Defiance is SciFi MMO shooter-type game, set in a not too far future, with a bit of a post-apocalyptic setting. It was released maybe 8-9 months ago I think, but I haven’t got around to try it until now. I like the game very much at this point, although I can see that it has some issues. But for the time being it is quite enjoyable.
During the holidays there was a sale on the game Defiance for PC on Steam – the base game cost 5ish Euro and the deluxe version (various extra items) about 13 Euro. However, one can start playing the game in a free trial also, which is unlimited in time – there is a progression cap though. Once you bought the game you can play it as much as you want – there is no suibscription fee. However, there are additional content packs being sold – currently two packs have been released after launch of the game.
So I decided to try it out and also bought the deluxe edition right away, since it was fairly cheap.
The game is labeled an “MMO Shooter” in various places and that seems reasonably accurate. Although it should be noted that it seems to be a PvE/cooperative game to a large extent. This is a nice combination I think, shooter type games seems to have a bit more interesting combat than the more traditional MMORPGs. That is, at least if you have played more traditional MMORPG combat often enough to not quite get excited about it anymore.
Background story and setting
Your character plays the role of an Arkhunter, which seems to be some kind of scavenger gathering bits an pieces of “ark-tech”, stuff that originate from big space ships called Arks.
These space ships brought a few alien races to Earth collectively known as the Votans (they all came from the same solar system), who had left their dying worlds a few thousand years ago – they had spotted Earth and thought it looked uninhabited. 5000 years later they arrived and found out that there actually were (resonably intelligent) inhabitants on the planet – easy mistake to make. I do that all the time.
Technology from these Arks seems to have dropped down on Earth and messed things up a bit, to say the least. That lead to a few harsh words – war being one of them.
Your characters story starts on the Stratocarrier (a flying carrier ship) New Freedom in the future San Fransisco Bay area, that ends up crashing. Your boss, Von Bach, goes missing. He is there to find some “ark-tech” that he claims can “save the world” if he gets his hands on it. That is pretty much the starting point for the story.
Not all of this is actually told in the game though, certainly not the background behind all of it. I suppose people are supposed to know these things from seeing the TV series Defiance, which kind of progresses in parallel with the game. For us that have not seen the TV series nor have the channels to actually see it that does not help though.
The setting is thus a bit of a post-apocalyptic setting which I think is well made – it does help to get into the right mode for what your character is supposed to be.
The main story line, as far as I have played it, is quite good also I think.
Since it is a shooter type game, it will naturally involve a lot of shooting. Which starts off with some critters called hellbugs and continues with mutants, former soldiers that have mutated and are no longer themselves.
I find the combat fun and engaging – enemies will often be mobile, take cover, throw grenades etc – depending on the type of enemy and enemy group it belongs to. It is refreshing and more interesting/challenging at times than regular MMO combat. A definite thumbs up for it!
As one progresses in the story line and further in the areas, additional enemy groups are introduced and things can get a bit tougher – also, since behaviour of enemies may vary a bit depending on the enemy group, different weapon types may be more useful for a certain enemy group.
In addition to the main story missions there are also side missions, which are made available when you make progress in the main story. The side missions seem to have some relevance sometimes to the main story, although a bit generic sometimes in presentation – the story element is not the main feature there.
In addition to these there are also various random encounters spawned in various places – often to rescue/help some humans who are attacked by some kind of bad guys. These encounters often have multiple stages to defeat more enemies, with the last wave being a bit tougher than the rest.
In addition to these there are also various type of challenge and time trial missions, which is primarily various events to try to get a highscore in.
There is also something called Arkfalls, which is similar to rifts in the game Rift – multi-stage public events that spawn from time to time and that can provide some rewards as well.
In addition to these missions and events that can be found in the open world there are also instanced co-op and PvP maps & missions – I have not tried any of these yet, so cannot comment on them. These are made available as you progress through the game.
Every character is given a 4×4 vehicle at an early stage, which can be used to move around more quickly. This is pretty neat and really needed – it is a fairly large world it seems, running would take quite a while.
Vehicles can also be used as weapons – one can run over and hit enemies with it, which can be useful in some situations.
Pretty much all of the weapons used ranged weapons of some kind – you can do some melee, but for the most part you shoot stuff – no surprise there. There are a lot of different weapons in the game. There are about 20 different weapon types and within each type there is also a a number of variations.
Weapons can also have modifications attached to them, which can improve them in various ways, e.g. load more ammunition, improve accuracy, reduce recoil etc. Up to for slots for modifications can be used. The weapons may already have slots, or they can be added for a fee.
Weapons also have different quality levels, starting from common ones (white colour), continuing with uncommon (green), rare (blue), epic (purple) and legendary (orange). The increased rarity essentially means that there is an additional bonus added to the base weapon, one bonus for each increase in rarity. A more rare weapon of a certain kind is better than a less rare one of the same kind, essentially.
There can also be what is called a nano-effect on a weapon, which can trigger some kind of side-effect when using the weapon, e.g. indenciary damage, radiation damage etc.
All in all there are a fairly wide variety of weapons available. There is a “level” value attached to the weapons and that restricts who can equip the weapon, but does not affect its capabilities. In theory a character that has just started would be able to get some pretty awesome weapons right from the start.
Getting weapons is not a problem, at least the common and uncommon ones – they drop frequently. They drop frequently enough that one has to break them down in order to not get the inventory filled up completely with loot. That provides one of the in-game currencies used. Once in a while a rare weapon drops also.
The character advancement in the same seems to be fairly horisontal with a splash of vertical and reminds me a little bit about The Secret World. Character advancement is tied to something called Environmenttal Guardian Online, or EGO for short. Completing missions and killing enemies with give XP and each time the XP bar is filled, the EGO rating is increased by 10 and 1 EGO point is gained.
A character will in the beginning also gain one EGO skill, out of 4 available (Cloak, Overcharge, Blur and Decoy). This is a special ability that a character can use. In the beginning this ability can be activated once per minute and last for 15 seconds (I think it is the same for all of them). These times can be improved later.
Completing pursuits (aka achievements/badges in some other games) will also give EGO ratings. Various content and features are unlocked at certain EGO rating values and the EGO rating must be at least as high as the level of a weapon in order to be able to use it. Higher EGO rating gives more loadouts also, which allows you to swap between different sets of costumes and equipment.
The EGO points are used to unlock and improve various perks, plus improve the character’s EGO skill. There are a lot of perks that can be unlocked, but there will not be enough points to unlock everything available – so one has to choose. Only a few perks can also be equipped at any given time – more perks can be equipped at higher EGO rating.
The max EGO rating is 5000.
In addition to the XP gained, one can also level up the weapons – or rather the skill with each weapon type. Weapon skill is increased by usage of the weapons, I guess the value is attached to the amount of damage done with a weapon. For each level the EGO rating is increased witha few points and a buff/improvement for that weapon type is gained.
Every weapon also has a number of points attached to it, which is required to master that weapon. If the weapon is mastered, a buff is given for that weapon type and that particular weapon can no longer be used to increase the weapon skill (unless the mastery is reset). The weapon is still usable, but it does not contribute to weapon skill progression. Instead a new weapon of the same type can be picked to further increase the weapon skills.
In addition to weapon skills, the same progression mechanic also applies to vehicles – the more you drive a certain type of vehicle, the more buffs you get for it.
Same as most MMOs these days, Defiance has a store in which you can buy various items for real money – this includes many different costumes, vehicles, various boosts and also what most games seem to include nowadays (sadly) – lockboxes. I.e. you buy a box and you have a random chance at getting some good stuff, or you may get some not that good.
I really do not like kind of feature personally. Fortunately there is a redeeming feature for the lockboxes in that you can also buy them for in-game currency that you get through playing. That I think is ok anyway. However note that the lockboxes one buys from in-game currency is not in the store itself, but at various vendor locations in the game itself.
Trouble in Paradise
While the game has some very nice features, it is not all good and beautiful. The massive part of the MMO in this game is not really there, at least subjectively. The game is released on three different platforms – Windows/PC, XBox and PS3. Players from different platforms do not play with each other, they have separate servers. There are also separate servers for different regions. In addition to that, the game uses a “phasing” technology so that only players that are in the same phase/stage see a particular type of content.
This means that sometimes the game at least feels a bit empty – there may potentially be loads of players around, but one simply does not see many of them. At most I have seen maybe 6-7 characters in one spot and far more often it is much less than that.
Reading in the forums it also seems that for PS3 players the situation is even worse, since it seems the game client is less than stable and disconnects from the game is quite common – many seems to have given up on the PS3 side. I have not had any disconnect problems with the PC version so far though.
The chat system seems also to be fairly bad and I have not really seen any chat while playing. Of course, this may be because I might not see it at all – in one session I discovered that I had received a tell from someone, but I only saw that text when I brought up the inventory view and at one time noted there some text at the bottom – I did not see it in the regular view.
It is a shame that they seem to have made some less than stellar decisions on a key aspect of player retention.
Still, the game is fun to play at the moment though.
I really like this game, despite not seeing so many people around. Story, setting and combat is quite good I think, but is lacking a bit in the social area. One can start to play it for free to try it out, but it also seems the cost for the game itself is pretty low anyway.
It may potentially not be a title one spends a lot of time with, but can still get a good amount of fun time with it. So I consider it good value.
I have not been writing muc at all in the past few months – this is primarily because I have mostly been doing Other Stuff – not playing a lot of MMOs. Firefall has received most of my attention, but even that game has been limited to perhaps a few hours per week at most.
So while I do not have a complete break from MMOs, my attention in this area is somewhat low at the moment. Thus I have not found much interesting to publish from my side in the MMO space.
I am quite eager to blog and post though – just not so much about MMOs currently. So I have been contemplating to start new blogs for new topics, or write more about other topics in this blog. In the end it will probably be a mix of both – a few more leisure and free time-oriented topics here in this blog. There may be another blog also more around software development and operations topics also – suff that I also happen to do at work.
A post should have some pictures also, so I have added a few pictures from a recent hiking trip to Gran Canaria, near the village of Tejeda – a topic that may get some more coverage later.
This was also a test to use Windows Live Writer to write the blog post. Not convinced yet that I will use i regularly, but that remains to be seen.
It has now been 1 year since City of Heroes was shut down by NCSoft. Did the world also come to an end? No, it moved on. But I do not see anything that has quite replaced City of Heroes for what it was for many people.
It has been an ok year in general for MMO gaming I think. Not spectacular, but a few good titles. But no title to fall back to and consider a “virtual home” the way City of Heroes did.
Missing Worlds Media may potentially make a spiritual successor with their City of Titans project. I wish them luck and I did support their Kickstarter campaign with some money. I hope they can get somewhat close to their vision and goals – even if they do not quite get there I support their effort to try.
Except for a few logins to (old) Guild Wars, I have not played any NCSoft titles in the past year. Once upon a time I played a few of them at the same time, but times change.
I miss City of Heroes.
Just visited the Kickstarter page for the Phoenix Project/City of Titans and they have already reached their goal of $320000, with 27 days left of their Kickstarter campaign…At the time of writing they are $10000 past their goal and I have no doubt they will get much more than that.
Congratulations to the Missing Worlds Media team!
The Phoenix Project is one of the projects that started after City of Heroes closed down, with the goal to make a spiritual successor to the beloved game.
A company called Missing Worlds Media was formed and many people from the City of Heroes community has offered their services to help out with the project. The game has a name now, City of Titans. On October 2nd, a Kickstarter campaign started with the goal to get some funding for the development work, primarily for software licences for the tools to make the game.
At this time of writing, the campaign has almost 2000 backers and about 87% of the goal of $320000 has been reached, after less than 5 days – 28 days to go.
As a long time fan of City of Heroes, supporting a spiritual successor is a no-brainer for me; I also put in a higher amount than any previous campaign I supported through Kickstarter.
I do hope that they will succeed, both in terms of making the game and that it will become commercially viable. Even if it falls short in some areas, I am more than happy to help fund a small part of the vision that these folks strive for.
Good luck with the Kickstarter and the Game!
Last year, as part of my general improvement of well-being and an old annoyance, I ran 10 km in less than 50 minutes. When I completed that part last year I decided to set up a new goal, this time it was to complete the Stockholm Half-marathon (21.1 km) in 2013. I also set up a time goal, to complete the race in less than 2 hours.
Yesterday, September 14th, was the day for the Stockholm Half-marathon 2013. I am happy to say that I completed the race and also completed the time goal of two hours, with a race time of 1:58:34. It was an interesting experience training for this – I learned a few things about running longer distances and about myself. The race itself was just the culmination of all that – the end of a (mostly) enjoyable journey. Of course, running together with 17000+ others and with lots of people cheering along the streets was not too bad either
Not sure what the next goal will be, but I am quite sure I will run another half-marathon at some point.
Last autumn/winter stumbled upon the closed beta of a niftly online RPG/MMO-type game, City of Steam. I started to play the game in the closed beta weekends, which was pretty fun. I think they game had some issues, but the level of interaction and feedback between the developers and the community was outstanding. Primarily for that reason, I bought one of their beta packs, to support them in their efforts. The game also got greenlit on Steam, which sounded like a nice potential boost for the game.
After the closed beta weekends there were a couple of months which the developers, Mechanist Games, were working on updates and additions to the game – presumably based on the closed beta feedback. During this the company also settled some deals with a few publishers for different regions. The Western hemisphere (Europe, North America) was covered by R2 Games.
And so the open beta arrived – and players met a game which some ways were significantly different from the closed beta, and in many players’ view, not for the better. There were certainly improvements also, but the “dumbed down” aspects of the game annoyed quite a few is seems.
There were also a number of bugs and the interaction and feedback from developer side decreased. Perhaps not surprising though, with a few different publishers that now had the main responsibility for the game, instead of Mechanist themselves. Additional restrictions entered the game, bugs remained unfixed, less information from developers and less happy players – unfortunately it seems to have been going a bit downhill here. Last times I managed to log in to the game there were not many people around. Recent visits show barely any activity in the forums and I was not even able to login to the game.
What happened here? Did the developers suddently start to hate the players? Are the publishers the spawn of the devil? Hardly. The enthusiasm and engagement from the developers were genuine I think and I do not think that this changed really.
But it is a business and some business-oriented decisions had to be made. That may have been in negotiations with the publishers, there may have been other investors or similar that gave some ultimatums – who knows? Decisions were made by some people who did not understand the impact of those decisions I think and mistakes were made. Rumos also say that a few of the developers left the company as well – Mechanist seemed to be quite a small developer, so that would be something that would hurt them.
Will they recover to former glory? I don’t know. Hitting players with changes that annoy people, nerf features etc and at the same time decrease communication with the players seems like a bad combination. There may be good reasons why these decisions are made, but not obvious to players. All the more reason to improve communication with the community at these times.
In a way it reminds me a bit of the situation around Chronicles of Spellborn. A neat game which had its share of issues for the gameplay, but also some quite nice and unique features. The messed up the publisher situation when going live and eventually folded. One of the publishers made some attempts to revive the game, but in the end that was futile it seemed.
I hope City of Steam recovers, but from my viewpoint it looks a bit depressing right now.