This past week I had the pleasure of being a part of the PS3 Closed Beta for the upcoming Third-Person Shooter MMO, Defiance. Now being an avid MMO player and a mediocre shooter player I was intrigued on how well combining the two genres would be. The other two factors that drew me into the game was that Trion Worlds (the developer of Rift) was developing this game in collaboration with the Syfy Network and that a TV series would air alongside the game. The game’s motto “Watch the Show. Play the Game. Change the World.” is a first for the gaming industry. Never before has the two industries combined to embark on such a project.
Both the show and the game are set in the near future, after an alien species called the Votans enter Earth’s orbit seeking to relocate after their planet was destroyed. Waiting in orbit for years while negotiating with Human leaders, the Votans could no longer hold out and waged war against the people of Earth. During the battle, Votan ships were destroyed, causing alien terraforming technology to fall from the sky randomly, reshaping the planet forever. After years of conflict and irreplaceable damage to the planet, both sides declared a ceasefire which allowed Earth to be inhabited by numerous races.
Here is where the interesting part comes in. The TV show takes place in St. Louis, Missouri which has now been renamed Defiance. The game takes place in what remains of the San Francisco/Bay area of California. So how can these two totally separate areas affect each other? Well it seems that the TV show’s two main characters Nolan and Irisa will be able to travel between the two areas. So when we see them on the show, we won’t see them in San Francisco and vice versa.
Now it was mentioned that the build of the game we were playing was about four months old and that a lot of the issues that we came across had already been fixed in the current build of the game. Now that is where my years and years of participating in various closed betas of games came into play. I took this time we spent in Defiance as more of a demo than a beta test, because in other betas I have participated in on PS3, the current build was used and the developers would still be patching and fixing the game as we played. None of these types of occurrences happened the whole week of the so-called PS3 closed beta test.
The game starts out with a brief synopsis of the events that took place and then goes into the first cut scene of the game. Karl Von Bach, of Von Bach Industries has announced that he is preparing an expedition in partnership with the Earth Republic to the San Francisco/Bay Area in search of advanced and valuable arktech. He has publicly called for people to join him by becoming Ark Hunters to help him locate what is needed. In the cutscene, we see a ship full of Earth Republic soldiers rushing around and Von Bach having an argument with one of these soldiers. The obvious man in charge of these soldiers approaches the argument and tells Von Bach that he and everyone else needs to get to their seats and prepare for landing. As people are rushing to their seats we get our first glimpse of Nolan and Irisa in the game. The man in charge turns to you and tells you to also take your seat, which leads us to the character creation screen. Here the player can choose between two races, Human and Irathient. Each race has the choice between male and female characters, next you choose a basic Origin for your character from Veteran, Survivalist, Outlaw, and Machinist. Now the fun part begins, players can customize their characters eyes, nose, mouth, skin color, hair, facial paint and tattoos. After you get your character looking the way you want, you are taken back to the cut scene where Von Bach approaches you to explain about your EGO implant, but gets interrupted by what seems to be an attack on the ship. You see various people rush to their seats and prepare to escape from the ship, just as an explosion occurs as you hit the button on yours.
You awaken to find yourself still in your escape pod, but are suddenly released by one of the game’s main characters, Cass Ducar. This now leads you to the starter tutorial where your EGO implant takes form and explains the basics of the game and combat. During the tutorial portion of the game you are unable to group with other players or join a guild/clan.
Once you complete the tutorial, you are taken to Mt. Tam to begin your adventures. Now since this was just a week long closed beta phase. We were only allowed to play in the Mt. Tam and Madera areas of the map for storyline and side quests, participate in two co-op missions on Angel Island and Cronkhite Bunker, utilize two PVP maps at the Freight Yard and the Observatory, and participate in the Shadow War.
My first impressions of the game came from the tutorial and how easy it was to adapt to the style of gameplay. The controls are pretty standard for a third person shooter. You use R1 to shoot, reload with square, zoom in with L1, throw a grenade with R2, crouch with circle, sprint by pushing in on the left analog stick, and using your EGO power with L2. As I played through the tutorial I kind of felt like I was playing Borderlands 2 but with more than 3 other people on screen with me. You learn that there are four main EGO powers Overcharge, Decoy, Blur, and Cloak which then branch off into other perks that you can learn and equip. Leveling in this game goes pretty quickly because by the time you leave the tutorial you are level 20.
Players can earn pursuits by accomplishing certain things in the game. Some are for finding data recordings, killing so many of a type of enemy, or exploring certain places in the area. Completing these pursuits unlock certain rewards, such as EGO experience and weapons.
Now I was lucky enough to talk several friends and family members into pre-ordering Defiance so they could experience the beta with me. I was grouped with people I knew the entire time in beta, but was unable to experience voice chat with them due to it not working properly.
Players can travel around the world either by foot or by driving a vehicle. Your first vehicle is given to you as a quest reward. After discovering major places, the player can also fast travel to these points using the map. Doing Main Quests will progress the storyline of the game, but after doing the first couple the player unlocks the ability to partake in Side Quests, Vehicle Time Trials, Hot Shot Challenges, and Rampage Challenges. The main and side quests mainly consist of going to a certain area and wiping out the enemies that are there. There are a few collect and deliver quests, or protecting an NPC from attacks while they are trying to accomplish something, but they all seem to fit into the story of the game.
Players can also queue up to participate in PVP matches, four player co-op missions, or the open world PVP Shadow War. Now one of the coolest things of the game in my opinion are the Arkfall Events, these are open world events where an arkfall appears on the map and you have a main goal to accomplish. Some of the ones I experienced were fighting waves of Hellbugs, Raiders, or Mutants, destroying the arkfall crystal, or the major event where you have to defeat the Hellbug Matron or Hellbug Hellion. In these events people come from all over the game to take these on. When its completed you get a ranking pop-up with a list of rewards. Due to this being beta we could see the ranking, but never received any major rewards for accomplishing these. You do receive Scrip drops(currency) and ammo as you defeat the surrounding enemies.
Now the game does not have your typical crafting skills as most MMOs do, but the do have what is called the Salvage Matrix which allows a player to mod out weapons, detach mods, add mod slots, or salvage weapons for resources. There are four different mod slot types for each gun with various types of mods for those slots. Modding your weapon does change the appearance, so you can give your weapon a new look. The main currency of the game is called Scrip, but another type is called Resources in which you use to mod out your weapons. Now there also is cash shop money which is called Bits and it appears that their is also special currency that you earn from the different factions of the game.
Now me being the thorough player that I am; I managed to go through the pursuit list and discovered that 5000 seems to be the max level of the game. I also discovered that Marin, Sausalito, and San Francisco will be other areas we will be able to travel to in the game at launch. Players will be able to complete co-op missions in Ridgecrest Mine, Delta Bunker East, 101 Keys Reactor, Mine 99, Scrapworks, Angel Island and Cronkhite Bunker. PVP consists of three different maps; the Observatory, the Freight Yard, and the Waterfront, in which you can participate in Team Deathmatch or Capture and Hold.
In my week of playing Defiance I tried out both races, two of the four EGO power sets, reached level 458, and participated in both co-op missions, both PVP maps, various Ark Fall events and a Shadow War. I also completed every Side Mission, and Main Mission that was available to complete in the beta. I have to say that I enjoyed every aspect of the game so far. I thought the graphics looked great for a console MMO and even though I experienced a long list of bugs, I still knew that I would be picking this game up on release day. I think the hardest thing for me was the solo mission where you finally locate a major character and have to rescue him. In my opinion I thought the difficulty was set a bit too high, because even though I am not a shooter noobie, I found myself dying a few times in trying to complete this. If Trion Worlds wants to attract new players to the game they need to keep in mind that not everyone has played Call of Duty, Battlefield , or even a Borderlands game. Another issue I had with the game is finding ammo, some of the ammo types are shared with other guns and finding ammo caches or getting it as drops seemed to be too sparse. There were several times I would be completely out of ammo and not be able to switch to another gun because it used the same type that I was out of.
Now whether or not the build of the game we got to play was four months old or two weeks old, I believe that Trion has their eyes on the community feedback and will fix the list of various issues people reported about the game and possibly consider some of the suggestions that were made also. Knowing that this game is going to be free-to-play out the door and the only thing you need to get started is the game disc and the platform machine of your choice, I think Trion has another great game in their portfolio. The real winner here is the player because as Trion has already stated you don’t ever have to spend another dime on the game if they choose not to. All new areas will be available as a free download as to not separate the player community, which is probably the best news ever in this ever declining economy of ours.
PRE-RELEASE OUTLOOK: “Favorable”
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