Mar 25, 2013

My Experience with the Defiance Beta

Banner (and all images used) is owned by Trion Worlds, Inc. in conjunction with Syfy.

The MMO (massively multiplayer online) genre has been one of the main draws for PC gaming since the genre existed. The efforts on console have been few and far between, with the most successful entry into the genre being Phantasy Star Online on the Sega Dreamcast back in 2000. It was so successful, that another episode was released on the Nintendo Gamecube and the Microsoft Xbox in 2002, along with the original game being ported. Even though the official servers have closed, there are still private servers on the Dreamcast version boasting 200 players at a time. Phantasy Star Online shows that players are willing to put time and money into a true MMO experience on a console, but not many developers are willing to put that many resources into creating the amount of content needed to occupy players for hundreds of hours, as well as maintaining servers with potentially several hundred players at peak times, if not more. To put it simply, more conventional games that we are used to seeing on consoles are just easier and more cost-effective to make.

Trion Worlds, Inc. has attempted to innovate the way we see MMO gaming on console, by simultaneously integrating two forms of media into a single universe. Defiance is the name of both a TV show and a video game, taking place in the same universe, but in different parts of North America. The game is set in San Francisco, twenty years into the future. Humanoid aliens, known as Votans, came to Earth seeking settlement after their home planet was destroyed. Little did they know, Earth was already inhabited, and the humans responded with hostility, forcing them into a small reserve in Brazil. Eventually, the votans started a war in an attempt to seize Earth, triggering a seven-year conflict. Votan technology was released into the biosphere, drastically altering the various ecosystems, while at the same time making the planet dangerous for both humans and votans, and forcing a thin alliance.

The players take the reins of either humans or votans responding to a call by Karl Von Bach, owner of Von Bach Industries, who wants to travel to the San Francisco Bay area in search of valuable alien technology. On the way, the stratocarrier you are on is mysteriously shot down, and Von Bach goes missing. Here, you take control.

I immediately noticed that it plays similarly to a third-person Borderlands, including special abilities, called "EGO Powers." Apparently, before going on the stratocarrier, Von Bach implants a device into your brain that lets you use these powers, complete with a Cortana-like AI, but with horrible voice acting.. I don't really mind it, but if you can't stand bad voice acting, then you're in for a bad time, since this voice stays with you the whole game.

Anyway, these powers are useful enough, minus the Decoy ability. The decoy doesn't seem to draw enough aggro for it to be effective, but I think shotgun classes could make use of it, since you can swap places with your decoy. The other three include Cloak, which is probably the best for snipers, Overcharge, which reloads your current weapon and gives you a damage boost, and Blur, which boosts your movement speed and melee damage. I use Overcharge, and it works well for full-auto weapons. Overall, the abilities are fun to use, and the skill point ("EGO Upgrade") system can turn you into a powerhouse if you put points into the right perks.

ATVs and other vehicles make traveling across the map easy and fun.

Obviously, the MMO features are what sets this game apart from any other shooter or RPG on the market right now, and the servers hold up well. I have a bad connection (10 down/1 up if I'm lucky) and there is little to no lag to be found here, as far as killing enemies goes. If you die, don't blame the servers. Your instance (basically, the portion of the server you're on) will occasionally hold 100 other players, all driving around the map at the same time, with very few severe frame drops. This is especially apparent in the raid events (called Arkfalls), with sometimes 50 other players concentrating fire on one object or boss. However, my 360 will (very rarely) freeze during these events, so hopefully that's ironed out in the final game. The group system works decently as well, but it is kinda confusing to actually set up, because you don't join their instance immediately upon joining. There is an option to do this instead, but I was confused on this until I found it, because I could see my friend on the minimap, but because he was on another instance, he was invisible when we met up. The confusion is forgotten, however, as soon as you join a raid event, and start pecking away at a crystal, while people ride in on ATVs and trucks to join in. The feeling you get just can't be matched on a console.
The raids, and their respective bosses, are satisfying to conquer.

Finally, the Defiance beta has its quirks, but their patch team is absolutely amazing, fixing problems that would never get fixed on other games in less than an hour, including the crippling lag that 360 players experienced on Friday. If you can snag a code for this from someone, download it and jump on. I'll see you there.

This article was written using the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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