to jump back into the game for this column. I wanted to approach my rebirth from all angles, which works out well since I have four characters in various stages of the game.

Fallen Earth
Sector One

This is where all clones begin in Fallen Earth. My neglected level 9 character was still toodling around the starter cities, so I figured I'd try him out first.

To me, this is what Fallen Earth is all about. The land is mountainous and desolate. It's a true wasteland as I was taught wastelands should look in the Mad Max movies, and I especially enjoy the scrapped-together look of the armor and weapons. You ride a horse through this area and hit things with a hammer made of scrap metal or a pellet gun made from an old pipe. This is what post-apocalyptic is all about, and I love every minute of it.

One thing I did notice, though, is that the desperation of scavenging I once enjoyed is a thing of the past. No longer are resource nodes protected and treasured; they're now covering literally every square foot of the wasteland in this area. This makes me sad.

Sector Two

Sector Two is where you first get introduced to mutations and the utility of the different factions. This was always an exciting time for a player because it was like a second wind (pun!) for those curious about the direction of the game. Sector Two is a brilliant area still desolate enough to keep that post-apoc feel but advanced enough to let you know that civilization has hope after the fall.

I played my rifle-wielding level 22 character through a bit of this area to remind me of how much fun guns really are in this game. One of the unique features of Fallen Earth's combat is the third-to-first-person view. You can easily play the game as if it were an FPS if you wanted to, and the guns in this game are really a lot of fun to use (and craft!). After surviving S1, I always felt such a rush of accomplishment running around S2 with a couple of new rifles strapped to my back and a pocket full of ammo.

Boom! Headshot
A few months ago, all Action Points and Faction affiliations were cleared to allow respeccing of both skills and faction. So when I logged into these characters, I was able to refocus my skills and decide whether I wanted to continue on with my originally chosen faction. This was fun for me too because it allowed me to restart, in a sense. None of the faction points themselves were reset, but you can now choose to switch sides if you want.

Faction affiliation was always a big deal to me. The faction wheel was one of my favorite parts of the game, and I paid attention to who was my ally or my enemy. If you're not familiar with the wheel, it basically allowed players to earn faction points with one of the six groups (through quests or kills) while earning half the points with ally groups (the ones on each side of you on the wheel), but you'd lose double the points with the faction on the opposite side of the wheel from you. So if you chose to be a militaristic Enforcer, the tribal CHOTA would hate you, and all CHOTA faction town NPCs would attack you on site if your faction were high enough as an Enforcer. It brought balance to the game and made for some careful planning for your character's story.

Dead CHOTA everywhere
But that's all changed a bit. Now, faction affiliation means little more than determining which quest hub you can access and which side you'll join in endgame PvP battles. And faction points are now earned and lost only for your faction and the one directly opposite -- not the side factions anymore. I'm a little disappointed in how the faction wheel idea got abandoned, but that's part of the sad truth of this game and its rocky development since launch.

Sector Three

This area begins a change in the game that I could feel as soon as I first drove into its wooded plains. S3, also known as Kaibab Forest, is where you really start to get an idea that this game isn't really going to be about scrapped-together weapons anymore.

The lush forests and recognizable wildlife make S3 feel like just about any other modern-day MMO. It's not really a bad thing, but it's not what I signed up for, either. Other than that, S3 is formatted just about the same as S2. You have your main faction towns, your large group dungeons-in-factory-basements, and your main hub city with access to all the storage vaults. I still like S3, and it's still a fun area -- especially for farming.

Fallen Earth
Deadfall and beyond

My highest-level character was parked in Deadfall's Los Alamos, and I spent a great deal of time just looking around at my fellow players and how drastically different they are from those in S1. Decked out in their glowing teal Interceptor cars and hot pink mesoprene jumpsuits, players in these highest-level areas don't really even seem to be playing the same game anymore. Deadfall, Terminal Woods, Alpha County, and The District are all about control points and heavy PvP. I admit that I haven't seen much of the game past Terminal Woods, but I'd be excited to see if I'm wrong about the direction this game is taking with endgame play.

As I play the game now, I can't help but think of the what-ifs. What if this game's original development team (who are now mostly working on The Elder Scrolls Online or various indie projects) had stayed on board and the game were profitable? Would we see that persistent, Star-Wars-Galaxies-like housing system rumored to be in the works? Would we see a continuation of the brilliant storyline that got us hooked early in the game? Would we see fewer cop-out PvP arenas and retina-burning dye kits and more of the desperate survival experienced in the early game? Would the lag and broken enemy AI ever get fixed?

Fallen Earth
Of course, no one can really answer those questions, but in these few weeks that I've been back, I've found myself perfectly fine with playing my low-to-mid-level characters in Sectors One through Three. I can play this game like that and have no problem with the fact that I'll never really do anything with the high-level content. And I love it! Who knows, I might even get back into the game's PvP eventually.

But I've put about 20-30 hours into this game since I came back, I've joined a new clan, and I'm excited about discovering more of the new content since I first left. It doesn't matter that I personally don't like the last half of the game because the first half more than makes up for it. I can enjoy the quirky writing, amazingly in-depth crafting, and gorgeous sunsets all day long because the game is now free-to-play.

Despite my few complaints, I'm really happy that I'm back in Fallen Earth, and I hope the game is still around for many more years to come.

MMOs are constantly changing, and our opinions can change with them. That's why we're here to give some beloved (or not) games a second (or third) look. Has that game that was a wreck at launch finally pulled itself together? How do the hits of yesteryear hold up today? That's what we're here to find out as Massively gets its Second Wind!

This article was originally published on Massively.