Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Defiance First Impressions

On the weekend I picked up Trion's third-person shooter MMO, Defiance. I gather it's tied into a television show, but I don't watch that show. I assume all the named NPCs are characters on the show. It's a Buy-To-Play game so far, but I'm not entirely sure what else is sold. Maybe some boosts, cosmetic items and new episodic missions.

Defiance is an excellent game, but with one significant flaw.

Mechanically, it's very sound. The game feels like a shooter, like you are in control of your actions, and it's more skill than stats. Now I don't play a lot of shooters, so keep that in mind. The weapons all feel very different. Latency is not an issue, and the game performs very well.

The graphics are pretty good. There's a fair number of facial sliders in character creation, though sadly I had my usual trouble making a good looking character. Though I ended up with a pretty decent one. There are no classes in the game, but you do choose a background which determines your starting weapon. You can use any weapon you find however.

The setting is a quasi-post-apocalyptic setting. Some alien refugees came to Earth, there was a war, and some areas got devastated, including the area the game is set in. The story is okay, nothing amazing, but decent enough.

In a lot of ways, the quest structure is similar to Rift. You have main story missions and side missions. You also run across "situations" very often. These might be things like "Rescue some hostages" or "Eliminate a raider camp", etc. They're the equivalent of small Rifts. Anyone can join in and help, and when the situation is resolved, everyone gets the xp reward.

Then there are "Arkfalls" which are the Zone Invasions from Rift. These are much larger events that attract a lot more players. There's usually one active on the map at any given time.  There are also special mission types like Time Trials and Rampages, which keep a leaderboard of the best times.

For missions, anyone can jump in and help. If two people are on the same mission in the same area, they both help out. Essentially, mission objectives are tied to the area, and not the people.  As well, if your health goes to zero, you are incapacitated and another player can revive you. It's the same system I loved in Guild Wars 2, and works excellently here.

For skills, there's a large EGO grid. There are 4 main powers: an invisibility cloak, a damage buff, a speed boost, and a decoy creation power. You pick a main power and then you can pick talents near it which unlock more of the grid. You can then equip X talents. It's a pretty nice system leading to some interesting builds that you can match to your playstyle. On the whole, the power curve feels fairly flat so far.

You also get a vehicle, an ATV, fairly early. The ATV handles more like vehicles in a racing game than mounts in a traditional MMO. Vehicles are actually a great deal of fun.

Actually, the entire game is amazingly fun. You do short bits of content while slowly improving your character, both through the weapons you find (a bit like Diablo) and as you unlock new talents. As you go from mission to mission, I find it fun to just clear all the situations I come across as I go.  It's also excellent if you find a small group of 2 or 3 others and you work together to clear things.

However, that leads to most significant flaw. Defiance is an exceedingly lonely game. No one talks in chat, no one talks to other people. Because grouping is implied and automatic, you just kill things silently with other people.

Honestly, if I played MMOs with one or two real-life friends, I would say that Defiance is the best MMO for that small group playstyle. And assuming that we all liked shooters, I would push to make it the regular game of choice. You can feel that it would be an amazing experience with two or three on voice-chat.

But I don't play with real-life friends. I'm a solo player. And even though I'm enjoying Defiance hugely at this point, I think the loneliness and quiet will get to me. I like grouping and watching people chat about silly stuff in general chat, and that lack makes the game feel very empty at times.


  1. The game is actually set in the Bay area, while the show is set in St Louis, so the characters don't actually cross over for the most part.

    That said, though, there are cases where you meet with people or events from the show, such as pretty early in the game you can meet up with Nolan and Irisa, the main characters of the show (who you also saw in the intro video) to do a mini-Arkfall. And there's some kind of event going on now that is supposed to match something happening in the show.

    The whole cross-promotion system seems kind of interesting, and I did enjoy the game when I tried it's free weekend a bit ago, but I'm left wondering what will happen to the game if the show doesn't really catch on.

  2. I think the game can stand on its own. The NPCs are just named NPCs. The fact that the NPCs happen to be in a television show as well is not essential, in my mind.

    Plus, the show has been renewed for a second season, so the question has been put off for another year.