Online Game Review: Fallen Race

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There's quite a number of "browser-based" multiplayer games out there on the Web, with varying levels of complexity. At one extreme, there are the massively multiplayer online games that require software installation or download; at the other extreme, there are text games that require nothing more than your browser, clicking on selections in order to complete your "turn". Several years ago, I gave some of these a try. There are many varieties, some based on the old "Kingdom" strategy games, where you assign food, workers, and resources in order to grow your citadel from year to year, with a natural extension to multiple players. Other games take a science-fiction plot, or Dungeons and Dragons, or other such similar themes. In most cases, the game action is essentially the same. A turn count recharges in real time; for instance, you may be allowed a certain number of clicks every 24 hours. You may use those clicks each time when you log on, and other incentives (such as referring other users or in some cases pay-to-play) may increase the number of clicks you have available and thus give you an advantage in the game. What keeps you coming back to visit the site is the thought that, if you don't use those clicks your character collects while you're gone, your character will fall astray from its possible maximum potential. To many, this might not sound particularly absorbing, but there is something notoriously addictive about attempting to work out how best to plot and play your moves with considerable patience. Add a social element, and things can get dangerously absorbing.

Fallen Race is a browser-based multiplayer game that grabbed my attention on Twitter this weekend; with a mention that it can be played on any browser or mobile device anywhere. That is a significant advantage of text-based or click-based games; they are playable on browsers on devices such as phones, and checking in to enter the moves can be done at any convenient time such as when queueing or waiting for a bus. Fallen Race is set in the late 21st century, after an alien invasion has forced the human race underground. It is up to you to arm your character and take part in a rebellion to fight back the aliens, or to fight any other factions of humans competing for resources and money in the world. That's the plot description; to see how this translates into game dynamics, a sysop gifted me with some in-game money and a "donator pack", an item that signifies a player has made a contribution to the upkeep of the game and unlocks access to some donator-only features, including accelerated recharging of energy and studying skills, and the ability to maintain lists of friends and enemies within the game itself. I am quite pleased to say that, unlike many games of its type, the game does not feature advertising, not even a single banner ad; or reward clicks to links to external sites, a common promotional gimmick for this kind of game.

In the game, you buy equipment to arm your player and defend yourself from attacks, while training your character's statistics of accuracy, strength, defense, and agility. Your character has values of mood, energy, courage, and focus, which change up and down constantly as you play your turns. The stats and attributes interact, which is where the strategy comes in; for example, it costs energy to train up your statistics, and how successful your training is depends on your mood. Focus enables you to study, while courage enables you to perform missions which let you level up. Of course, you have a number of life points, which, should you get attacked either by the in-game enemies or by other players online, will put you in the hospital to heal. The statistics regenerate over time; for example, you regain a courage point every five minutes which means you can re-attempt a mission that costs one courage point. As well as the missions, you may also choose to search the environment around you, and you are awarded a certain number of searches every day. The outcome or searches and missions may be increased experience or discovering new objects; but there may be negative outcomes, such as a wound that puts you in the hospital or time in jail. By logging back into the game regularly and spending the available points wisely, your character can increase in strength and levels and open up more and more possibilities. If you're obsessive compulsive, you can check every five minutes for something to click, but this is a game for the extremely patient! Fortunately, there seems to be sufficient protection against automation – getting computer bots to enter the moves for you – and hopefully the human element is more important to players than the game's internal number-crunching.

Evolving your character by periodically logging onto the web site and clicking available options is, of course, only the non-social part of the game. Building your character is there to enable access to the community options, backed by an in-game message board where you can interact with currently around 7000 other players. By getting to know other players, you can join teams known as "squadrons" who fight for reputation points. Fighting other players in this way is part of the game – the game runs the fight whether or not both players are online, so it is quite possible to log on to the game to discover you have been put into the hospital. In addition, there's a Battle League where organized, competitive fights are held between characters to move up through the ranks and win prizes. By meeting other people within the game, you can send them objects, attempt to rescue them from the jail, and thus build on the social elements of the game. It is the social aspects where there is considerable development currently ongoing; recent additions for example include a lottery and the "Fallen Theatre" where players can submit and share videos. You can buy and sell objects on the black market to other players, buy a bigger "facility" to live in, and even find an in-game spouse. The social aspects of the game work very well. Within a matter of minutes you will meet other players by breaking them out of jail, being gifted with supplies, weapons, armor, and the grapes – handy to throw at prisoners.

There were a few issues I did run into while exploring the site. While the Twitter account promoting the game describes it as playable on mobile devices, the site is in no way optimal for use on a smartphone – there is not an "optimised for mobile" version of the pages. The pages load very slowly on a phone and are cumbersome to scroll around, This seems a shame – the game seems ideal to be played on the move, and most games of this btype really should address this in this day and age. There are some situations as well where the page display is not precisely in-sync with game events. For example, if you have one courage point left and undertake a mission, the display of the mission results still shows that one remaining courage point on the left panel, and only updates on the next screen. The game is under active development, though, and changes big and small are in the works. In fact, while writing this review, I came across a bug of little consequence, which the sysop immediately looked into, even though it was 5.30am his local time. The community seems thriving and there is definitely a sentiment among the players that they are in no small way helping to shape the future of the game. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoy click-based browser games, Fallen Race might be worth checking out.

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About darlingman1970

Born in the UK and a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University, Chris Nash has followed a career in software engineering which he continued after moving the United States in 1996 and now brings him to California in 2010. However, Chris does not want to be considered as merely a code monkey, and has always been interested in writing; in areas as diverse as factual technical manuals all the way through to fiction. An avid reader, Chris is a fan particularly of mystery novels and enjoys above all the works of Agatha Christie and David Hewson. Chris has recently gone through some significant life changes which, at the moment, he is considering as the basis for a forthcoming novel and as food for thought on his blog. He manages to couple his loves of writing and technology and is particularly interested in how internet innovations have an impact on the writing and promotional process. Chris is a firm supporter of Creative Commons and other 'open' initiatives and believes strongly that such distribution mechanisms are the "right" way to handle intellectual property in an evolving digital world. Chris is a keen Nintendo DS and Wii player in his spare time, and is currently happily attached, living in the Central Coast area of California. Find him on Twitter as @darlingman1970. Don't ask him how old he is.
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