We witness groundbreaking territory as Trion Worlds attempt to make a collaboration work between a TV series and a video game in the form of the first free MMO on consoles.
Consoles haven’t really been suited to MMOs. The Xbox 360 has only been a home for two MMOs so far and both of those required players to pay for a subscription. Defiance is different. Not only is a subscription not required, new content will be introduced to the game as the Defiance TV series progresses. Once the ‘new’ feeling wears off, is the game still worth playing?
Welcome to the Bay Area
In the near future, an alien species known as the Votans try to settle on Earth but are not made welcome by the human population. The ensuing war changes the shape of the Earth until both sides realise that the true fight is one of survival. With the once-familiar surroundings now completely transformed, new species have taken refuge on the planet. Players assume the role of an Ark Hunter in search of the profitable and advanced alien technology that now lies abandoned across the area. While preparing to land on Earth’s surface, a malfunction causes the Ark Hunter’s ship to crash land in the Bay Area near San Francisco. Not only must you fulfill your obligations to your employer, you must look for survivors too.
Despite the desolate appearance of the landscape, there is plenty to do in the Bay Area and players will never get bored. The campaign missions are supported by side missions that help to expand the storyline. The missions are often simple and usually see players rescuing survivors, locating beacons or reclaiming territory. These missions can only be completed once so are best left for when friends aren’t online. If the missions start to feel a little repetitive or players just wish to test their skill a little more, they can take part in Time Trial checkpoint races, Rampages or Hotshots, where the purpose is to gain as many points as possible within a set timeframe with limited ammo. Only one mission can be active at any one time, but players can abandon these temporarily if they get a better offer elsewhere.
It’s Time to Socialise
All across the map are dynamic events called Arkfalls. Minor Arkfalls consist of a single objective whereas Major Arkfalls start with five identical minor objectives that, when completed, lead to a larger sixth objective. This is the ideal time to gather friends and work together. Minor Arkfalls typically gather 10-20 fellow players, but Major Arkfalls can attract over 50 players looking for loot. Unfortunately, with this many players in a small space, the game can suffer from lag during these missions but this is the only noticeable occasion where this is even an issue.
Small groups of four players can head off to complete any of the seven co-op maps instead. If the group only consists of one to three players, the game will look for other random players until a group of four is complete. During the matchmaking period players aren’t sat in a lobby; they are free to wander around Bay Area and complete other mission objectives while they wait. When the game is ready to start, a message will appear where players can enter the match or carry on with what they were doing beforehand — the choice is yours.
When the competitive mood takes hold, players can take part in 6v6 or 8v8 Team Deathmatch. If an objective-based mode is more your thing, Shadow Wars sees up to 128 players join one of two teams competing for control over three initial locations. As more players join, more locations are added to the match. All competitive modes take place one match at a time and if players wish to take part in another match they are forced to restart the matchmaking process; the thing that is sorely lacking is the option to remain in the lobby and play again.
Ark Hunting Your Own Way
Upon starting the game, players are given a choice of being a human or an Irathient alien species. Players can customise their appearance before choosing between three loadouts. Despite their initial choice, players can customise their loadout in any way they like around their individual play style as they progress. A variety of weapon mods and six different elemental damage types add variety to an already large choice of arsenal. Completing quests and Arkfalls will reward players with bits of kit, as well as Scrip (the in-game currency) and Arkfall Salvage, which can be used to purchase and apply upgrades. Players looking for shortcuts can use real currency to purchase ‘bits’ and gain early access to upgrades, but this is definitely not necessary.
Players are implanted with an “Environmental Guardian Online” (EGO) that allows players to choose between four abilities. Ability-specific perks can then be added as players level up over time and the ability can be changed too. If players aren’t happy with their initial selection, the option to respec is available for a small fee. The EGO hub is also the location for inventory, weapon modification, stats and mission information, so players will spend a lot of time here. The only problem is that a lot of the options within the hub are not explained by the game, leaving players looking to friends or the internet for assistance.
The Final Verdict
The extensive customisation system means that players will be able to carve out their own personal take on Ark Hunting in Bay City. There is plenty to do to prevent boredom, although the repetitive missions may discourage some players. Unfortunately, there seems to be more emphasis on single-player exploration than teaming up with friends, which doesn’t seem to fit correctly with an MMO. Hopefully this will be improved as the game continues to grow.
Miss; Server issues that lead to random game freezes.
Needed; More co-op or competitive content.