Defiance: Main quests finished, and I’m feeling grumpy

Last night I finished the “Main Storyline” for Defiance. Or at least the main storyline as it stands now; I expect we’ll see more in the months to come. I still have lots of side quests to do, pursuits to finish, weapons and vehicles to level… and hopefully starting next Monday, Episode Quests.

But today I want to talk more about the main storyline quests. I was not at all pleased with how this series of quests ended, so warning: one of my rants is incoming.

There are a couple ways to finish difficult quests in Defiance:
1) You can be a hardcore shooter player and then probably none of the quests are difficult to begin with.

2) You can fight the best you can until the cavalry arrives in the form of another player (or players). This is my favorite thing to have happen. I’ll be running around, slowly grinding my way through the quest, and suddenly another purple dot shows up on the radar. Help has arrived! Two players are way WAY more powerful than one since with two players you can flank, which becomes important against certain enemies later in the game. Also, this is an MMO…if we wanted to play a solo game we’d play a single player game, right?

3) You can brute force it. I’ve had to do this a few times. You take out a few guys, die, respawn, take out a few more, and eventually you’ll whittle them down and win. It just takes persistence. The ‘death penalty’ is 180 scrip (Defiance’s currency). My character has something like 34,000 scrip and I buy everything that looks remotely interesting, so 180 scrip is so low that there may as well not be a death penalty.

But there are 2 main quests where these rules don’t apply. (Well, Rule 1 still applies.) In these quests you enter a solo instance so there’s no hope of friends, and if you die, the mission enemies reset and you have to start all over again. To add insult to injury, your ammo will be depleted so the first thing you’ll have to do on your next try is sprint for an ammo box and replenish.

The final Main Mission is one of these two missions. [Gameplay, but not story, spoilers incoming.] It’s a multi-phase mission. First you have to clear a bunker with the help of some NPC friends. Then you have to enter a solo instance and fight an enemy, three times. It’s that old-school ‘boss that keeps getting back up’ system. I don’t play modern shooters so I don’t know if they still do that, but it’s how designers used to finish their games: one last frustrating battle where the difficulty spikes.

Each of the three phases is different and at least if you die you respawn at the start of the current phase (thank heaven for small favors). But this being an MMO, you can’t save your game and walk away for a while. I -assume- that if you log out and come back in, you’ll have to restart the mission from the very beginning. I wasn’t about to test this but this seems to be normally how Defiance works. And there’s no Pause button.

So once you get into this last mission, you’re going to want to complete it in one sitting. It is far, far harder than anything else the game has thrown at you up to that point. Or at least it was for me. Invariably when someone says the mission is hard on a forum there’ll be ‘that guy’ who says “Hard? I finished the mission using only my starter weapon and it took me 5 minutes.” But my ‘straw poll research’ tells me I’m not alone in finding the mission to be difficult.

I did it, eventually. Died about 8 times altogether I think. There’s nothing like having the baddie down to a sliver of health and taking an unlucky hit and having to start all over again. Eight deaths doesn’t sound bad but I was trying to be careful. The mission, start to finish, took me about two hours and when I finally finished it, I felt more angry than satisfied.

It didn’t help that I encountered a couple of bugs. A couple times my Self-Revive refused to work (the message to hold E to revive was on-screen but holding E did nothing) and a few times when I died the Extract feature didn’t work so I had to sit around and wait for the timer to count down to auto-extract me. The first one was by far more infuriating but it only happened twice.

So two hours later, I was finished. I glowered at the following cut scene, flipped the bird at the crappy weapon I got as a reward (a freakin pistol? REALLY?) and dumped out of the game and stormed off to bed. Now that’s just me. I’m sure some players finished the battle, did a fist pump and a cheer and were elated. If you were one of those, I’m sincerely happy for you. In my opinion, though, this mission needs to be changed. We’re playing an MMO because we want to play with other people. Let us bring in help if we’re stuck. If that’s asking too much, at least tweak the difficulty so it is more in-line with the rest of the missions.

I’m not against hard games, but Defiance, overall, is a pretty casual game. (There’s one other mission that is a bit difficult but you can go online and research ‘tricks’ to make it easier. I couldn’t find any tricks for this one.) In my opinion it’s a game design mistake to spike the difficulty so drastically at the very end of a quest line like this (particularly since you probably want players to stick around after the final quest finishes). I’m hoping Trion decides to tone this one down a bit. Maybe after a certain amount of time or deaths they can spawn a powerful weapon or something to help those players who came to Defiance from other MMOs rather than from Shooters.

I’m just glad to have it behind me. I’m actually looking forward to going back to cruising around the world, doing side missions and helping other players clear their main missions. That’s what makes Defiance so fun. Not being trapped in a solo instance with a boss that doesn’t have the sense to stay dead after you kill him!