Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back in Defiance - for now


Not sure exactly what prompted the current itch to run around and shoot things, but there it was.  Part of the reason I think was that I've been seeing the advertisements for the next season on SyFy.  Part of it was just that it had been close to a year since I played last, and I wanted to see if they'd finally polished up the game to the point it should have been when it launched.  But regardless, during a lull between playing my protection warrior in WoW and leveling my rogue deck in Hearthstone, I found myself patching up Defiance.  And let me tell you, it was quite the patch too!

I'm like a goldfish
Part of the joy of getting older is you become a bit more forgetful.  So it was I found myself reading my own beginner's guides that I wrote about the game a year ago, to help me remember how things worked and what was what.  But like riding a bicycle it comes back pretty quick, and before long I was blasting hellbugs at arkfalls, and helping Van Bach find his missing piece of ark tech.  I'm taking a very story driven approach to the game this time, pretty much ignoring all of the side missions, and just advancing along the main story arc, and doing the episode missions.  I have no misgivings about a long term committment to the game, so while I'm here I want to get the most out of it, and not get bogged down in grindy kinds of content.

The Good Stuff
Most of the rough edges really have been polished up, and Defiance is surprisingly good at delivering what it promises.  It really is the shooter for MMO players - which is just about perfect for me.  There's most assuredly plenty of PvP content, but you can ignore that stuff if it's not for you, and progress through the game upgrading your guns, killing mutants, bugs, and bad guys, and you get lots of talky bits, occasional cut scenes, and great use of voice over.  And of course there's the fun of zooming over the landscape in your ATV.  Trion's excellent cooperative gameplay elements are made good use of here, so you often get help in missions, and there's always a pretty good collection of people at the arkfalls.  In fact, if the one thing I've actually found myself most pleasantly surprised about are the number of people I have found still actively playing the game.  It's nothing like opening month, but there's always a few people at the minor outposts, usually a dozen or so at the major outposts, and a few dozen running around the major arkfalls.  And I suspect there's higher numbers over in the Bay Area across the bridge - but I'm not that far yet.

The Meh Stuff
Defiance still suffers from the same things it always has.  Mostly a lack of discoverability of their game mechanics, an obtuse weapon mod system, and an unnecessarily convoluted progression system.  I will say though all of those things are better than they were at launch, at least, because the UI is significantly improved.  They've made it much easier to do the main thing you have to do in a game like this - compare one weapon to another.  It's still though not always clear which weapon is better than another weapon, but at least it's easier to compare them.  Oh and chat works.  Finally.

Play the Game - Watch the Series
I also must admit, part of the reason I'm back in the game is I really like what they're doing in tying the game and the tv series together now.  The television series has been renewed, and season 2 is coming out in June. In anticipation of that, they're released "Season 1 Rewind", and you can now play all of the game episodes that coincide to particular tv episodes, and watch the tv episodes over at SyFy Now at the same time.  It's pretty slick, and has me watching the episodes on my iPad and then playing the game immediately afterwards.  You can read more about how that works here.

Needs more MMO
Honestly, about the only reason I think Defiance still doesn't have real stickiness for me is the lack of a feeling of world, for lack of a better term.  It feels like a series of quests tied together by vendor and npc hubs, and not much more.  And instanced cooperative missions. The quests are fun, and the equipment is good, but it seem like they could do more with towns, and social centers, and non-combat related activities.  But for now I am having fun, and it's a nice diversion from WoW, and who knows, maybe I'll pick up some of the DLC's so I can play a castithan!