So this past weekend, PS Plus members and lucky people with beta codes got an early look at Defiance, a new MMO Shooter due out on April 2 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. As someone who’s been playing MMOs for awhile and doesn’t really know when to say â€˜I’m playing too many MMOs’ I of course downloaded it to give it a try a decided to jot down a few thoughts on my beta experience. These may not be reflective of the final version of the game, but it definitely reflects this past weekend.
1. Character creation on the PS3 feels limited compared to some of the other MMOs I’m playing. It has significantly less options per race and class than Star Wars The Old Republic and is even lacking a bit in comparison to Dungeons and Dragons Online, an MMO that launched over seven years ago. That’s not to say the options are bad, just that you’re going to run into your body double a lot sooner than you will on another MMO. Hopefully that will be a bit bigger come launch time, but if this is any indication at beta this close to release, it might not be a good sign.
2. Shooting feels clunky, unless you get off a head shot, then it’s like magic. Otherwise it feels like aiming doesn’t do a whole lot other than pointing the weapon in your enemies’ direction, and I’ve played shooters like Mass Effect 3 on the PS3, so I know I’m not terrible with a controller. Hell, I’m playing Tomb Raider on my PC with a controller and do better with that then the mouse. With some tweaking it could be much better. Right now it just isn’t gelling with me at all. At first I thought it was a dice roll base like the first Mass Effect, but a developer interview later made me think maybe they should have gone with that explanation.
3. There were a lot of missing assets they expected you to ignore, but when the subtitles flash across the screen â€œmissing SFX Audioâ€ with a description of the sound to go along with the giant mutant in the cutscene, it loses a lot of impact. Yes, this was supposed to be an earlier build than what’s going to be launched and we’re supposed to ignore it, but this close to launch with Star Wars The Old Republic and I felt like I was playing a finished game in their beta. Here it is most definitely nowhere close. I’m playing the part of the cynic here, but I’ve been burned so many times by devs saying â€˜this isn’t the finished build’ and â€˜we’ll have that fixed by launch’ only to have the exact beta version rolled out live, that I’m going to sit back and watch with my doubtful eye and hope they’re telling the truth, otherwise this launch on April 2 is going to be ugly.
4. They’ve taken a page from Guild Wars 2 in that you run around on your own, but when you’re on a mission and there’s several players in that area, you all get credit for what’s going on, which makes the game far more dynamic and easier to play. One of the missions you’re going in to tag weapon supplies to help stop a group of snipers from taking out your team below. I’d actually headed up alone and when I got there two other people were working on it but were just clearing out mutant mobs. I killed a few then started working on destroying their supplies and we all got credit for it when it completed. Then the big boss monster popped and we all worked to take that out to complete it and got credit without having to form a group or anything. This kind of grouping works really well on the console, I think, and it’s something I’d love to see in other games like this.
5. Microtransactions. It’s a dirty word that every gamer has come across, casual or otherwise, and has become a staple of the MMO free or otherwise. This game is going to have them and there was a makeshift store up already that I had credits in to try out. The good news is it’s not pay to win and you can most definitely play without it, but the bonuses in that store are nice and will help you move along through the game, but it won’t turn you into some indestructible killing machine either. Most of the bonuses you buy are for 24 hours and help boost how much exp you get or strengthen your ability to fire your weapon. It’s a decent boost but not so overwhelming you’re going to out level everyone in the game in one sitting.
6. Leveling up is done on a grid system, much like the one in Final Fantasy XII where your level gives you points to unlock features on the EGO grid based around your starting EGO power. I ended up choosing the cloak and managed to unlock a few bonuses around that area as I played. It’s a decent system even though it’s one we’ve seen before, and it works well enough in this game. EGO, Environmental Guardian Online, is also how you get some of your missions as well as guiding you through the world and to new sections through a holographic character much like Cortana from Halo.
7. While it might have started off as a typical alien invasion, Defiance takes place far enough down the line from the stalemate, that it’s going in a different direction and feel than that. The Earth has been partially terraformed and alien technology drops from orbit which is the whole idea behind your character as an Ark Hunter looking for these bits of technology while clearing out mutants and traversing the terraformed land. You can play as human or one of the alien species with several class options. Either way you’re treated more like a Mercenary than anything else. I do like how they’re tying in the TV show with the game as characters from the show do appear in the game with pretty decent likenesses of how they appear there. I’m curious how each will affect the other as you go along.
8. Enemy AI ranges from brilliant with tactics to utterly stupid. It all seems to depend on the mission you’re on. The tutorial section at the start felt like the enemies didn’t know what to make of me and would hide in bushes rather than attack me. Were talking armed people here, not scared children or something. Out in the destroyed buildings though, they would swarm, use cover, check around cover for me, and try to hunt me which made me actually change up hiding places and even hide a number of times to keep from getting axed. I’m hoping that the final game is more like the latter and that the former is just for that area for learning the ropes, otherwise it’s going to be a rough game not knowing which enemy you’re getting.
9. The User Interface on the PS3, while not horrible and an utter failure as being useful, is tipping on that border. For anything relating to your character, like your EGO or inventory, and in the active game screen you’re okay. But if you want to open a chat window, log out, change settings or anything not related to running around and blowing stuff up, good luck. There is a radial menu, but I honestly can’t remember how to find it. Both times I was able to sit and play over the weekend I had to really dig to get these options to come up and there’s nothing really there on the menu describing how to get to them or even when you have them up what is where. It’s clunky, even for a console menu. Everything character wise is right at your tips, but doing even remotely social beyond a mic, which I didn’t even test to see if it had access to, is going to be a huge pain in the ass, which isn’t good for an MMO styled game. Yes there’s a quick chat option along with emotes, but to get to a full blown chat window is a chore, not that typing on the PS3 is any fun anyway.
10. When I first got into the game the load times took forever. Logging in took forever. Loading a cutscene took far longer than it should have. Sunday, however, things were looking up. Load times were down, things were moving quickly. This might have been tied to my internet, or it could have been server side. Either way it was good to see it clear up, but this is definitely something to consider if your net connection isn’t that great as you may have some serious issues playing or at least you’ll get bombarded with longer loading times if this is the case. On Sunday night my longest loading screen was when I first got in to try and log into my character, but after that it went smoothly.