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Review In Progress #3

William Murphy Posted:
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Another week in Trion’s MMO shooter, and this time we’re going to focus on the PVP aspects of the game, its recent mega-patch, and even a little bit of the show.  I figure, since I’ve been slowed in my playtime since my young progeny came into the world, we’ll take another week after this, and then hit the final Review in early May.  I’m not about to scrimp on the time needed to get this right, just because my days are filled with dirty diapers. I’ve logged nearly thirty hours and have broken into the EGO 300+ range. I’ve spent a few days this week with the Echelon PVP and the Shadow War, so let’s start with them, shall we?

The Shadow War

This mode of PVP, while incredibly fun at times, also seems like a missed opportunity.  It’s Defiance’s answer to open world PVP, except that you still queue up for it, and it ends when a certain score is reached between two sides.  So, in essence, it’s just another form of match-made PVP that takes place in a copy of the main overworld map.  Like the traditional smaller scale PVP, you queue up via the game’s menu system and once the two sides of the War are set, the match begins.  Depending on how many people are queued up for the SW, the size of the area that it encapsulates increases.  You could wind up with a 32v32 match, or even something as large as 256v256.

The Shadow War can get pretty darned big, as evidenced from this screen around launch.

One thing is certain about the Shadow War: it’s fun, and it can be rewarding.  There are PvE mobs and events that still spawn on the map, while you’re off capturing points in the name of your assigned side (Utah, Delaware, representing the states that were before the Pale Wars).  You’ll find plenty of ample spots to camp and snipe from, or you can be a frontline soldier running in and trying to hold objectives for your side.  You’ll get loot as you go, and at the end, when one team earns enough points, you’ll be awarded scrip, resources, and XP too. 

But my question has to be: why not turn this massive world PVP into something more than a mirror image of the world map and match-based?  Why not allow players to flag themselves for the Shadow War and have it running around the clock?  It seems like a real missed opportunity, given the fact that Trion could direct the flow of PVP traffic by moving the capture points daily, or even hourly. It’s such an undervalued aspect to this game, that there’s this big open world to fight over... and you’re only fighting over it in restricted groups and if enough others sign up too.

Match-Made PVP

Match-made PVP, is a more basic and straightforward representation of what we’ve come to expect from most any online shooter these days.  There are 6v6 maps, 8v8, and both death-match.  Kill the required number of players before the other team does, and you win.  You can watch me die four times and score four assists in the video of me being terrible below.  It’s quick, painless, and matches don’t take very long at all. There are also capture and hold matches, but I haven’t unlocked them as of yet (blame Liam). Queuing takes all of a minute or two, and in fact it seems most PVP-ers queue up for the match-made sort over the Shadow War (likely because it’s quicker to tackle and just as rewarding).  As you play PVP, you’ll earn Echelon Credits and reputation to spend with that faction of the game.  These can be spent on weapons, outfits, titles, and more. 

One thing I can say about the PVP, though it’s not seen much in my video up there, is there are quite a few “bunny-hoppers”.  It’s a cheap but effective tactic to avoid being hit, and I’m hoping some sort of diminishing returns is put on the action in PVP soon.  I also see reports of aim-bots and damage hacks in the forums, but I can’t say I’ve experienced this directly.

The Big Patch

This past Tuesday, April 15th, was the first major patch addressing the game’s major issues.  I can happily report that VOIP seems improved, though it’s not quite perfect yet.  A large part of this fix, I can’t help but think is because VOIP in groups is now set to off by default.  Perhaps by having less of a load on whatever server handles the VOIP, the quality is improved. 

There’s also an “Armistice Festival” going on in the game now, in accordance with the lore behind the game and the show.  So far, there doesn’t seem to be much more to it than lighting some lanterns and watching them float away.  But according to the community blog, there’s also some new “Emergencies” around the game (think dynamic events) which are centered around the end of the Pale Wars.  There are also a couple of new pursuits that give you new EGO points and outfits. 

The hardest mission in the game so far... light this without burning the lamp.

Overall, it seems like the patch cleaned up a lot of the niggling issues but made a fair few more. VOIP is still buggy, but getting better.  And that’s key to making the social experience of Defiance well, more social.  Right now, I still haven’t seen more than one or two people actually type.  The only communication we’re going to have in this game, I feel, will be the VOIP in parties.  So it needs to be fixed ASAP.

The highlight of the patch’s fixes are the fact that story missions can now be replayed, the extraction or downed mechanic for players has been tripled to 90 seconds, and that VOIP is making progress. The rest of the fixes are the sort you’re not going to notice unless you’re directly affected by them.

Overall, I’m still quite enjoying Defiance despite it being sort of halfway between competent shooter and competent MMO.  It’s almost a genre all its own, and that’s probably why in later weeks of the advertising campaign, Trion backed away from calling it an MMO shooter (among other reasons I don’t need to rant again about here).  If a game’s fun, that’s really all that counts.  I like hopping online for ten minutes to several hours and progressing the missions, engaging the pursuits, and getting gibbed in PVP. 

I’m not a major competitive shooter fan. I don’t need Defiance to be the best shooter in the world.  But something tells me that a lot of shooter fans are not going to find what they want here.  And a lot of MMO gamers are going to find the social and non-combat part of the game lacking too.  But I watched the show this past week, and despite its rather laughable special effects and predictable plot...I enjoyed the premiere.  I’ll watch the next few episodes at least, and I’m curious to see more show-oriented missions added to the game.

I was sad to find this Bar was not the "social hub" I'd hoped it would be.

And I’m betting that such cross-promotional traction is exactly what Trion and Universal were hoping for.  Now, if we could just get them to stop shamelessly plugging Dodge cars in the game.  Did the apocalyptic change of the world’s eco system only leave Dodges intact?  Where’s my VW wagon?

Are you still playing Defiance? Did you watch the show?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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.  


William Murphy

Bill is the former 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.