“Defiance” has become a game that even though I’ve done all I want to do in the open world, I keep coming back to do it again because it is so enjoyable. That said, there are times when the online shooter is afflicted with some of the problems that plague online games.
You are an ark hunter on Earth in the year 2046. Think scoundrel, fixer-upper, gopher and general guy-who-gets-everything-done and you are on the right track. You start out as part of a mission to basically save the world when the aircraft you’re on crashes in the San Francisco bay area.
The region has become a twisted environment of old buildings, new flora and creatures and pockets of human and alien settlements. Because this is a shooter, you are expected to and will gun your way through a variety of missions.
Besides the main story mission that has plenty of twists, turns and challenges, there are also episode missions and side missions to give your character additional opportunities to grow. Because the game is tied into the SyFy weekly series of the same name, you get to interact with the show’s two main characters in your episode mission and get more background on the show itself.
Much of the mission work is typical questing type adventuring. Defeat this bad guy, collect this relic, defend this area. But because this is an online game, there are plenty of opportunities to work with other players to make the jobs easier and more tactical.
It is more incidental co-op play than anything organized unless players join up together to form clans. But there is nothing that prevents a player from clan hopping and no player-vs-player action outside of specifically designed areas.
If you want more than missions, there are also time trial challenges and areas called hotshots and rampage. Those areas are all about killing as much as you can within time or ammunition restrictions to gain the highest score.
And if that isn’t enough, there are random scenarios scattered throughout the area – rescuing farmers, fighting off hellbugs, defeating mutant soldiers. There is quite a lot to do in the game, and that doesn’t even include the four-player co-op maps, the competitive maps and Shadow Wars.
Shadow Wars maps are massive team against team battles where each side tries to take over and control different points on the map. It is total mayhem at its best because the battle takes place on the main map and non-combatants can and do wander into the field of play.
Arkfall instances are similar but cooperative in nature against a series of massive foes. Anyone can participate and some of the best battles occur with dozens of players trying to take down a hellbug matron. The rewards are also pretty awesome as well as loot is scattered across the battlefield for anyone to gather.
There is a bit of RPG leveling in “Defiance” as your character gains points towards Ego powers. Ego is a sentient AI bound to your character that can bestow different basic powers like Blur, Cloak, Overcharge and Decoy. You can earn additional powers that branch off from those four that increase your combat abilities or personal statistics.
You can also level your weapons the more you use them. Quite a bit of variety available, but you can only use two at a time. You can carry more in your inventory, but switching from those two to something else in the middle of a battle could be dicey. Modding is also available for most weapons and let you add barrel, stock, or targeting mods to improve your guns even more.
All of this is why I love “Defiance.” So much to do, so much variety and the promise of additional content make this online shooter quite a lot of fun to play.
While Trion has been doing their best to plug the holes with patches, problems still exist in the world. Four-player co-op maps that are completely empty of friends or foe, and missing event triggers that leave players standing around wondering what to do next still happen far too often.
Server disconnects in the middle of instances aren’t as frequent as they were when the game launched, but can and do occur. But I will say many of the graphical glitches from the launch have been cleaned up and the environments behave better.
Is it frustrating? You bet. Normally, I would have popped this from the console (oh, yes. This is a console online shooter.) and moved on without a backward glance.
But the content and the action continually pull me back in. I’ve already finished the main story mission and am now doing it again just because it was fun. The co-op missions are a blast and the Shadow Wars are insane.
I’m hoping the new content comes sooner rather than later. For their part, Trion has said they will continue to work out the bugs, provide new storylines and improve the missions.
It is a living, breathing world and every glitch will probably not get fixed. But there is plenty of enjoyment to be had with “Defiance” and I, for one, am going back in.
“Defiance” is available now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. It is rated M for Mature due to blood, drug references, sexual themes, strong language, and violence. This review was done with a provide retail copy for the Xbox 360.
With their most recent expansion release, it seems Blizzard’s hold on the market share would grow even tighter. However, another game company is taking the plunge in the MMORPG arena and taking a little dig at the gaming giant with an ad that says, “We’re not in Azeroth anymore.”
“Rift” (Trion) is set on Telara, a world that apparently is a nexus of sorts for different planes of existence. These other worlds invade Telara through physical rifts and allow monsters to attack important cities and people. Your job is to stop it from happening.
Players get to choose from two factions, Guardians and Defiants. Each has their own races and tactics to employ during the game and both can choose from four classes (warrior, mage, rogue, and cleric). The two factions aren’t necessarily battling each other, but are trying to show which way is the best to save the world.
Skills are built up using souls, which unlock powers and allow gamers to customize their characters as they match their style of play. A character can have multiple soul systems so they can change their abilities as needed.
Executive producer Scott Hartsman said the initial idea was not to start a new MMORPG, but it was to create a new gaming technology that would allow Trion to build games in different ways.
“There were visions for some slightly less formed ideas for what the game would eventually be,” Hartsman said. “It was all about think of all the cool stuff we could build if we had technology that would let us do 500 players in one place, 1,000 players in one place, big events that start up and shut down on their own. A world that is truly alive.”
Hartsman said their own technology had to be created first before they could figure out what to do with it. They were looking for something that was social, dynamic, and fun that would utilize their design to the fullest.
The ability to track online players’ locations and keep tabs on what actions they are doing led the team to develop a fantasy MMORPG. Trion CEO Lars Butler choosing the fantasy genre was an obvious decision.
“Because of the technology (we built), we wanted to take on the most established online gaming category first,” Butler explained. “We felt we had what it takes to substantially address some of the shortcomings that this genre still has.”
Trion servers are broken down by function, rather than taking care of a particular piece of virtual real estate in game. For example, they use servers to handle non-player character functions in the world, a different set of servers that handle boss events, and another set that handle player functions.
Hartsman says by dividing the servers along functions, more processes can be started and stopped more easily with less impact to the world overall. Getting them to all work together seamlessly was hard.
“Yeah, it was hard, but it was well worth it. We’re really just now at the point we’re about 25% into all of the things we can do with our technology and we’re looking to add more.”
“What people see in ‘Rift’ right now is pretty revolutionary as well as a great foundation for us to keep adding more unique types of things to do.”
The technology is flexible enough to handle the weight of the world without crashing and still be expandable for additional players or additional game features.
“Even the best fantasy MMORPGs out there are still mostly static. They have very limited social game play,” Butler said. “They’re getting old.”
“Rift” launched at the beginning of March after a beta run and a Head Start run, which allowed early gamers who signed up extra time in the world before the official launch. After the launch, there were some complaints about server wait times because Trion underestimated the demand on day one.
They doubled the number of servers in the first few days and eventually triple the initial number of servers in an effort to get the wait times down. Trion is also working on migrating players away from overcrowded servers to new servers in an effort to get everyone’s cue time to zero.
Trion developed the fantasy elements and story to populate their massive world to make the best use of their new technology. While acknowledging that the fantasy gaming genre is a difficult one to stand out in, Hartsman said having the ability to get players gathered together on a moment’s notice to battle a widening rift was one of the advantages of using their technology.
And despite the good-natured jab at Blizzard with their advertising, Trion believes there is room for two successful MMORPGs.
“Ten years ago, people were comparing everything to ‘Everquest.’ This year, people are comparing everything to ‘World of Warcraft,’” Hartsman said. He said talk about comparing “Rift” with “WoW” is more about gamer culture than direct competition.
But he said there are differences that make “Rift” unique in the genre.
“The fact that there is always something interesting going on in the world and the fact that the world itself can be a dangerous place and a place where there is new danger, new adventure … gives the game a sense of urgency and banding together with other people adds a whole lot of excitement that only ‘Rift’ is doing.”
“Rift” is available only on the PC. It is rated T for Teen due to alcohol references, blood, mild language and violence. There is a 30 day period included in the purchase of the game, but requires a monthly subscription for continued play. It is also available in English, French and German.