I haven’t played an MMO since the very early days of City of Heroes, and it was a game I really enjoyed. In the years since, having to constantly upgrade my PC to keep it current to play games saw me slowly transition over to consoles where I do most (i.e. all) of my gaming now. So when I saw that there was an MMO coming to the 360, my interest was piqued, even though I had no clue what the game was about other than having the usual post-apocalyptic Earth setting and not having a monthly subscription fee, I decided it was time to jump back into an MMO world.
If you asked me what Defiance was about, I’d tell you quite simply, “I have no idea.” I do know that Defiance is the tie-in game with the SyFy Channel television series of the same name, and since I don’t have the SyFy channel, I have never seen the show or even know anything about it. The game, which was released yesterday for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, is an MMO third-person shooter- the first of its kind for the consoles, in fact.
Going out on a limb, I slapped down my $60 for the game, and I thought that before giving a thorough review, I would do some early impressions of the game after having playing some. Right now, I have played roughly 6 or so hours and like most games that rely on server stability, Defiance has had more than a few ugly moments.
When I first popped in the game, I did what I usually do and installed the game right from the Xbox dashboard. No biggie, until I started up the game and the main menu did a mandatory install again, even though I had just installed it.
Once it was installed, a patch needed to be downloaded and that took about 15 minutes, but once that was out of the way, the game fired up problem free and I was in. The first thing you need to do is to pick your character and customize them to your liking. There weren’t quite as many options to choose from as I would have thought for an MMO -only a few choices for eyes, noses, face structure, etc. – and the choice between two races; human or…sort of human, and either male or female.
Once your character is created, a scene will play where you will find yourself on a huge starship and you will be introduced to four characters: a cat-like woman, a smug roguish fellow, a rather douchey man named Von Bach who is apparently your boss, and finally an army officer named Grant. Once the intro scene is over, you are found by another character named Cass Ducar, in your escape pod on Earth, after the ship has crashed. After the pleasantries with her are out of the way, you will then be introduced to your EGO program.
The EGO program is a ghost-like figure who is similar to Fi from Skyward Sword who would pop out of your sword to harass you every once in a while. The projection gives you the most basic of tutorials on how to use your weapons, the map, and show you the four EGO powers you can choose from. The powers that you can select from are Decoy, Cloak, Overcharge, and Blur. The former two are pretty self-explanatory while the two latter choices have more of an offensive purpose. I decided to go with Cloak since, when in a pickle, being able to disappear is usually a lot more helpful than being able to do more damage.
Once you are done with the brief tutorial, you are then placed in the starting area near the crashed ship–which is now sticking halfway out of a mountainside– that you were on during the intro. You are then told that Von Bach has gone missing and needs to be found. Although it sure seems important enough, there are plenty of things to do before you decide to go looking for him through the main missions.
From here the world opens up and you can do the first few missions to get your feet wet. Once they are out of the way, side missions will open, as well Time Trials, Defense Missions, Rampage Mission, etc. and you will also get access to your first vehicle which can be materialized anytime by pressing up on the D-Pad. There are also Arkfalls that open up and these Raid-type missions will require numerous players to gather and take down swarms of enemies that appear in one particular area.
Once you get wandering around the area, you’ll quickly see that Defiance is very Borderlands-like. You can loot weapons, shields, mods, and the like from enemies, as well as buy them from stores. Each weapon and item has its own properties and values and of course finding better items is all part of the experience.
Another Borderlands-type property are the skill perks that you can add to your character. These perks build off of the original EGO power that you picked at the start of the game. There are many to choose from and they range from things like “Suckerpunch”; which allows you to do more damage from behind, and “Height Advantage”; which allows you to do more damage from heights.
To get these perks, you need to earn “EGO Units” which are related to your “EGO rating” in some way or another. You have a meter at the bottom of the screen that fills with the more EGO you earn, but it’s never made quite clear just what the rating is or how you earn units. I wanted to assume your EGO Rating was your level, but I’m at rating 78, soooo..I dunno. So far the game is very “learn as you go” and try to figure it out for yourself, or ask someone and see if they know.
There are unfortunately many things in the game that are there to learn from experience, like how to join a group or make a clan. Admittedly, the process of doing it may be as straightforward as it seems to be, but it never worked once in the time I was playing. I had a friend in my game earlier and when I tried to add him to my group, it would continually say that he was offline even though he was right in front of me.
Trying to add a player to a group always failed and trying to create a clan, even when I had met the prerequisites, would do nothing when the button was pressed to accept it. I don’t know if I was doing it correctly or if it was just broken. For now, I’ll give it a pass to sort itself out, but these aren’t the only issues the game has so far.
Many times other players in the world would vanish right in front of me, as would enemies when fighting them. When looking at the map of the enormous world, the cursor always moved when looking at a mission description. Like most free-to-play MMOs, when at vendors or in the menus, you can use real world money to buy items. To purchase items, you need to purchase “Bits”, but as of right now, how much Bits themselves cost in actually money, I have no idea, since that wasn’t working either, and the cost of items that can only be purchased with Bits may be very fair or it may be utterly ridiculous.
Surprisingly for an online game, connection issues haven’t been too much of a problem. If the game didn’t connect the first time logging in, it would immediately connect on the second try. As for server shut downs, the only time I had a message that the server was coming down was late last night after first firing up the game. The message first came up and said that in 30 minutes the server would be down for an estimated 30 minutes. 15 minutes later, a message appeared saying in 15 minutes the server would be down for 30 minutes, and then an updated message said the server down time would be changed to an hour later and that was about the time I logged off so I wasn’t able to see if it really was down for just 30 minutes.
Defiance’s launch certainly hasn’t been problem free, but I must say that even with the bugs and issues experienced so far, I’ve been having a good time with it. Nothing has been game breaking or all that frustrating to deal with and I look forward to playing more. I’ll be sure to update with my “Day Two Impressions” and let our readers know if things get better or worse as the game goes on.