I’ve been dabbling in Trion’s Defiance for months now, in the alpha and beta tests, and over that time I’ve seen it make a lot of progress in terms of playability, polish, and engagement. There’s a lot riding on this multi-platform title from Trion Worlds and SyFy. A joint venture and hybrid between TV show and MMO-shooter, it’s safe to say that if they don’t sell a lot of boxes and see a lot of viewers when the show launches both companies will feel left out to dry. Later on this week I’ll begin our review in progress articles (a series of 3-5 pieces leading up to a final review), but today being the game’s official launch across Xbox 360, PS3, and PC I just wanted to briefly talk about my first couple of hours with the final product. If you want a good idea of what the game’s all about, you can watch our exclusive developer livestream here. For transparency, I’m reviewing the game on PC, with a digital deluxe code provided to me by Trion Worlds.
THE WORLD IS FILLED...
Both with people and cars and ATVs. It’s like the apocalypse never happened there’s so much traffic. The screen below shows what your first screen past the tutorial will probably look like. When Trion ninja powered-on the servers in the NA regions last night, the locusts swarmed. There sure were lots of clones milling about, all wondering what to do next. This actually makes for an interesting first few moments in the game proper. You see, mobs in Defiance all scale based on how many people are around them. Suddenly the first mutants you’ll face will take dozens of shots to drop, which wouldn’t be so bad if people weren’t just standing around looking through their UI. Luckily, this is an issue that will resolve itself as people spread about. Just remember, don’t be that guy who stands there and makes mutants impervious monsters: freaking shoot something.
I’ve done the initial missions so many times now through the beta and alpha that I could not wait to get them finished. One thing I noticed this time however is that the final Voiceover and cinematics are far more polished and interesting than they were the last time I watched/listened to them weeks ago. This isn’t surprising as that sort of thing is usually topped off near launch. In fact, overall the visuals in Defiance seem to have all received a much needed layer of polish. The lighting, effects, motion-blur, textures... they all seem to be in a better place. Defiance still isn’t as pretty as say Planetside 2 or Dust, but it looks good on high settings.
A WORLD OF LOOKALIKES
One thing that hasn’t changed since beta and alpha is the customization of our characters’ looks starting out. We will all still look the same, early on, and even once we get going. Your face might be slightly different than mine, hair color a different hue, but overall between the limited amount of starting outfits and only a handful of different faces, haircuts, and colors... we’re all pretty much going to look alike. I was very happy to change into my Digital Deluxe bonus outfit (see other screens below), because even though other folks had this look, at least it’s a sharp look. The problem I had was finding out where all those bonuses were.
THE UI IS STILL ROUGH
Finding the bonuses you get is a toughie, because the UI is so obviously meant for consoles. Plug in a USB controller, and you’ll see it’s much more natural there. This was expected, to be honest, since we always knew Defiance was intended for PC and consoles, but I wish they would have tried a bit harder to redesign the UI for the PC. Something like TERA’s press-alt to enter the UI mode would be welcome. In any case, if like me you’re wondering where your pre-order items are: press P, which brings up the store. Down at the bottom left you’ll see the “Claim Items” option. Voila.
I had a metric ton of bonuses from the EGO Codes as well as all the cool stuff from the Deluxe Edition. It’ll jump you up in terms of power early on if you get all the EGO codes, so if you’re just starting out you might want to take the time to find a page with all 122 codes and enter them. The starting weapons, weapon-skill levels, and titles are all worth it. Plus the inventory slots... so needed. I couldn’t even claim all my items in the store until I first claimed my extra inventory slots. But more on the store later this week. Suffice it to say, it seems to be the perfect blend of convenience and cosmetic, and nothing you can’t get without playing the game for a bit of time.
In any case, I’ve made it past the first few overly-played missions, died a few times when defending the KTAM radio tower (don’t get cocky, is my advice), and looted quite a bit of good stuff. My early feelings are leaning more positive now after alpha and beta, which is how it should be. I’m still up in the air as to whether there’s enough here to keep someone engaged for months on end, but considering Defiance doesn’t have a subscription and will offer DLC to continue the story and unlock more content, it may depend on what those DLC packs offer.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. There are a lot of things I’m not quite sure I like about Defiance. The UI and music being the main culprits. Both I can probably overlook if the gameplay is fun and interesting. I want to go home and play, so that’s a good sign. But look for my first true “Review In Progress” piece later this week. I’ll dive into the PVP, the Shadow War, and hopefully have gained enough EGO points to see what the co-op instances are about too.
Have you played Defiance since it launched? Leave us your thoughts on its first few hours below!
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.
Check out some of our other Defiance coverage at the links below: