Opening Hours: Defiance
*Opening Hours is a run down of the early stages of any given MMO I’m currently playing. This feature is mainly produced instead of a review, as MMOs take months to play through and fairly review. Opening Hours normally tracks the initial first five or so hours of the game.
I approached Defiance in a some what cautious manner. The trailers and assets released prior to the game’s launch did little to excite. Other reasons why I was hesitant to jump into Defiance surrounded its target market, the console owning non-MMO player. As something of a MMO veteran, I’ve seen what the very best has to offer, as well as the worst. With all that being said, I decided to invest in Defiance, the PC version of Defiance.
After the game was installed, patched and updated, I jumped into Defiance head first. After a brief cut scene I was brought to my first key decision, the character creation. The options on offer felt a little primitive, leaving a lot to be desired. The choice between playing as a Human or a Votan doesn’t offer much variation. The Humans are standard fair while the Votan are merely bulkier creatures with a slight alien twist. The choice between the two races is purely cosmetic, neither of them process any kind of racial abilities or race bound perks. It honestly feels like a missed opportunity to create a real choice and distinction between the two races.
The obvious customization options are all present, hair styles, face structure along and the like. There isn’t much room to create a character that looks truly different from anyone else’s. There are some nice combinations of options that allow characters to look slightly deranged, if you’re into that kind of thing. Defiance allows players to attach a little bit of back story to a players character. While it doesn’t have any impact on the actual game (bar what clothing and gun you start off with), it is a nifty extra choice for players to make.
So here I am with my Votan Machinist. As with any MMO, the player starts in the tutorial zone. To its credit, Defiance does a decent job of explaining how each element of the game works. The third person shooter gameplay is instantly familiar. The skill system in which Defiance uses is based around one core power and a number of perks. ‘EGO’ powers are active abilities that players use in a combat situation. The skills range from the likes of increasing attack power, increased player movement, creating decoys or becoming cloaked for a period of time. These four skills are what essentially dictate the players chosen play style.
The Perk system compliments each Ego skill, with new perks unlocking as the player progresses their character. The perks are set up on a grid in which they are all connected to a EGO skill as well as the perks around them. This results in a surprisingly deep perk selection that requires planning to make the most out of. The perks system also operates as a means for players to experiment in how they wish to build their characters. A personal preference of my own was to go for a strong solo/duo set-up. This required me to go for the most aggressive EGO power and select the corresponding damage perks. Planning out a effective builds carries a sense of satisfaction to it, and Defiance does this extremely well.
Item selection plays a key role in how effective a player can be. The weaponry offer ranges from the basic (pistols, SMGS, LMGS, rifles, snipers etc) to the more exotic weapons such as ‘infection’ weapons. The weapon selection plays a large part in how well a players character build works. Critical damage based builds thrive on fast firing weapons, allowing the perk effects to pop as often as possible. Shields and grenades also feature, though they feel rather forgotten in comprehension to the firearms. Defiance doesn’t not feature any stat based clothing, outfits are purely cosmetic. Completion of quests will occasionally reward players with a new piece of headgear or a new outfit, often themed upon the content of the quest.
Of course the meat of any MMO is the content, and my first few hours of Defiance’s questing were a mixed bag. Out of 13 quests, 7 of them involved running to a area in the world and activating a generator or a bomb. The remainder of said quests were simply extermination quests. The range in quests is pretty poor in all honesty, even for the early stages of a MMO which are traditionally underwhelming. The only thing that saved my experience from becoming stale and repetitive was the fact I was playing with a friend.
It’s quite a disappointment that so far the quests have been rather one note. Away from the questing there are a number of world events to enjoy. Most common event is a large Hellbug hive (Hellbugs being large alien creatures, almost Zerg like) that arises from the ground spawning monsters. This hive requires a joint effort of over seven players to successfully take it down. It’s frantic and chaotic, but a lot of fun to take part in.
After taking down the Hellbug hive the severs went down for a maintenance, and thus my first 2 and half hours of Defiance came to a close. The experience had left me hopeful that the game would open up in terms of quest content. The Ego skills and perk system had impressed me, even in the early stages of the game. The world events provided a ton of fun, and oddly made for a great spectacle. Defiance hadn’t blown me away, but it hadn’t scared me away either, after all it was still early days.