Wasteland Diaries: Combat fatigue

Edward Marshall
E. Marshall|08.13.10

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Wasteland Diaries: Combat fatigue

Fallen Earth has the best crafting system I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Fallen Earth's PvE is not too shabby either. And I actually enjoyed the game's PvP for a time until the end. I can't really say that Fallen Earth's PvP is bad, but it has several fatal flaws. And these flaws have caused the vast majority of the endgame PvP crowd to move on.

In this post I will examine what I think these flaws are. This is just my opinion, but my experience PvPing on all levels extensively lends my opinion at least a shred of credibility. The fact is: PvP in Fallen Earth is at an all-time low. There is hardly any real penalty for dying in the game, so why are there so few people partaking? There are several reasons that nobody PvPs in Fallen Earth, and the death penalty is not one of them. After the cut I will analyze the most common reasons for not PvPing. I will try to represent the facts of the matter, but like most of my critical articles, this one will be smothered in opinion.
Faction ineffectuality

Factions are cool. They add a lot of flavor to a game that has great game lore, but the factions don't seem to have much bearing on the way players act. The game should revolve around the six interesting yet narrow-minded factions. But instead, they are more of a backdrop. You can attack members of your own faction at will (almost continuously) without being labeled a traitor. You will receive a faction rep slap-on-the-wrist that can be ground away in mere minutes. On a side-note: I prefer that "friendly-fire" be on, so I agree with the decision to make my attacks hurt allies, but I should be punished for doing it over and over. Very little PvP in Fallen Earth is one faction versus another faction, and that has caused some PvPers to leave.

Lack of objectives

Why PvP? Well, the only real reward you get for PvP that you can't get anywhere else is death toll. Sure, death toll can buy you some of the best gear available at the moment, but not much else. Maybe some cheap ammo. Capturing conflict towns doesn't benefit you much unless you need the AP missions or need some high-level materials (which can be found in non-PvP zones). Usually flipping a conflict town is completely uncontested (at least in my experience). Capturing something should benefit your faction sector-wide, shouldn't it? Also, there is no real reason for the PvE crowd to partake in conflict towns at all, unless they want bonus AP. Many PvPers want objectives, so they left.

Combat system

This is a big one. This is the reason that, if factions were fixed and objectives were introduced, PvP would still dwindle to nothing again. I can't say that PvP in Fallen Earth isn't fun, because it is. What I can say is that endgame PvP at maximum level with maxed-out gear is no fun. I had a blast PvPing in Sector 1. Low-level PvP was fun. We used pistols and knives, shotguns and bats, and they were all pretty lethal. Combat was brutal and decisive. I used four hot-keys for this type of combat. This doesn't include my four movement keys or my jump, reload, crouch and scope keys. A dozen keys and a mouse, standard FPS fare.

Sector 2 PvP introduced mutations. Mutations do add a twist to the game, but I could really do without all the flashy active effects. If anything, mutations should be passive abilities that are subtle improvements to your character. For the most part, in Sector 2 PvP, mutations do add a bit more variety and strategy to combat, but mostly they over-complicate it. Adding mutations to the mix puts my key-count to just over 20 now. Twenty keys, with one hand. Yes, after a while, you will get used to it, and you will hit the right keys at the right time. Is it still fun? Marginally, yes, but bordering on tedious.

Endgame PvP adds a few more debuffs -- why not a few medical consumables? And some capstone abilities and burst-damage consumables like electrical generators and poisons. If you're going to hang with the big boys, you'll also need to hot-key every debuff and contingency plan in your arsenal. Managing a hot-bar with 40 or more abilities isn't a daunting task (in fact, in most serious RPGs it's a necessity at max level) when you can click them with your mouse. But you can't click them with your mouse, because that's what you are aiming and shooting with. You have to hot-key each action, all 40 of them. So now you are typing a thesis paper with your left hand and trying to shoot people with your mouse. Why not ride a unicycle too? Is PvP fun at this point? No, it's a pain.

Add a slew of self-heals and insane heal-over-time (HoT) stacking to the hand-cramping mess, and now you have combat that isn't fun and takes too long. The developers did make everyone a little squishier with a massive nerf-bomb on Liquid Armoring Solution, but it only made weapon damage marginally more effective. In order to kill a max level character in endgame PvP, you have to throw everything at him. You have to fully debuff him, hit him with damage-over-time (DoT) abilities, negate his insane regeneration rates, and hope for a stun. Weapon damage is just the last nail in the coffin, so to speak. Weapon damage should be the primary means for making people dead, but it's skills and mutations that kill them, and their 40 associated hot-keys. Wooo, let's faceroll the keyboard FTW!

Many of the active abilities (those triggered by pressing a key) could be integrated as passive abilities. Why do I need six different keys devoted to armor debuffs, and five different keys devoted to heals? I can't think of one good reason. Passive abilities would decrease the frantic button-mashing but still make character-build strategies a factor in one's success. Having abilities that are always on like stances and auras would free the players up to concentrate on shooting, moving and healing.

Weapon damage is a little skewed, too. Most dual-wielded weapons have substantially more DPS (damage-per-second) than their two-handed counterparts. This disparity increases when you add in the severe damage variance that was introduced in patch 1.4. Hard-hitting, low-rate-of-fire weapons suffer more when subjected to insane randomness more than high-rate-of-fire, low-damage weapons. Why the devs introduced this change is beyond me, and hopefully they will see the error of their ways and give us back our more predictable damage rolls.

Another thing they changed was capping the critical chance and the offense vs. defense damage bonus. I think they capped the glance chance too, but I'm not sure on that one. Putting an upper limit of 30% on these two important combat factors lessened the importance of stacking offense or defense to maximize or minimize criticals. This practice was an important strategy pre-1.4, but now nobody bothers. The difference between offenses and defenses doesn't seem to amount to anything noticeable, especially with the the crazy damage variance factored in. It has essentially homogenized all builds into being healer-tank-DPSers. That sort of comes with the territory in a classless system, but in Fallen Earth, everyone is a master-of-all.

Even if we had objectives and faction awesomeness, why would people still subject themselves to this? I'm still trying to figure that out. But I always like to end a critical piece on a high note. The Fallen Earth developers have always fixed every major problem I have seen yet. In some cases they have created other problems, but that is the nature of game design. I have faith that they will make the best decisions concerning this issue and expect many of the old PvPers to come back. Fallen Earth is still an exceptional PvE game and is well worth playing, but the upper-level PvP is mediocre at best. Aside from that single, major fault, it's the best MMORPG out there, in my humble opinion. See you next week, wastelanders.
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