Fallen Earth is not the only post-apocalyptic game on the market, but its combat sequences, play-crafting features and captivating landscapes make it a jolting action-adventure worth checking out. You can play it for free with some limitations, or pay for one of three different tiers of paid subscription, starting at $10 per month. There is a cash shop as well.
The free version offers enough gameplay potential that you're easily able to decide if it's fun enough, for you, to pay for. You don't quickly run into paywalls, so there's no feeling that you're missing out on something major without subscribing, though you'll want to if you play constantly.
Fallen Earth is set in the year 2062, in an area of the Grand Canyon. There's no attempt to portray the game's setting as a model of the entire world, or even of North America; it's all a continuous region, with the hazards and rewards increasing as you travel around.
It's a free-form setting; Fallen Earth doesn't channeled into the "right" areas, although there are quests to follow if you want. You are free to wander into places where the dangers are more than you can take. New regions are added slowly, but regularly, and Fallen Earth has a small number of large regions with different types of terrain within them, instead of a large number of small, but distinctly flavored, "zones".
Combat in Fallen Earth relies on a mix of player aiming, character skills and game statistics. The player constantly flips between combat mode, where the mouse aims the reticle (the crosshair placed in the eyepiece of the scope), and non-combat mode, where you click on objects, activate interface buttons, and so on. Skill gain comes from using skills, and also from attribute points, which can be more freely spent as you earn them. There are no classes; you can mix-and-match skills as you wish, but there aren't enough points to be good at everything, and a jack of all trades is a master of being mutant-chow.
Crafting is a major aspect of Fallen Earth. Virtually all items are player-crafted, and gathering from resources, from "tainted water" to "scrap steel". Part of the richness of the system is shown by the fact there's more than one way to skin a mutant chicken: You can get scrap steel from harvesting appropriate ruins, or you can make it from scrap iron and coal.
Crafting requires time, sometimes hours or days, but for most items, you can do other things while crafting goes on in the background. You queue up your work, then go out and adventure, and you're informed when you're done crafting. A few items require your character to be in a workshop, though of course you can log off and not lose time.
Fallen Earth does have some flaws. While the landscapes and textures are very nice and immersive, character animations, both of humans and animals, are stiff and suffer from clipping problems. At times, they look like solid plastic toys being dragged around by invisible strings.
Gameplay is more important than graphics, but graphics do matter. The flexibility of the character system can sometimes seem to be too great; while you can't excel at everything, you can be pretty good at most things, which means there's little sense of having valuable or unique skills.
Flipping between an FPS-style combat mode and a more typical point-and-click non-combat mode may not be intuitive for everyone. While there's plenty of freedom to wander, there's also a sense that it doesn't matter; you're likely to find the same kinds of enemies, resources, and quests in every part of a large area. While advanced regions of the game have many different kinds of terrain, the starter region is realistically brown, grey, and desiccated, and it can be a long time before you see anything else.
Fallen Earth began as a standard monthly subscription RPG, underwent a fairly rocky launch period, and transitioned to a free-to-play model, which seems to be successful, judging from the activity in the game's starter zones.
Free players have access to the entire game, but can craft only eight hours a day, and craft, harvest, and gain XP at a slower rate. There are various subscription tiers beyond that, and there are also items that can be purchased, including cosmetic clothing and boosts to XP gain. The $10-per-month Survivalist subscription gives you more crafting slots and speeds up times of actions (like harvesting or crafting) relative to free playing. The Wastelander tier ($15.00 perm onth) gives you everything Survivalist does, plus much faster crafting and XP gain, and a 15% discount at the cash store. The Commander tier ($30 per month) gives you an "aura" that enhances the action speed of allies near you and a 20% discount at the cash store, plus the benefits of prior tiers.
If a post-apocalyptic sandbox game with an FPS combat interface and deep crafting appeals to you, Fallen Earth is worth giving a shot.
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