I got to level 157 or so in Defiance during the beta week... so apparently I liked the game. It releases today on my Birthday, April 2nd, and there's a pretty decent chance I'll be getting the game...because Birthday monies from my Mom for a game! Why this game? Well, the most common comment overheard was "it's like Borderlands on steroids", and I do enjoy Borderlands!
Trion Worlds is definitely trying something innovative with the game. Not the game itself, no, the tie in to the TV series. Events happening in the TV series will be reflected in the game, and what happens in the game will be part of the TV show's world. It's an interesting premise that adds a touch of interest to the game. All updates to the game will be free, and the cost of entry is the basic cost of the $60.00 game. It seems that there a structure in place that also might support microtransactions, but it also seems that it would be more for buying "extras" - things not needed for the game itself and more in the way of cosmetic upgrades with outfits or vehicles or random weapons. The game seems to have a fair bit of potential and I'm going to run over some of the high points and low points.
The beta offered a choice of four characters - 2 female and 2 male. Once the gender and race was chosen, there were then 4 additional options that primarily provided a starting weapon and outfit related to class. For the female characters, the 4 options allowed for choice of clothing ranging from slightly slutty (the gunslinger/shotgunner) to not-at-all-slutty (the engineer), with a few choices in between. I went with the basic military option which was "pretty, but not slutty". The male characters don't get to be slutty... but instead it was just a choice of differing styles. You'll soon have access to various weapons and your initial choice doesn't limit you in any way - so go ahead and just pick which ever character option/clothing styles appeal the most. Race may play a point later in the game, but during the beta, it made absolutely no difference. The full game is also likely to offer additional options to what the beta showed.
This is a third person shooter. The guns feel pretty good and everyone should easily be able to find weapons they like. As you use a weapon or weapon class, you strengthen your abilities with it. The guns aren't realistic and like Borderlands, they often include elemental effects. You can trade or give away your guns to your friends... but beware that they are leveled. I gave my level 6 husband an awesome level 107 sniper rifle, that he unfortunately couldn't use. The shotguns have a range that is pretty close to the sniper rifles, though from a distance, the sniper rifle allows for more accurate headshots. There is a bit of sticky aim, but in a game like this, it's not so much about skill, as simply having fun. The controls are pretty standard with crouch, roll, fire, zoom... similar to most any shooter game. There is additionally the L2 use of a "special power". Unlike Borderlands, you can choose your special power, it's not tied to your class, and you can even change it later. There is invisibility, overcharge with extra weapon damage, blur, which is a speed boost, and decoy that sends out a decoy to attract enemy attention. Like Borderlands, there is then various smaller options you can choose to strengthen your main power. There is a cool down period, and the special powers don't really seem to have a huge impact, but they're fun to play with. There is some minor crafting in that guns can be broken down and you can re-use parts and mods to create your own unique guns. There are very rare ammo stations where you can refill your ammo, but mostly you get ammo by running over enemy drops when they die. They usually drop ammo, money and occasionally a fun new weapon.
The map shown during the beta is apparently only one small fraction of the full map available... and it was HUGE! It was mostly Southern California, with a mix of grasslands and dusty, dry areas. You gain a vehicle pretty early in the game and can easily call it by pushing up on your D-pad (and if you got stuck somewhere, you just hopped out and called your vehicle again). There is quite a variety of vehicles and they drive well, though they feel a little bit loose... but they have a speed burst option by pressing X, and there is a wonderful sensation of traveling far distances and being able to go off-road that is very freeing and unrestricted. The only negative is because the world is so large, there seems to be a little lag in terms of being "drawn in" and you'll often be hurtling down a road only to ram into an invisible object. After a second or two, another vehicle or roadblock will materialize as the object that blocked you, and these are usually instances where you can assist some AI in fending off an attack of some nature (bad guys or bugs usually). Within this open world, you see other gamers, and there are constant events going on. In addition to these "help the AI" instances, there are various side quests, there are races where you have to beat a certain time, there are other gamers doing their own main quest lines that you can often just hop into and assist them with. Mostly though... there are the Arkfalls!
These events pop up randomly all over the map and are essentially mini-boss battles that tend to draw fairly large crowds. They are maked on your map with a rather large red symbol that is hard to miss. They are usually of the "destroy the crystal" or "defend the crystal" types and can involve masses of bugs, giant huge massive bugs, or various humanoid type bad guys - or all of the above. It's quite fun to pull up to an arkfall only to see people driving around the crystal in their vehicle running over the smaller enemy types, to see anywhere from 10 to 30 or more people all running around shooting the various spawning enemies. When you've done several successful arkfalls, there is apparently some form of ingame reward, though this wasn't enabled for the beta.
You can progress through the campaign doing various missions and some seem to take place out in the open world, while others warp you to a separate place where you seem to be on your own. The campaign is interesting because you are told to go to an area and free hostages... only you'll sometimes get there and there are other people also doing this section of the campaign, so as long as you are in the area, they might in fact free all the hostages for you. It's a bit disconcerting to arrive and start a mission... only to find you've done it by doing nothing more than standing around. I'm not sure if I like this aspect, though the other campaign sections where you are on your own do make up for these.
When grouped up, the group leader can easily launch the group into a co-op game. There is no lobby.. you just play and then are transported to the co-op area when there are enough players (the range for co-op seems to be a minimum of 4, but I'm not sure what the maximum is). The co-op portion is essentially various maps where the players work together to make their way from point A to point B... and point B has a big ass boss for everyone to try and take down. Your teammates can be revived by standing over them and pressing square, even if you don't have the BMG which is a health/reviving tool needed to do this in the main game.
I only tried competitive once and it seems that you retain your game level... and I tried this early in the beta and got my ass handed to me by people that were obviously a much higher level than myself. In the beta there was an 8 vs 8 TDM and a 16 vs 16 capture and hold. There is also a competitive mode called "shadow war". It's a larger scale 50 vs 50 format and has changing objectives dependent on the number of people in the game. I didn't try this mode, but it seems that all the competitive modes are somewhat problematic. With clan support I can forsee that the competitive modes may very quickly outpace the average player and unless you are in a large clan with high ranked players, you're going to spend many of your competitive games getting run over by huge vehicles that you don't have access to, or getting hit by superior elemental weapons that again, you don't have access to. They need to balance the multiplayer in some manner, or it may quickly lose popularity and become dominated by a few clans. In multiplayer, apples should be fighting apples... not fighting an entire fruit bowl. I did the recent post-beta survey and it does seem that they realize that their might be an issue with this, so hopefully we'll see some patching down the road.
Overall, Defiance isn't a particularly good game. It has plenty of issues, however there is a certain addictive level in that there is always something to do and the world feels well populated with both real players and NPC's. It's not a unique game, but the basics are familiar and fairly well done. For the PS3 version I played on, there were grouping issues (sometimes difficult to group up, and it was almost always impossible to leave a group when I did get grouped up unless I quit and restarted the game. Additionally, group members showed as being in your group long after they had actually quit the game and entirely shut down their PS3 unit.). These issues need to be fixed and additionally the voice chat was almost entirely non-functional. It would work for a minute or two and then almost completely die. These two issues are close to game-breaking because while the game works as a single player game, it seems infinitely more enjoyable when grouped up with friends.
So if anyone buys the PS3 version of the game, let me know if they fixed the grouping and voice chat issues! Additionally, let me know if gaming sharing works with the PSN digital version of the game, as I was going to buy the digital copy and game share it with my husband! The game isn't "great", but it seems to have a lot of content and might be a good game for me to get my online/social fix... as a break from playing Dark Souls... where I've cleared the Catacombs but still can't bring down Sif! Damn dog... and I really don't even want to kill him because he's so noble and adorable. :(
... and now they've apparently got Demon Souls coming to PS+ as a free game... ugh! I'll definitely need an easier online social game for a break!