Defiance Impression: Defiantly Average

This constant feeling of “promising element with mediocre execution” has left me a bit jaded, even after only 10 levels. I am having fun, but it’s a begrudging sort of fun. I don’t talk about some awesome exploit to my friends or even feel particularly challenged. A good shooter has to figuratively punch its player in the gut and tell them to shape up or ship out. Defiance tells the player to do their own thing, but doesn’t give them enough freedom to truly make their own story. It’s caught between the open-world style of games like APB and the more linear, focused narrative of MMOs like Rift, and as a result suffers from a lack of cohesion.

There are two parts I completely loved, though. The first is vehicles. They act much like mounts in any other MMO, but with a few key differences. First, you get your first vehicle within the first few missions, allowing you to speed across the open landscape quickly from the get go. Second, calling the vehicle is instant and is accompanied by a really satisfying honk. I know it’s silly to think some jeep beep is satisfying, but I do! Finally, vehicles can do damage via collision to enemy mobs, just as you might expect. It’s not uncommon to see players roaming Mount Tam in their cars and slamming into every mutant they find.

The second is the open world element. There are lots of randomly generated open-world missions to take part in, and even the story missions are (mostly) public. Players are encouraged to assist each other in as many ways as possible. The only downside I encountered was that the telegraphing for a random mission wasn’t particularly good. You actually have to be in the mission zone to see the mission, which keeps players nearby but not inside from noticing something is going on.

Out of these public mission, Arkfalls are easily the most fun. I’ve only done minor ones, but I had an absolute blast. If you’ve played Rift – or are familiar with the public quests of Warhammer Online or Guild Wars 2 – you know how the song goes: area has some big event, you have to complete waves of objectives, and the best contributors get sick loot at the end. It was an engaging and entertaining system in Rift, and it’s the same here. The only thing I want from it is more. Specifically, introduce Arkfall to players earlier and make the mechanic a bigger part of the newbie zone. It’s the main draw for Defiance – just like it was for Rift – and it isn’t being promoted in-game as well as it should be.

As for Defiance’s business model, it is following the Guild Wars method: Buy the game and DLC, but don’t pay a subscription fee. I’m really thankful for this. Since I’m not really getting caught up in Defiance, it’s nice to be able to take a break, play another game, and come back without feeling like I wasted my money on a subscription. Of course, this also means that a microtransaction store is in place, with all the annoyances that possibly entails.

Defiance is not a terrible game, by any means, but it’s not a great one either.┬áIt’s a friendly, amiable, and measured experience. But, in a sense, that is its biggest failing. Defiance feels overpolished and unwilling to take risks. It commits the ultimate cardinal sin of gaming: not standing out. I’m not giving up on it yet, though. I haven’t touched PVP at all, I’ve yet to hit any of the major Arkfalls, and I haven’t taken a look at all the endgame content in the Bay Area yet. While Defiance isn’t pulling me into true addiction, I’m making a bet that it’ll do so later. I really hope that’s a bet I win.

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