Defiance: First Thoughts

So I’ve played the Defiance beta (or at least the early parts) and since my personal experience dictates that gamers usually decide if they like a game within the first two hours, if not sooner, let’s take a look at the ups and downs.

Firstly, it was fairly smooth. I have a slightly subpar system myself when it comes to gaming power, but Defiance performed very nicely, especially considering the crazy mobs of players running around. The cinematics were sharp and lag-free, which is a good sign, and I felt that the responsiveness was fine.  The intro sequence was good for acclimating the player to the basic game aspects, controls, and mechanics that will be predominant throughout the rest of the game. For a game that has sold itself as one half of a storyline in a story-heavy setting, I felt that the progression through the plot was excellently done. I was never at a loss and I never wondered why I was doing what I was doing. The chaos of the early areas quickly gave way to a more sedate distribution of population, and once the game began sending me across the map on dedicated missions, it never felt crowded. Defiance also has done one outstanding thing that made me very happy: After three or four basic quests in the main world map that had my character running across sweeping areas and feeling very small, I was immediately presented with a basic ATV for transit. I’ve never gotten a mount so soon in an MMO and it was wonderful. Games should do this more.

The bad? Defiance is unforgiving to the solo player. It’s conceivable I just picked the worst soloing build possible (more on that later) or that I’m a terrible FPS player (very possible) but after moving on from areas where about seven thousand other Ark Hunters were working on the same quests and therefore pulling my ass out of the fire every three seconds, I was being chain-killed and slow-roasted by the NPC enemy forces. Over and over and over.

And my character build? Defiance has very little in the way of explanation when it comes to the mechanics of the game itself. The quests are not hard to follow, and you can certainly feel the story pulling you in deeper, but when it comes time to upgrade your skills, perks, and weaponry, it’s a total crapshoot. It starts at the character creation screen, where you’re given options for several different class archetypes with no explanation of strengths, weaknesses, playstyle tips, or really even an indication as to whether the choices are anything but cosmetic. This worsens as the game progresses, leaving the player to try and figure out the intricacies of the system in between getting horrifically mauled by mutants and hellbugs. Throw us a bone, Trion.

I’ll certainly give Defiance a chance. Given a bit more knowledge of the system (or a group of allies to help me along) it seems like it could be serious fun. At this point, I’d score it 6.5-7 out of 10.

What are your thoughts? Has Defiance lived up to its hype? Did you have a beta experience to share?And are you going to watch the series premiere on SyFy (hint: I totally am!)?

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Shotgun Catch-Up

Hey gang! Yeah, it’s been far too long. I was out for health reasons. Still can’t handle direct sunlight. ENOUGH. ABOUT. ME.

I’m breaking out the ol’ scattergun to try and hit as many interesting bits and items that I can. There’s a slew of cool crap coming down the pipeline, and I might not be the first on board, but I’m certainly going to try to make up for lost time.

Albion Online looks ambitious enough. I like the concept of a far-reaching cross-platformer, and as you can all probably tell, RPGs are where I cut my teeth and do the most of my playtime. One thing that rocks a good RPG for me (at least in a mechanical sense) is variety, variety, variety – I don’t want my character to simply be another Variation on a Theme of xx_PaGaNiNiskullz_xx (that’s a Brahms joke for you non-musical types). And of course, the fact that I can steal crap from other people that they paid for gives my inner brigand a very real jolt of excitement.

I haven’t mentioned Watch Dogs yet, which is almost a crime, because it looks like a godforsaken amazing ride. I’m always a sucker for new mechanics, and the linking of hacking to combat to investigation to manipulation to plain awesome looks incredible. The atmosphere seems polished and if the gameplay is as customizable as the videos seem to indicate, I think we’ve got at excellent debut on our hands. Absolutely keep an eye on this one.

WildStar did another Uplink, this one on PvP, a topic that brings on a mouthfoaming debate whenever multiplayer games exist. So that’s fun. My take is that if any aspect of your MMO is a grind, you’ve lost the better part of your audience. Now, I’ve never done much PvP myself in RPGs, being that I’m a story junkie and a laid-back explorer type, but I’m always willing to risk another beatdown at the hands of my rabid diehard peers if it looks fun — so if WildStar tries to do as many innovative things with their PvP that they seem hellbent on doing everywhere else on Nexus, I’m planning to give it a go. Viva la curbstomp.

Also, Anita Sarkeesian has debuted her Tropes vs Women series. It’s a bit long, and her first episode isn’t earthshatteringly insightful right off the bat, but she’s beginning to establish her foundation. You might not be blown away by the introductory episode, but this bears watching. So go be objective about the entertainment field that we love so much and give the lady a hearing.

We’re also approaching Defiance. Post-apocalyptic, aliens, crazy weapons, superhuman powers, and a TV show to go along with it. It’s like the antithetical Captain Planet. Or something similar.

Last but not least, Shroud of the Avatar. I’m sure it’s a huge injury to my gamer cred that I’ve never played an Ultima game of any stripe, but even I know who Richard Garriott is. Considering that the man cut his teeth in game development for homebrew D&D, it gives me hope that I might have a future in the industry too. No, you did NOT just hear the sound of me kicking my 3.5ed books under the table.  Anyway.

Like everything else in this entry, we’ve got a highly ambitious project, and the fact that it’s starting as a crowdsourced/funded endeavor gives me some jitters. Once again, story-centric games make me drool and despite the unpolished look of the graphics, I want to see where this one goes. I want to see it very much.

Ciao!