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Defiance: The Game

06/14/13

  12:34:00 pm, by Nimble   , 1877 words  
Categories: Reviews, Games

Defiance: The Game

(I'll see if I can work at getting some screen captures in here, because it needs some dang screen captures! :) )

I got to be a minor fan of the Defiance TV show in the first couple of episodes because of some of the characters and twists they threw in, but I'm woefully behind; we switched PVRs and are stuck trying to find a time to hook up the old one just to watch some older leftovers.

I will admit that I only tried the game because of being slightly partial to the show and it being a free weekend to try. I had every intention of just letting it go when the free weekend was up... but I didn't.

It's just a lot of fun, despite not being particularly ground-breaking. It's like someone came along and just decided to make sure there was some good solid world-building backstory, and then just write a game that they would really like.

There is literally no shortage of things to do in the game. Aside from the main missions and the side missions, ranchers and soliders and techs are getting into trouble every 200 meters (yes, metric! aaahaha) on the road, there are hellbugs (they feature in the show, but they certain fill out the Starship Troopers monster quotient a bit) around, roadblocks by mutants, attacks by the "afflicted" (the late-stage sufferers of a plague, which fills out the zombie monster quotient a bit), cyborgs called "99ers" horning in on mining operations, tough robotic scrappers sifting over piles of high-tech trash.

There are time trials for driving your vehicle around, rampages with experimental weaponry, and, in keeping with some other themes of the show, there are "arkfalls", where pieces of the arks that brought the aliens races fall to the ground, seemingly attracting powerful members of particular monster cadres, including giants freaking hellbug superbugs, and plague "showdowns" at anti-plague manufacturing compounds where waves of the "afflicted" try to overwhelm the machinery. There's even something called a "Shadow War" which I have not gotten into yet at all, but it looks like it might be player teams fighting each other.

Still not enough to do? Well, you can jump into a line-up for co-operative maps, where you get matched with three other people in a queue and you take on missions - usually underground.

One of the nice little features is that if someone comes along when you're working on a mission, and they happen to be working on the same mission, you all get credit for it. You can all rescue the workers or shut down the sentry guns or blow up the cyborgs.

The scenery is fun - it has that "Earth partially terraformed by aliens" look to it: spruce trees and giant oyster mushrooms and cacti and grass and giant spiky vines and alien crops. The models of everything are really well done, and there is a day/night cycle, and some of the alien imports are - of course? - luminescent at night. Well, why not, I guess.

The weapons are interesting: they come in a number of different categories: machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, shotguns - the usual - and some not so usual like infectors which can sprout little parasites or slow things down or BMGs which can protect or harm clusters of friendlies or enemies. Even the "normal" weaponry can have unusual features like setting things on fire or compromises, like big slugs for shotguns where you have to be more accurate but get more damage out of it, too. Lots of "mods" you can put on weapons to make them more stable or keep your aim better after shooting or recharge faster, or even letting you hit things with your weapon better, and that's great, because there's something to be said for running out of a clip of ammo and then just smacking a mutant in the face. In the faaaace.

Lots of enemies have vunerable spots. Humans and cyborgs have the obvious one: the head, but you have to get a little creative for hellbugs and even some armored cyborgs and big critters. Shooting a hellbug warrior in the mouth just as they're spitting out a big of caustic flammable substance takes a surprising amount of skill, but you can chop its health in half or even just explode it, which is amazingly satisfying. Hellbug monarchs are only vulnerable in the thorax when they rear up - and if you miss that shot, you can get hurt - and on the tail right after they roll-charge someone. There's one hard mutant who has to check his equipment if you get the small tanks on his back, and he removes the mask on his face to do it for a few short seconds.

Making those shots is really, really rewarding, and it just adds to the fun.

One thing I like about the game that seems almost like a throwaway feature is the driving around. The vehicles you get handle not bad to start with, and they get better - I'll talk about how shortly - to the point that sometimes, you just want to drive around and not bother with the fast travel system. They have boosters or afterburners for some reason as well, which helps a lot trying to clear bodies of water (there are a few spots around made for jumping), trying to go uphill or just getting around faster. You can run over a few things without exploding, but they aren't meant for taking out large groups of enemies Carmageddon-style.

There are quite a few parallel skill and experience systems going on. Every type of weapon has a skill rank - the more you use that kind of weapon, the better you get at it. Just little things, like 2% more stability or 2% faster reloading, but enough to notice after a while. Individual weapons have their own skill rank - if you use a particular gun over and over, you will eventually "master" it and get bonuses for just that gun. Strangely, though, you stop gaining the general bonuses at that point, though you can "reset" your mastery to keep advancing.

The vehicles have a skill system going on, just from driving and driving, and they handle noticeably better after a while. You have to drive them with keys, which normally drives me crazy, but after skilling up, they handle nicely enough that I don't actually run into very much any more.

There's an experience point system that comes from any kind of mission, and those points go into skills. You start out with a particular skill: cloaking, decoys (a fake version of you that the enemies chase), blur (I forget) and overdrive (for weapons) and there's a grid of skills you can put the skill points into. Things like less damage if you're standing still, or longer decoys, or benefits  from reviving other players.

One interesting element is that where other games have "achievements" that are just-for-fun trophies, Defiance actually scores you on this basis, and you can be locked out of certain skills, missions and even weaponry by not "achieving" enough. I find that's actually not bad - just following the missions will get you quite a few of them and, if you are impatient, you can just look up and accomplish the darned things if you want.

There are some bits of the game I haven't gotten into yet. It looks like there are some faction-based items - like if you help out the Echelon Mercenaries, you get some of their specialty 'currency' with which you can buy their special weaponry. The aforementioned Shadow Wars.

There's also a giant freaking droid standing guard over the entrance to what appears to be Golden Gate Bridge (so the game is not located anywhere near the St. Louis of the show). It's HUGE. I haven't managed to bypass it or even get passably close to it without blowing up - and you can't make the swim; it looks like you get poisoned or dizzy or something, interpreting my own experience.

The game makers looks to be still in search of some post-game-launch coinage, and there are some "premium" items that you can get only from real-money-derived in-game currency, but that's pretty much par for the course in a lot of no-monthly-fee games, and I'm perfectly happy to let people with more money than sense help support the servers.

Some elements of realism are totally thrown out the window just for the sake of the game, and that's not a bad thing. For example, you can conjure your vehicle out of thin air. Realistic? No. But it means you're on the road whenever you want to be. You don't get killed, you get "incapacitated", and you have a self-revive charge that can get you out of that state, but it charges on a timer. Realistic? Aaahahah, but great for the game. Your grenades regenerate. How would that physically be possible? Your grenades don't hurt your friends! That's pretty smart! You can "fast travel" - immediately teleporting to some major places you have visited. What, through the mail? It's convenient, though! You shouldn't be able to walk on the ground in hellbug territory without falling through all the tunnels they make. You can see the enemy's health? How perceptive! Hellbugs carry ammunition for your gun? Of course they do!

What makes them not realistic makes for a good game regardless, though. Can you imagine how angry you would get at any nardo who threw a grenade without due care and attention if it hurt other players? Or if you had to call some automotive agency to repair your thoroughly hellbug-chewed motorbike so you could get back home?

I do have some minor complaints about the game, mind you. Clicking on Fast Travel destinations on the map can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. Dealing with excess weaponry can be aggravating - what they've done with excess rewards is okay, though a little confusing to find (you have to go into the "Defiance Store" on the menus and they have your overflowed rewards banked there) but if you want to pick something new up, it feels like it should be faster to salvage or drop things. I also wish it were safe to do things like salvage - it's a full-screen interface, so you can't even see if you're in immediate danger.

I would also like a bit more variety in equipment. I mean, the weapons are fun enough, but equivalent games often have multiple sorts of things you can slap on your body or use as accessories to do certain things. There is a certain sameness to the equipment that you collect in Defiance, to the point that it's almost a mere annoying distraction. Customizing more individual parts of the vehicles would be nice, too. That said, these seem like things that could have easily fallen off the plate when they were developing it.

I would also like to be able to see the chatter a lot more easily. You can hardly see what other people are saying, and pressing [ENTER] and then scrolling a tiny window does not cut it, especially in the showdowns with the afflicted where there can be dozens of players around.

All in all, a great gaming experience, despite not being a terribly new gaming experience.

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