|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||ESRB|
by Josh Wirtanen
Last week, Defiance came out. Its launch was less-than-spectacular (something I wrote a bit about), but that’s to be expected of pretty much any MMO. And yes, even though it’s a third-person shooter, Defiance is also an MMO.
So after the game’s first week, how is it looking?
Well, server issues are still fairly common (my experience with the game is entirely on Xbox 360). And this creates a ton of problems. Most notably is that when the servers start lagging, your X button stops working. And this just flat out sucks, because X is your action button. Are you in the middle of a quest where you need to disable generators in between waves of raider swarms? You’ll have to push X before the next wave spawns in. Good luck with that, kid. The X button also dismounts you from whichever vehicle you are driving. There was one time where I literally had to reset my game in order to get my character off of his ATV.
Aside from the X-button weirdness, everything just works slowly. Your menus take too long to load in, you’ll see other players jittering around the map, and enemies react far too slowly to being killed, often taking two or three seconds to actually die once you’ve killed them. And this makes for an incredibly frustrating experience.
But sometimes the game works perfectly. Sometimes the lag completely disappears. Sometimes, the action button works exactly as intended. And these moments are absolutely fantastic. (It must also be noted that Trion has been very communicative with fans, giving us updates on the status of servers and patches and bugs and things on an almost daily basis, which does lessen the sting of the server issues a bit.)
Defiance is set in a post-apocalyptic San Fransisco, where alien terraforming has begun to wreak all sorts of havoc across the landscape. You step into the shoes of an Ark Hunter that you create (though the character creation system here is depressingly shallow), working for a stuck up Billy Corgan lookalike named Karl von Bach. Von Bach has a fancy little trinket called an ark core that he claims he’s going to use to save the world, and, of course, it ends up in the wrong hands. As an Ark Hunter, it’s up to you to track it down once again.
So what exactly is an Ark Hunter? Well, they collect alien artifacts and things and sell them to the highest bidder, and sometimes take on other missions with varying degrees of legality. Let’s just say that Ark Hunters are basically a badass combination of Indiana Jones and Boba Fett.
Now, I mentioned in my first impressions article that Defiance’s first couple hours are pretty rough. They’re cutscene-and-tutorial-heavy, and the story seems largely uninteresting at first. But having played much deeper into the game, I have to say that everything about Defiance gets better as you continue to invest time into it. The missions get more interesting, the characters become less annoying, the enemies become more varied and more difficult to kill, you unlock cool additional features like Contract Missions, and even the landscape gets more and more impressive as you venture forth.
To me, this is a sign of a well-made MMO. The game is designed to be played for hundreds of hours, not just five or ten, so I can completely forgive it for the slow opening section. It’s the later stuff that matters. Players need to feel rewarded for sticking around, and Defiance is a game that knows how to remain interesting in its later portions.
But that’s not to say it won’t feel like a grind at times. You’ve still got your typical fetch and escort quests, and a lot of the Contracts end up feeling like kill quests (though they don’t require interaction with an NPC to pick up or turn in, which is nice.) A weird little thing that might seem counterintuitive for MMO veterans is that you can only have one active quest at a time (Contracts don’t count as quests; you can have several active at once). While that keeps your minimap less cluttered, it also means you’re going to wind up returning to the same areas over and over again and saying, “Damn, that would have saved me quite a bit of time had I just done both these quests at once.”