Defiance Impressions: Diving into the World of Ark Hunters
Trion Worlds has released another MMO, titled Defiance, and although it may borrow some ideas from their other game of the same genre, Rift, this MMO third-person shooter with a sci-fi twist plans on bringing something new to the table. For starters, Defiance is both a game and a Syfy television show, with both medias tied together. Having invested several hours into the PC version of Defiance, I’m gaining a clearer picture of what needs improving, but more importantly, I’m beginning to see the game’s true potential.
Defiance kicks things off fairly quickly with your created character — you may choose one of two races: Human or Votan — traveling to The Bay aboard a ship. You stand out from the other soldiers because your character is an Ark Hunter contracted by Von Bach Industries, the world’s most advanced manufacturer of tech and weaponry, and lead by Karl Von Bach himself. Instead of making the scheduled safe landing, the ship goes down, but not before you, Joshua Nolan (a main character for Defiance in-game and on TV) and a few others rocket to Earth in escape pods. What follows is your standard tutorial, teaching you everything from aiming your weapon to utilizing your EGO implant, courtesy of VBI, to enhance your abilities.
Let’s talk about those starting weapons for a minute. While crafting the Votan I’d be staring at for countless hours, I spent a good while thinking about what I wanted his Origin to be. You see, there are four Origins to choose from: Veteran, Survivalist, Outlaw and Machinist. Veterans are former soldiers of the Pale Wars; Survivalists are hunters that lived on the outskirts of society; Outlaws are ex-criminals looking for a more legitimate lifestyle; and Machinists are mechanics and technicians that have taken up the life of an Ark Hunter. Each Origin showed the character sporting different clothing and a different weapon type. After thinking long and hard about my character’s background, I chose the bolt action sniper rifle-wielding Survivalist. I assumed this meant I’d be making a long-range specialist. Boy was I wrong. Defiance does not use classes. So don’t expect your weapon mission rewards to fall in line with your starting gun. If you come across new weapons and clothing, you can equip them regardless of your starting firearm. You’re free to switch your Survivalist to LMGs the first chance you get and suit up in high-tech armor. It allows you to play however you feel like playing at that exact moment. Even the four EGO powers — Blur, Clock, Decoy and Overcharge — can be switched between by using the Respec option. One second you’re a sniper that can turn invisible and next you’re an up-close-and-personal shotgunner sprinting around the environments at blinding speeds. The class-free progression keeps the game interesting because it provides new playstyles at a moments notice.
After venturing out into the great, post-apocalyptic outdoors, I was met with the sprawling hills and broken highways of San Francisco. I rode my ATV through crowds of other players as I made my way to the first set of missions. It was hard to stay focused at first given all the random events and side challenges, such as races, that littered the roadways I traveled on. I didn’t mind getting sidetracked because the tight third-person shooter controls were a blast to play around with. Once I checked out one of the Episode Missions, I was immediately drawn in. These mission types tie directly to the show and star the TV show’s characters Nolan and Irisa. As the show kicks off, we’ll be seeing more Episode missions crop up, allowing us even more insight into and interaction with the show. The game’s lore will definitely grab players’ attention and drive them forward. And that’s saying something because many of the missions reuse certain dialogue and/or objectives. You may feel that you’re doing the same thing over and over in the beginning, but if there’s one thing that will keep you trekking on besides the story, it’s the loot.
Similar to Borderlands, a vast selection of weapons awaits players. These range from fire-spitting assault rifles to spore-spreading Infectors. The lure of better weapons drove me through each mission no matter how repetitive it felt. I quickly understood the importance of constantly equipping better weaponry the first time I found myself in the massive fights known as Arkfalls. These Arkfall events cover a large area of land and anyone can jump in at any time. The sight of a hundred Ark Hunters riding ATVs and Dodge Challengers between objectives is something to behold. We blasted crystals and gigantic multi-headed beasts with everything we had. These Arkfalls often split off into new areas and provided a new target, usually either the crystal or the Hellbug Hellions.
As fun as they were, they can, like the rest of the game, become a bit repetitive. This can be attributed to two things: lack of fresh objectives and limited enemy variety. I’ve seen only a couple variations of the Arkfall events, making only the first few a real treat. My real gripe is with the enemies. While there are different enemy types, such as Hellbugs and Mutants, it really all comes down to a different skin most of the time. The same enemy archetypes pop up again and again. Fighting a Mutant Grenadier and a Raider Tanker is almost the same thing, with the later requiring focused fire on the enemy’s tanks.
Many people have already hated on Defiance for several reasons (mostly launch issues which plagued the consoles), but it’s hard not to want to love the game when you see what it is capable of doing. Fumbling around with the full chat window (or the overall UI) tucked away behind menu options and other issues vocalized by the community have definitely reduced the game’s quality, but this is a new MMO. And with most MMOs, I believe it can get better with time and achieve its true potential, providing with us with a strong, addictive title to enjoy this year. Let’s just hope the TV show tie-in is worth watching.
I have yet to stray from the land of PvP and test my might against others in PvP. Be sure to check back later this week for more information on the Shadow War PvP in our full review of Defiance.