My problem was that I skipped the extended tutorial. How much tutoring could I possibly need? This was just another MMO, only this time wearing the togs of a Mad Max or Fallout universe. I'd been sat in my pants playing MMOs before this game was even a twinkle in the designer's imagination, and there was nothing, nothing, I couldn't figure out for myself. Right? Well, half right. I hadn't realised that the end of the extended tutorial delivered a free horse.
A mount at the end of the tutorial sequence! How many MMOs can boast that? None, as far as I knew, and so I padded away into the post-apocalyptic night, entirely unaware that my smugness would lead to suffering.
I barely paid that extended tutorial query a second thought as I paced about the starting town on foot, trying to find out why the food had been poisoned, and killing conveniently ghettoised local baddies. Everything seemed to be where I expected it. Dudes with quests littered the town, each crowned with a little biohazard symbol to signify their interactivity. It didn't take long to find a shop where I could trade in my loot for ammo and new trousers.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that levelling had been augmented with an "action point" system, in which you spend action points as you level (or save them up for later) which meant the XP grind was smoothed out with lots of smaller decisions about managing your skills and inventory. By the time I got to level five and was in a suitable condition to head out of the starting town to another nearby settlement to continue the larger quest-arc, I was rather enjoying myself.
I jogged down the town's craggy ramp, past the ruined airport, and out into the desert. After running for a while through desolate wilderness, and straying into a player-versus-player zone that gave me the jitters, I was passed by a man on a horse.
People on horseback and little quad-bikes had been appearing regularly as I'd explored my first shanty town of the apocalypse, and I'd not paid them much attention. After all, they were probably the same high level dudes that you see everywhere in other MMOs. But wait, this guy passing me in the desert was a lower level than me! I ran a bit further, past cacti and coyotes, slowly realising that the town just a few pixels across the map was actually miles away. As a pedestrian I was going to be on this journey for quite some time. I looked back at the rocky hillock from which I'd just come, and wondered if I should head back. Annoyed, I squeaked with indignation: "But I want a pony!"
Where to find a horse? I felt certain a long grind would lie ahead of me. Most games would demand a high ransom for such aspirational items as x-percent faster travel. Happily, there was a quick and convenient refuge, which was Fallen Earth's help chat channel. An astonishingly friendly and well-informed set of people were quick to diagnose that my problem was that I hadn't played the extended tutorial, before explaining that there were other ways of getting a horse. And so, having sold a load of loot and raised the chips (the game uses casino chips as cash) I was able to gather the appropriate ingredients and make a horse. Apocalypony, I call him. Thanks, help channel!