Double E3 Preview: ArcheAge, Defiance: Castithin
Defiance has issues. Set in the world of the Syfy TV show, it purports to connect players to the setting in a way other games do not. However, it suffered greatly from generic quests, awkward pacing, and menial combat. In short, it wasn’t much fun, even though it was playable. The best way to describe Trion’s entry into the worlds of subscriptionless MMOs and shooter is “flawed.”
It was refreshing, then, to hear the senior producer on Defiance – Rob Hill – be so candid about the games flaws. “People really loved emergencies and arkfalls, but they weren’t happening often enough,” he said, obviously concerned with the perception of Defiance as “empty.” He also acknowledged the awkward shooting mechanics, and stated that, “it’s a work in progress, and we’ve been gradually tuning the combat with each patch.”
It’s unusual to hear a larger developer be so candid about the problems with their game, especially an MMO developer. The standard response to being confronted with a game’s issues is “there’s nothing wrong, but I fixed it anyway.” If Trion is so honest about their game’s shortcomings to the press, that bodes quite well for its future; a game can only get better if the company producing it acknowledges its flaws. Hopefully this is a trend (seen elsewhere with the likes of Battlefield 3) that continues in the industry, as it makes for both great stories and great games.
Trion wasn’t that keen on dissecting their game, however. Rather, they wanted to make it clear that they are pressing onward and attempting to give fans what they want while bringing in new players. The way they plan on doing this is by releasing the first expansion pack – titled Castithin – soon.
This mini-expansion – think of it like an adventure pack, or a large World of Warcraft update – brings a number of new features and gear to the world of Defiance. While not every aspect of the game is being touched — PvP and dungeons are being left almost entirely alone (only one new standard PvP map) — the most important parts are: guns, open-world missions, and vehicles.
The most readily apparent feature of Castithin is the inclusion of the Castithin race (big surprise) as playable characters. These pale aliens are, according to Trion, a “fan favorite on the show,” so in they go. Players that are already a Human or Irathient – the two currently playable races – will receive a character customization token once they purchase the pack. This allows them to change into the newly-unlocked Castithin, if they so want. Just like the two current races, there are no racial bonuses; it is a purely cosmetic choice. It is also the only part of the pack that is restricted; you can’t unlock or use the Castithin without buying the DLC.
The other parts of the Castithin DLC pack were tweaks and expansions of existing elements, rather than anything spectacularly different. New arkfalls and public quests were shown off, and new kinds of weapons designed for charging (hold down fire to deal more damage on release) were also present. There was also a slick four-player buggy to ride around in. These changes are minor, to be sure, but they are also available to all players, regardless of DLC purchase. If you want them, you’ll have to earn them through drops or jobs, but they will be included for all players regardless of money spent. If you want to skip all that “earning” nonsense, though, you can skip straight to ownership by buying the pack
Unlike ArcheAge, I walked away from Defiance without too many questions. While I’m curious as to the future beyond the Castithin patch, Trion was very open and forthcoming with their thoughts on the game’s state. The Defiance patch preview felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the vagueness of ArcheAge, especially since it was also directly hands-on (with a powerful developer weapon to boot).
This year’s E3 was not a good one for MMOs — The Elder Scrolls Online is the only one worth noting in detail — but Trion did well. ArcheAge looks interesting enough to be on the MMO radar, and Defiance is improving gradually under the honest and diligent hands of a hard-working design team. While both games — and presentations — had plenty of flaws, they also had promise. At this stage in both their lifespans (closed alpha and shortly after launch), that’s good enough to at least warrant keeping an eye on them.