First Impressions: FusionFall
- Testing, testing
While being a web-based game, FusionFall still involves a decent chunk of downloading, so I wanted to see if the game would work across the board as best I could. As such, I tested the game on a total of four different machines. System stats ranged from a 1.73GHz Pentium M 740 laptop with 1 gig of RAM, and on-board video over wireless at the lower end, to a 2.8GHz dual-core, 4 gigs of RAM and an nVidia 8800 GT machine hardwired at the higher-end. Testing both under Vista and XP, I'm glad to say that FusionFall ran fairly well on all four machines I played it on. I would note that using older versions of MSIE and FireFox seemed to be where the only real hiccups occurred, so make sure you've updated first for best results.
- The first real download
The first time you launch into FusionFall, it will require you to download the Unity Web Player. It's a relatively painless 3.2MB download even for those on slower, wireless connections. (For the parents who don't allow administrator access on their kids' logins, you'll want to clear this one for them otherwise the game won't work.)
- Only a little bit more to download
The nice thing with FusionFall is that this first bit is really the only time you'll seriously notice a true download screen by and large. You'll hit load screens periodically, but after the first bit, the download will stream to you while you're playing the game. Sure, you'll see the download bars over the game in places, but it's never terribly distracting to the overall experience.
This was perhaps the only real snag on the lowest machine over wireless. The download took about 15 minutes, which is fair considering the remainder downloads during play. (I'd recommend a hardwire connection to the Internet on older machines for best results.)
- Can you hear me?
First things first, Dexter and Computress reach out to find us across the years. Apparently Future Earth is in trouble and needs our help. But first we need to tell the game who we are.
- Pick a name
There are two ways of creating a name for your character in FusionFall. The first option offers us these three spinning wheels just full of names. You can choose one, two, or three parts to your name, and there are some truly fun combinations in there like the one pictured here.
- Any name
Your second option is to make up your own name. Of course, all of these names are subject to approval by the FusionFall staff, so until you get approved, you'll be 'Generic Heroed' with a placeholder name for a while.
- Decisions, decisions
From naming, you launch into the character customization screen. This is the first real face-to-face with the cel-shaded graphics of FusionFall. For a web-based game, FusionFall offers a nice level of customization from the word go, offering lots of choices in clothing, hairstyle, and more. You can choose to play a girl...
- or perhaps you'd prefer
running as a male character.
This screen additionally shows off the fact that FusionFall does allow you to full-screen the play window and remove all signs of the browser which is definitely a nice feature for a web-based game.
- Character screen
Once you've created your character and are logging back in, you'll be taken to this screen. As you can see, each account has up to four different character slots for you to use, all for yourself.
- A word on family accounts
Since this seems like it is going to be a popular option from everything I've heard thus far from gaming parents I know, I wanted to take a moment to note that those character slots on the last screen aren't meant for other people to play on. Each person will have their own account, all of which will be linked up on the lower left-hand side of the Master account's billing screen. You can either create an account in this interface, or allow your family to create up to three free accounts, then link them together here.
This enables all four of the accounts to be logged in simultaneously - great for playing together.
- Another quick bit of backstory
There are quite a few cut-scenes in FusionFall, giving you more backstory on different things going on in the game. This isn't terribly unwelcome considering you continue downloading through them.
Gratuitous Dexter shot, just because these opening cut-scenes are funny, and because the updated look of many of the Cartoon Network characters is pretty cool in my opinion.
- Aha, tutorial land
The game takes you very much by the hand, making it perfect for kids who are completely new to computer gaming - or alternately, parents who are new to computer gaming!
It's a pretty standard movement scheme; WASD keys to move and the camera is tied to the mouse. This can cause some annoyance when you're in a browser and want your mouse control back, but hit enter or alt-tab if you can't get the enter menu and you should get control back.
The mouse controls combat; get close and swivel the camera to face your target, left click once to fire once, and hold the button down for continuous fire. Right mouse is used primarily to equip items from your inventory.
Numbuh Two, pictured here, is the first real questgiver you run into. Much like the normal model, questgivers have giant exclamation marks or question marks over their head, and are often surrounded by a glowing nimbus.
You can have one Nano mission, one guide mission and four world missions at a time. All of them wind up in your Journal screen, shown here. It's all very clear and self-explanatory. As an added bonus, you can also view what quests you've already done.
- Current quests
As with many other MMOs, FusionFall adds your quests on the right-hand side of the screen. This makes for much easier tracking of objectives.
- The full menu
The other options in the full menu are shown here. You can get to this menu by hitting enter once you're out of the first tutorial area.
This is also where you can switch to full-screen via the button at the bottom right with the two diagonal arrows on it.
This is your equipment screen. At first look, it might seem Diabloesque, making you think items would take up a certain percentage of the grid, but each item only takes up one block, regardless of size. This makes for a nice amount of inventory room if you're a pack-rat like I am.
Around my character you'll also notice three circular spots for nanos, which are combat pets in the FusionFall world.
As you adventure, you'll get emails from characters as you quest, or from other players. Along side the email window is your inventory window in case you want to send your friends things.
- Where am I?
Another option on the main menu is the map, which allows you to zoom in and out as needed and locate points of interest.
This is your control screen, offering graphics, keymapping, UI, and social controls in case you want to block people.
- And finally
There's an extremely in-depth help system covering pretty much every aspect of the game from logging in to nanos and more. There are tons of great screenshots in here as well, illustrating everything extremely plainly.
When you click on another player, this menu will come up with a number of options. From friending to grouping, it's pretty well all covered here.
- Limited chat
For those on free accounts, or under parental controls, you will be limited to the in-game text menus for chatting and emotes. The good news is that they've made the system fairly robust without being overkill.
- Picking up goodies
There are vendors scattered around the world with items you can buy for Taros, FusionFall's currency. You'll find lots of cash during the course of questing and defeating the fusion spawn, so you can begin to trick yourself out fairly early.
You get around in a variety of ways. This is a Dex-bot, who will help you get into the cordoned off areas where fusion-beasties run rampant and there's a large infection. In some of these areas, you'll find other warp-gate type mechanisms with giant green tentacles coming out of them. Watch out for those; It generally means there's a boss-type fight ahead!
Traveling between areas is handled via other transportation options like the Kids Next Door's 'Scamper' craft or Mojo Jojo's Flying Monkeys. (Traveling by flying monkey is win, by the way.)
Another way you'll get around is by hitting certain structures in the world which will catapult you up into the air. Think "insanely powerful trampoline" and you'll have it about right. As you don't really take falling damage, these are just tons of fun to play with.
Zip lines, a-la James Bond, show up in different areas of the game, allowing you to zip down from areas you were in quickly. Of course, you can just jump off, but the zip lines are more fun.
- In over your head?
If you get in trouble somewhere, you can open your menu by hitting Enter, and select Warp on the left-hand side. The game will teleport you back to the nearest resurrection point without that nasty "having to die first" thing.
As mentioned before, Nanos are the FusionFall version of pets; or more properly, combat helpers. Some of them have offensive powers, some defensive, some passive. Each only has a limited amount of time it can be out before it needs to rest, so running around with your Nano out, while fun and cool looking, can be bad for their health. Of course, you can get goodies for your Nano as you level up.
You can afford more nanos with more fusion energy you get from defeating the bad guys, so it's definitely in your best interest to do every quest you can find and street sweep bad guys when moving from point-a to point-b.
- Creative monsters
This shows a later combat screen, giving you an idea of some of the strange creatures you'll run across in your travels. On the lower right, you see three nanos just waiting to be deployed. More can be gained through questing, but you can only carry a maximum of three at any given time.
- And of course
I'd be incredibly remiss if I didn't mention the 3-d platforming which comprises a lot of the challenges in this game. At first I wasn't too terribly sold on the idea, remembering some of the horrible experiences I'd had on consoles with 3-d platformers, but these were quite a bit of fun.
You can just run the platform course normally, or there are race NPCs in many of the cordoned-off areas who will allow you to race other players through the series of platforms. Both offer a fun option on playing through the area and are worth checking out.
Another quick thing to mention before I wrap this up is that you can find all manner of things in the world if you're the adventuring type, so definitely look around. I found all manner of ways to climb walls, look around, interesting challenges and more.
This screenshot shows off one of the easiest things to find - Coco's eggs. Picking these up will give you a temporary buff to run speed, jumping - and different types stack.
Death is pretty much no real penalty. You only lose the time running back from where you respawn to where you were.
- In all
This is a fun title for a variety of people. If you love the Cartoon Network characters, want something casual and fun, liked 3-D platformers, or are looking for a starter MMO game for the family, be sure to give it a try. You can play through Future World for free which should let you get to about level 3 or 4, and with single-account pricing at $5.95 and family pricing for up to four separate accounts at $9.95, this is a really good value.
Overall, not too incredibly deep, not too insanely hard, but a great deal of fun for casual gamers of all ages - especially the ones who still love cartoons. Besides, it's just fun to catch a flying monkey to meet up with Samurai Jack. Well scripted, stylized graphics, and good value; definitely worth checking out.
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