This will be the final week before I tally up my thoughts and put a score to my Defiance review. But before we mark that occasion, there are just a few more things I want to touch on. I watched the second episode of the SyFy show this week, and it made me draw a parallel with the game: the pilot was rough. Admirable, but with terrible special effects, predictable plotting, and only a hint of what could be a potentially fantastic exploration of race and cultural differences between different species as they struggle to survive the new Earth. The second episode on the other hand? I found it much more enjoyable. There were no giant “battle scenes” that looked cheap even by basic cable standards, and the story focused more on the people, their differences, and the mystery of just what the hell former mayor Nicky is trying to do to “fix” the planet.
Why does this make a lick of difference when I’m supposed to be writing about the game? Because, like the show, Defiance the game has had a rough “pilot”. Its launch was marred with issues, and yet beneath the dirt and grime of a launched forced to coincide with a television premiere, I believe there’s a whole lot of potential in Defiance as a hybrid MMO shooter. Potential, knowing Trion’s track record with Rift, that I expect will be met given the time to mature.
This is the first week in Defiance where I’m no longer trying to explore the game’s feature set. Instead, I’m just playing it like I would any other MMO. I run missions, try to complete pursuits, stop and do the random objectives that litter the map, and occasionally hop into some of the PVP. The Shadow War, oddly enough, doesn't seem to pop as often as I wish it would. It’s easily the game’s best PVP mode, but it’s not as quick and easy to earn XP and scrip when compared to the standard match-made PVP.
I also have to mention something about the Episode Missions. Before the premiere of the TV show, there were several missions involving Irisa and Nolan littered about the map of the game. But as soon as that episode aired, those missions disappeared, never to be seen again. Now, Trion has already stated they’ll be bringing them back so those who didn’t have a chance to play them can (based on player feedback, I’m assuming many missed out). It’s good of them to bring them back, but I can’t understand why they’d disappear in the first place. Mark the missions as “Season 1 - Episode 1” so people know where it lies in the timeline of the show and leave it in for everyone. It’s awesome that Trion’s doing something a little different with the game world between each episode, but don’t punish the busy people by taking the content from them before they have a chance to play it.
I’m actually really enjoying the pursuits and exploration of the Bay Area in Defiance. I’m just not looking forward to when I’ve uncovered every inch and seen all the content. If Defiance is going to keep me interested for the long term, it needs to have a decent stream of content additions, something to rival Guild Wars 2 or Rift in terms of pacing. I also expect that we’ll soon see some more heavily promoted cash shop items. As it is now, I’ve not had to spend a dime. The outfits don’t look like something I’d want or need, and neither to the cars. I’d expect outfit dyes, weapon particle effects, and more sort of “customization” queues soon. Perhaps even heftier “boosts” to increase the rate at which you earn the game’s reputation, scrip, and EGO. I’m also really curious as to when we’re going to hear about the game’s first DLC pack, and what that will entail. A new region and new EGO skills are among the tops of what would get me to buy in.
In any case, as we near the end of my review period for Defiance, I find myself having fun still... despite the title’s many quirks and issues. It’s rough around the edges, sure enough. But one thing that polish can’t usually fix is whether the gameplay is fun. For that to happen, fundamental design changes usually need to take place and that’s rarely going to ever be the case. Fortunately for Trion and the Defiance team: their game is fun at its core. It just needs a coat of paint and some bells and whistles to really make it shine.
Stay tuned next week for our final review. Are you playing? What do you think nearly a month in?
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.