I can’t blog about Defiance

I keep meaning to write up a big fat blog post about Defiance, but every time I think about doing so, I realize I could instead spend that time playing, so that’s what I do. That’s the mark of a game that’s an excellent fit for me; I play it every time I get a free moment.

You can find plenty of things to complain about in this game. It’s still fairly buggy, the UI is kind of awful (maybe less so if you’re using a controller, but I’m not 100% convinced of that) and it overall lacks polish. In spite of all that, I’m head over heel in love with it, at least for this week. (You know me and my gaming ADD.)

On the bright side, they’ve had a decent launch week on the PC. Decent, not super. Servers still come down too often for emergency patches and stuff, but to the best of my knowledge the PC servers haven’t had any extended outages or outrageous queue times. I guess the Xbox 360 version hasn’t fared as well, though.

But playing the game is a hell of a lot of fun and you always have many options. You can follow the main questline or the episode questline (and I assume we’re getting a new episode quest once a week one the show starts up on April 15th). You can do side quests. You can explore in an attempt to complete Pursuits or to learn about the lore and backstory of the game (Pursuits also give EGO levels). You can race vehicles. You can roam around taking on random spawns alone. You can jump into ArkFalls and join a mass of players taking on huge encounters. You can do structured PvP or open world PvP. [Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried the PvP…hopefully it’s all up and working!] You can join with friends to do co-op instances. You can do solo instance challenges. You can complete Contracts to earn favor with one faction or another. Taking a page from Guild Wars 2, almost everything you do in Defiance earns you some kind of boon.

(This one looks best in HD.)

The problem is that almost none of this (except completing quests) is obvious when you first start playing. Well, the main quest and side quests are pretty obvious, but a lot of this stuff is tucked into the Goals system and the game never points you at that as a source of things to do. It should. In the same way it never really tells you to check out the Intel system for more about the world (a lot of lore is fed to you via audio transmissions).

Here’s an audio log example. Not one of the best, but I chose it because it has no spoilers in it:

A couple of warnings: Defiance is a shooter, not an RPG. You don’t have stats and you do need to be able to aim. In theory you could set yourself up as a kind of healer but I’m not sure there’s enough there to make that a rewarding career path. Basically you really need to want to shoot stuff to get much out of the game. It’s also still rough. If bugs, server crashes and a lack of polish is going to drive you nuts, give this one a pass for now.

As an MMO there’s a lot we expect that isn’t there: banks, a mail system, an auction house. “Levels” are here in the form of an EGO Rating and that’s mostly just there to gate content. Some weapons require a minimum EGO Rating, and as your rating goes up you unlock inventory slots, loadout slots and things like that. You do ‘rank up’ in weapons and vehicles; when you do you’ll get a minor adjustment. Extra boost time in vehicles, slightly less ‘bloom’ (bullet spread) with weapons…things like that. Nothing all that over-powering. There are only 4 skills and you can only equip 1 at a time. There are lots of passive ‘perks’ to earn, though.

Honestly it’s hard for me to quantify what I love about Defiance, but I’ll try. I love that I can jump in and play for 10 minutes and feel like I got something done, but if I have 3 hours I don’t get bored. I love how I can help (or be helped by) people without forming a Group. I love that it’s a shooter that is casual enough to be fun for me…someone not a serious shooter fan. And I feel like I’m pretty good at it (I’m perhaps delusional…but the important thing is I FEEL good about my progress, rather than feeling frustrated). I love that I can get involved in a gloriously chaotic Arkfall event with 50 other players…or go off all by myself and see what I can accomplish on my own. When I get tired of shooting, I try the races. If I get tired of those too, I just go and explore. I’m always feeling like I have more to do than I have time for, which is, to me, a good thing.

Anyway I wasn’t going to blog about Defiance and now I’ve gone on and on and I could be playing so.. off I go to play!