Most people probably have only heard of Defiance recently. I only started following it about two months ago myself, participating in all the PC beta events as well as the console one. They finally started showing commercials and the game is now ready on PS3, Xbox 360, and of course PC. Yes for the first time ever an MMO is releasing on all systems at once and it’s also like the third MMO ever on the Xbox 360.
If you are unfamiliar with Defiance, the game is a unique idea that ties together a television series of the same name that will premiere on SyFy thirteen days after the launch, with an open-world MMO. Events in the game and how players interact with them will change the direction of the show and vice versa.
The game places you in futuristic San Francisco where the world has changed quite a bit and players (ark hunters), search for rare pieces of alien technology.
You create a character from a variety of preset backgrounds, noticed that the only difference is it changed your backstory and the clothes you are wearing. For example I was an outlaw, my player wore spiked shoulders and had more of a marauder appearance. I could have also went veteran, machinist, or survivalist, but I liked the outlaws story, so I ran with it.
This character you create is an ark hunter, a specialist in survival, combat and tracking, someone who braves dangerous frontiers to locate and retrieve lost relics of alien or advanced origins in return for great financial rewards.
Imagine Borderlands with a few differences:
- It has an open world where you can interact with other players, trade, quest, participate in dynamic events, drive around, et cetera.
- You have weapon proficiencies, so as you rank up yourself, you also receive bonuses for specializing in weapon types (less recoil, more damage,…). This includes vehicles too.
- Your character has one main skill that can be invisibility, super speed, decoy, or extra damage (mapped to LB). Then as they level up you can purchase “perks” that give you passive bonuses.
- You can group up with three other players to explore areas, kill enemies, quest, get loot.
- They have 14 weapon types with a variety of statistics associated with them. Loot isn’t dropped after every kill so they are pretty rare. As an added bonus you can craft enhancements onto weapon.
We all know you wanted a game like this. Well Trion Worlds and Defiance has brought us their first stab at the concept. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it is a start.
They break you in pretty easy, letting you learn about the story, as you kill bugs and mutants. As you progress this will be the constant.
The game is a third-person shooter, you can crouch/evade with B, jump with A, throw grenades with RB, use your ability with LB, zoom with LT, shoot with RT, hit X to reload, and B to melee. If you are familiar with a video game in the 21st century this should be no issue for you.
You are also able to purchase vehicles like ATVs and trucks to navigate through the areas. These vehicles all come with a boost, but others might have added bonuses to, like holding more passengers, or even a turret on the back.
The strongest aspect of the game has to be the combat.
As you navigate around the region you ultimately get into combat. You will go around doing tasks like disarming C4, rescuing hostages, defending areas, and clearing out enemies. Using abilities like invisibility to catch enemies off guard or driving through the front door with an ATV and splattering them, the tactical decision is yours. The environments work very well to allow you to take cover and get into some real gun fights.
There are no weapon type restrictions, so you can figure out what you like and become a master with it. You have your overall weapon proficiency where you can become better with a specific gun type from use, but they also allow you to rank up the gun you are actually using to give it bonuses as well.
The game combines all of this to offer their quest system and at the end of most quests you will get a mini-boss battle. Earn some experience, some scrip (money), and if you are lucky even some loot from this.
One of the biggest issues I have though are the enemy spawns. It has the typical MMO mentality where enemies need to constantly spawn, this becomes annoying when trying to do quests (especially when you are doing them alone). I would be trying to deactivate some contraption and next thing I know it, an area I cleared out of 6 mutants, would fill with about 10 mutants and they would come out of one door like a clown car. I am sure the spawning can and will be tweaked, but it can become annoying to be killed after you showed your dominance seconds earlier. Also world design changes could fix this issue, by giving a clear entrance and exit to an area and not requiring much back tracking. That and area instancing like Star Wars the Old Republic would help casual gamers not experience mass re-spawning.
In addition to the quests in the open world, you also have dynamic events. One of the newest favorites for MMOs to include, you can be driving around and an “event” can be happening like a nest of huge bugs needing to be destroyed. Players around the area tend to flock together into them and you get to participate in an action packed “kill everything” moment. It is cool to see players band together in these moments and with these being minor events, I can’t wait to see HUGE monsters appear that end up pulling in hundreds of players to take it down. As with the enemy spawns though, these events kept popping up almost minutes after they were complete.
There are also challenge missions, you will come across these blue orbs that will teleport you to a special challenge. Treat it as a mini-game that lets you compete on a leaderboard, win special rewards, and earn experience depending on how you place. They can be challenges like giving you a shotgun and have mutant hordes charge you while you see how many you can take out without dying or can be as simple as a time trial on your ATV around world. It is a nice added touch and will give some extra activities to do.
On top of all of this they also have instanced co-operative missions. These missions teleport you and a team of three, to a map. There are some cut scenes and narration as you go through them and fight enemies. You are more than likely going to be challenged with a boss battle at the end as well, these are a lot of fun and these missions in-general are great to run for money, experience, and drops. This will also probably be where you will make friends to adventure with elsewhere.
Not including the instanced co-op missions, there is one glaring problem I noticed. When you would party up with players there is no real quest log for you to choose missions. You always have quests active that you can do, but when you party up your partners won’t have the same markers on their radar, and unless they have the mission they receive no sort of credit. It makes it really difficult to band together and do quests unless everyone decides to follow the party leader. You would think now that every MMO would have a system to make cooperative questing a given.
For example my typical MMO experience involves me banding together with a few friends and just plowing through quests until we realize it is 4AM, so this causes more of a hassle than you would think. Besides if they have already completed the quests, their should be a system incorporated like rewarding them less experience and cash.
The other aspect that I am sure you are all interested in is the PvP. It isn’t an MMO unless you can take all the loot and skills you have earned/learned, and then murder someone from across the globe.
Lucky for you, Defiance offers two types of competitive multiplayer. There is Shadow War which happens in the open world. You simply activate Shadow War, and you are playing a King of the Hill game with dozens of other players in an area of the world, at the end of these matches you also tend to get surrounded by monsters and end up banding together with your brethren no matter the outcome of the map. It is neat to see these Shadow Wars going on as I am playing regular PvE, I hope we witness stuff like this in the television show.
The other type is the usual competitive multiplayer. You use all the gear you’ve earned outside of PvP and acts as a good way to entice you to play both.
First, you enter a matchmaking system and get pitted against another team on different maps. There are small maps that offer deathmatch, these are fun except for the fact the rocket launchers need some balancing, as you will face an overwhelming amount of players using them. Then there are large maps that offer some objective gameplay, almost immediately I had memories of Big Team Battle in Halo 2.
At the beginning of a match you leave a home base with vehicles waiting for you outside. You have ATVs and Cerberus cars (the game’s warthog), and you compete in-game modes like territories. One point at each base and then a center point that act as the main scene for the battles. Similar to a tug of war.
The pacing on the smaller maps need a little work but for the larger maps the gameplay flowed very smoothly. One of the worst shooters I have played involve constant dying/shooting for the entire match, where Defiance is a game that gives you time to think, strategize, and move around. It feels like you are playing a smarter game, and will reward teams who are not just running and gunning.
The user interface is actually pretty good, and you are given a plethora of options to customize HUDs and pop-ups. It isn’t perfect though and if they follow suit with most MMOs, it won’t be off launch.
One of the best part of MMOs are the patches. Patches provide new content, bug fixes, and upgrades, and most MMOs don’t focus on fine-tuning their UI unless there are glaring issues. They save that for after launch and really add a nice polish onto the game. I remember Guild Wars had some terrible health bars and enemy damage numbers, then they came out with an update that beautified that and a lot more, it felt like I was playing a completely different game.
So that is something you have to take into account, you can jump on this train early, watch the quality increase over time, reap the benefits of being a founder, and take solace in knowing updates are coming. This isn’t like buying Madden or NHL and praying Electronic Arts creates at least three patches to fix exploits that players ruin games by using.
For example these are the things that need to be addressed and updated, and these are what I feel can/will:
- Enemy spawns need to be tweaked – they will do this based on player feedback and seeing how players play in general.
- Loot drops – loot drops are a little too rare, I like that they don’t drop for every kill, but at least giving you a drop when killing a boss should be a given.
- More customization options – there needs to be more apparel options, this is an MMO, I should be unique, and shouldn’t look like other players. They might have had time restrictions forcing them take focus away, but one patch can change all of that and add tons of clothes. I also see them partnering with sponsors like The Matrix Online did, and offering different brand apparel in game.
- User Interface overhaul – this one will almost surely occur, it might come a month or two afterwards, but with feedback and time, they will make everything a lot nicer.
I also hope that partying up and questing will be improved immediately as well, but that is one thing I can’t guarantee, because it would probably take a little more to be able to switch everyone’s quest to the same one and offering them a reward for completing it. I would like to be optimistic about this, but it is a little harder to change than the drop rate of loot, enemy spawns, and a UI.
Veteran MMO fans will be skeptical of Defiance as it seems like they are behind in the current state of the genre. For Trion though, they are breaking new ground with a simultaneous release on all systems and tying it into a television series.
If you are even remotely interested in both, it might be worth jumping on the train now. I mean imagine if The Walking Dead released with an MMO, that rewarded you for playing and watching. Then also receiving promotional codes during episodes that you can use to improve your character in their world, and a lot more.
This game is far from perfect, but with time and support, this could be ground zero for other developers to take notes. If Trion gets the added bonus of both catching on, we could see this become the example of what a console MMO can be.
A copy of Defiance for the Xbox 360 was provided to us for review by Trion Worlds.