Angels Fall First is a new "combined arms" game that showed up on Steam Early Access not too long ago, featuring both first person shooter and space battle theaters of war. On the ground it plays like Battlefront or Battlefield, and in space the closest comparison that comes to mind is either to Star Fox or, again, Battlefront. Angels Fall First is made by Strangely Interactive, an English indie company that claims to develop the game on evenings and weekends. Having spoken with the developers, I learned that there are about 8 regular developers, contributing whenever their lives permit them to.
Now, let's get the Early Access-isms out of the way first. The biggest complaint is the UI. It's atrocious. Yes, I've seen worse. No, it's not acceptable. Thankfully it's being worked on, but for now, prepare for some horrible interface design. Secondly, the tutorial is useless. Skip it and mess around in a singleplayer server with bots for a bit. Third, the usual problems of these kinds of games exist. Graphics are poor in some areas, clipping issues exist everywhere, some things just don't work, core mechanics are bugged, there aren't any dinosaurs, some weapons are overpowered, and small things like a lack of weapon descriptions on some items are noticeable.
I've been burned with Early Access many times before. I'm a trusting person. No matter how many times it bites me, or how bad it hurts, I never stop trusting. With those games I would put a few hours in and be done, knowing failure when I see it. Then I would go on my blog and write a big article on requiring demos for early access titles, then give up halfway through and do what all adults do when full of sadness: pretend it doesn't exist. I didn't feel that way with Angels Fall First. I felt the way I feel when I play Counter Strike: Global Offensive. "Wow, I'm really bad at this, but it's actually fun! Wow I'm bad. Like, wow, I'm really, really bad. Ah jeez."
So let's talk about the things in Angels Fall First that I'm bad at. This can also be considered a features list. There's the ground combat, which works exactly like you might think. One player (or the AI) gets voted in as the commander, which designates objectives to capture, defend, etc. The rest of the chumps run in, guns blazing, to follow their orders. Some are able to spawn in vehicles ranging from the space equivalent of golf carts to tried-and-true tanks. Legends say that these vehicles would contain another player to act as a gunner, but these stories remain firmly rooted in myth. You may be asking why someone would want to follow orders. Well, when you follow orders you get command experience, which is used to upgrade your gear. Combat, command, and support XP are all used to increase the budget for gear and whatnot. They're all pretty self explanatory.
There's also the space combat, which is a big selling point for a lot of people. If it's the big reason you're considering Angels Fall First, I might reconsider. While the ground combat is great, the space combat is like trying to play a flight simulator that's falling off a cliff. Maybe I'm just extra bad at it, though, so your mileage may vary. I had a bunch of screenshots of me failing to do anything useful in space, but my screenshot software turned them all into black screens. Instead, here's a picture of a random crash I got while playing.
Outside of space, but still inside vehicles, I feel the need to mention driving. Have you ever driven a car before? I have. Y'know what I did? I drove down a road and picked up some groceries, then went home. Y'know what I didn't do? Go from 0-90 in half a second, then shoot off a cliff because the dirt is now made of ice and lubricant. Well, apparently this game hasn't heard of cars before and has made them impossible for humans to control. The only successful drivers so far have been Goro, the guy who designed the N64 controller, and the one Angels Fall First programmer who tried the cars out and thought that it was a nice change of pace from being good. Maybe it's a bug, and if so that's fine. I've seen many bugs so far, lack of control being a small one. For instance, water. Everything about it's a bug. Don't believe me? Look at the following pictures.
You've likely noticed a sniper rifle in a few of these images. It's not entirely stock, it's a basic rifle with a scope, long barrel, and some other stuff on it. The more experience you get, the higher budget for weapons and attachments you have. I believe the max is 300, at least for combat experience, though I never got high enough with the other two to be certain. You can customize your guns to add sights, different ammo types (regular, AP, acid, incendiary, and I think something that works against shields), stock upgrades (faster switching, reloading, etc), and various other things like additional barrels. You can do the same to your suit, customizing either a light, medium, or heavy suit with abilities to augment how you move and play. I generally play scout sniper, so I pick the servo module for better mobility (as is recommended by the default scout loudout). Of course, this all applies to customizing your vehicles, including spaceships, as well. There's also explosives and kits that can be selected, such as turrets, sticky sensors, and medkits. Finally you have the knife, which for now can't be customized. You run faster with the knife equipped for some reason, and by holding down the right mouse button you can charge it up for an instant kill in some situations.
Let's talk graphics and stuff. The graphics options are generally what you expect from a game made with Unreal Engine 3. Borderless windowed support, custom framerate caps (with support for high framerates), FOV slider, postprocessing up to SMAA x4, pretty much the expected array of customization. The audio screen has sliders for master volume, music, FX, and speech. These options seem to reset every time the game is loaded, at least for now, but they work fine while playing. Not much to say there. There's another screen for customizing your HUD, specifically the scale and color scheme, but I found the default to work fine and didn't spend much time messing around there. Finally, Angels Fall First is prestigious among newer games in that it lets you rebind and view all the game's keys. It even supports Xbox controllers if you're into that sort of thing.
Using an Xbox controller might be a bit of a handicap, though. Even against AI I've found it very hard to aim anything long enough to do damage. The AI has a level scale of 1-5, and I played a few matches against each level to figure out how big of a gap that is. Level 1 basically just runs around with "kill me" signs, and Level 5 AI was handcrafted by Skynet for dark purposes. Like killing me. The gap isn't huge, but with so many bots in one server, it is definitely noticeable. Fights are big, feeling similar to Planetside 2's battles in scale. The similarities between the two games are really quite numerous, if you think about it.
So, overall, how is Angels Fall First? Being in Early Access, and this being a preview, I'm in no position to say whether you should buy it or not. Do you have $18 lying around? Do you like space battles and stuff? Well, give it a try. I enjoy it, and I look forward to seeing where it's going to go. That's enough for me. If you have your own opinion on it, and I'm sure you do, I encourage you to voice it in the comments below.
Be sure to check back periodically, as we're preparing an interview with Strangely Interactive soon. If you have questions for them about Angels Fall First, their company, or favorite kinds of sandwiches, let us know in the comments and we'll forward it along.
Angels Fall First was provided free to TechRaptor for preview purposes.