Taking a brave leap back into MMO hell… and loving it.

I’ve never been big on “fantasy” type games, nor have I ever really cared for online/multiplayer games – I prefer to be a lone gunman than have to deal with other players who for the most part are unrepentant twats yet to have their first real sexual experience that doesn’t involve a family member.  That being said, the fact I devoted nearly 3 years of my life and killed at least 1 relationship playing World of Warcraft was a shock to say the least.

In the time I devoted to WOW, I saw many other attempts to oust the 6 million lb elephant in the room fail…  Nothing could pull me away quicker than the simple realization that I was devoting many hours a day grinding to earn enough money so I could buy some new weapon, some new armor, etc… so I could grind killing bigger and badder things to repeat the process.

Now that SyFy (I still hate that name, it’s SciFi damnit) has taken the wraps off of Defiance – which from what I can tell is an entirely new take on a game based on a show – or a show based on a game (which is it???) I’ve been gloriously sucked back in to the MMO world.  FINALLY an open world MMO that isn’t confined to the world of elves, trolls, magic, etc…  I’ve got guns!  They make things die!  I even get a quad (or mount for those of you already initiated to MMO hell) to tool around on without having to grind for hours on end.

Defiance is a futuristic science fiction open world MMO (with no monthly fees, even) that places you on a changed Earth years after several alien races popped by for cocktails only to overstay their welcome, terraform the landscape, and generally mess our shit up.  There are two “friendly” races to pick from with several sub-classes to choose from as far as the type of character you’ll be developing.

The graphics are top notch PC quality (I still consider the PC as the standard for graphics, not a console), controls are very well done, and overall the gameplay is smooth and refined.  There is no real learning curve to the game, both MMO virgins and veterans who have played pretty much any open world shooter can hit the ground running.  If I could break out the broad brush of generalization – Defiance is a mix of Fallout, Borderlands, and (simply for the framework) World of Warcraft.

All of the standard weapon flavors are there, pistols, SMG, LMG, Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Rocket/Grenade launchers… and once the proper “EGO” level is achieved, you can modify them to your hearts content.  Other more sci-fi options are available such as the BMG which can either drain bad guys of life or restore life to allies.  If I had a single complaint about the weaponry so far it would be that you can only actively use 2 weapons at any given time.

My general preference for most any game is a solid sniper rifle for ranged attack and a good SMG for close range assault.   I’ve never been big on shotguns in any game going as far back as Doom, but they’re just about a necessity in Defiance.  Thankfully even the low-end shotguns offer massive damage with a decent rate of fire and magazine size.  This is where my complaint really comes into play though.  I think that to do the best job at killing I should be able to swap between a long/medium/short range weapon on the fly…  Instead I need to take a guess as to what would be the best loadout for a given situation and keep my fingers crossed that I got it right.

If I discover too late that I’m better off with a shotgun, or I’ve burned through all of my ammunition, I need to jump to my inventory menu – double-click the weapon I want to use, select the weapon it will be replacing, and then dive back into the fray.  Defiance being an MMO though, the action doesn’t stop while I dig into my collection for the best weapon of pixelated destruction… 99% of the time I’m getting attacked and unless I get my timing just right I’ll hop out of the menu just in time to find myself on my ass in need of being revived.  I’ve read something about being able to set up alternate loadouts in the game that can allow me to swap weapons faster but its still not ideal.  This is something the dev’s should seriously address because IMHO – if I’m not killing or exploring, I’m not playing, and their goal should be to keep the action at the forefront instead of forcing players into the menu screens during an attack.

One of the most frustrating aspects of any MMO is that the open world maps are generally MASSIVE, and even while sprinting it can take forever to get where you need to go.  Defiance handles this brilliantly, as once you finish the “tutorial” missions, you get a simple quad with a boost function which vastly improves the task of traveling across the map.  Other perks?  GPS.  Set a waypoint on the map, and you’ll get a route on your minimap of how to get where you’re going.  Lastly, any area you visit that has a ‘fast travel’ allows you to get back to that area simply by double-clicking the fast-travel icon on the map.  Much of my travelling that wasn’t mission based so far has been getting to areas that have the fast-travel so that I don’t have to waste extra time later on getting around.  Now going by the cut-scenes and what I’ve actually seen in game, it looks like Dodge has thrown some money at the game as some of the quads  have a “Dodge” emblem and oh yeah – there are Mad-Max style Challengers roaming around as well.  I haven’t found the vendor which offers those yet, but it’s pretty cool to see some post-apocalyptic rides tooling around that are actually recognizable.  Personally, I’d prefer a RAM or even a Durango, but hey that’s just me.

There are a few different types of currency in the game, each allowing you to modify various aspects of your experience.  IAP’s are also enabled, so far the IAP “bits” I think they’re called allow you to get lock-boxes (grab bag of random weapons, etc…) inventory size increases, outfits, vehicles, etc…  I dropped $5 on some bits but haven’t used them just yet as I’ve been able to get what I need as the game plays out.

I  mentioned earlier that if you get killed, you have 3 options – one (which can only be used every once and a while) is to self-revive, another is to re-spawn at a nearby spawn point, and of course at any time you can be revived by another player.  Something I’m not sure exists yet (but should if it does not) are med packs.  A lot of times I’m just moments away from killing that last bad guy only to get dropped.  If I could click a button and use a medpack – that’d be sweet.

Another unavoidable weakness of Defiance (which holds true for every MMO I have ever played) is the grind.  Sure, there are races, rampages (kill as many bad guys in a specific time limit), and other ways to get XP, loot, and currency – but in the end there are a ton of “Go here, kill bad guys, get the item” missions.  Thankfully, picking off enemies with a rifle is more fun than killing 1000 boars to obtain the sword of infinite truth, plus you always have the option to run the bastards over.

The last feature I’m going to mention here that I like are your “EGO” abilities.  I forgot what EGO translates to, but essentially it’s a computer in your head that gives you powers.  My choice was the cloak which allows me to sneak up, Predator style, escape an attack with  my life by cloaking while out of sight, and generally wreak invisible havoc.  Other choices are overcharge (ramp up your weapon damage), blur (run really fast), and decoy (total recall style).  I’ll probably create some other characters to try those out, but as your character develops you’re able to increase your skill tree along side your increasing EGO level and unless I’m mistaken it looks like you can actually branch out into other powers… Not sure yet.

Overall, I’m loving the game.  It’s a fresh take on the MMO style, the fact it’s tied to a SciFi series (even horrible shows can go 10 seasons there) is a perk.  The show is pretty good as well, and provides a lot of the back story that is lacking beyond hints and whatnot during gameplay.  $59.95 will get you a standard copy while a whopping $100 gets you the ‘deluxe’ edition.  I have a feeling I’ll be upgrading to that version eventually as if history has proven anything… me + MMO = time sink of epic proportion 🙂

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