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Why I Play: Defiance


As I did with RIFT when it was announced, sent to beta, and released, I gave Defiance a bit of a hard time. Sure, I dug the shooter aspect of it, but its attachment to the television show and (what I took as) promises of interactions between both the game and show had me giving the game the side-eye. Yeah right, I thought, this will be some sort of "revolutionary" game. Well, I was half right. That means I was also half wrong.

The game is not really revolutionary in many ways, but it does do many things that have never been done before. The more I play it, the more I see that the game developers and producers of the show sold the entire thing the wrong way from the start, but "the show will grow on ya, don't worry" would not make for a good tagline, and "the game is damn fun and does away with all of that level-based stuff that plagues RIFT" would probably not look too great on the game's website.

Either way, I'm glad I've stuck with the game and the show. The game, especially, has provided me with hours of entertainment. In order to illustrate how I enjoy the game, I think it would be easiest to detail a typical evening of play.

Defiance screenshot
When I logged in last night, I was confronted with a pretty typical message in my chat box. One of the players in my clan, United Legions, was asking for help in a PvP match called Observatory. Basically, players can queue up in several different maps, and once enough players are present, the match starts. I'm not a huge PvP fan -- at least not in Defiance -- but I joined up anyway to see what all the fuss was about. It was a fun match, and I was excited to see so many people using launchers instead of sniper rifles, but once I had my whack at it, I went on my way. The map was a bit too closed-in for my tastes, as I am used to the massive open-world PvP of PlanetSide 2. But I did make a note to try some more PvP, especially since my clan seems to like it so much.

Next up I decided that I needed to work on another step in the main storyline missions. The main missions are the central story-arc in Defiance, and they provide you with the most chances to meet up with iconic characters. I enjoy the main missions and love the fact that they're easy to drop in and out of. Side missions or other distractions like time-trials and random encounters provide me with tons to do when I don't feel like exploring linear content.

Defiance screenshot
This step in the main storyline was called A Bullet for A Badman, and had me storming into a mine with the help of Rosa, a tech-smart character who features in the storyline for a while. At first I couldn't do it myself, so asked the help of some clanmates. Three of us loaded into the mine and fought our way to the boss, but eventually the game bugged out on us, and we had to restart the entire thing. Luckily, we knew what to do and were able to easily take the baddie down. Mission accomplished. In hindsight, I could have done it myself, but it took playing with two other players to realize the trick to moving forward. (I won't spoil it for you.) The end of the mission caps off with Rosa putting a bullet -- or laser beam or whatever -- into the monster's head.

Next it was time to bring some Arks down from the sky, thanks to the latest DLC, Arkbreaker. While the map is almost always peppered with "natural" Arkfalls that act similarly to RIFT's random spawns or rifts, occasionally a different marker will pop up. It can be a large or small Arkfall. All you need to do is go to the spot on the map and pop between one and four Ark spike "batteries" into the ground to signal the orbiting Ark to drop itself onto the ground. A minute or so later, a massive Ark literally falls from the sky. I found an Arkfall on the map and gave three batteries to the cause.

Defiance screenshot
A lovely piece of tech like an Arkfall is just too tempting, so NPC enemies come after it as well. You and (hopefully) dozens of other players fight through waves of baddies until the piece of space flotsam opens up. If it's a small Ark, several players can successfully fight their way through the one- or two-room interior, but the large ones really need between 20 and 24 players.

What I love about the Arkfalls is that someone who has plenty of Ark batteries on his person at all times can bring down an Ark, but any player (new or vet) can show up and help out, kill monsters, and gain goodies and experience. I'm not sure whether I, as the provider of the batteries, get any type of bonus loot, but every player gets something. Even when we do not take down the Warmaster boss inside, the loot can pretty substantial. It's a win-win for anyone who shows up.

Defiance screenshot
I logged out for a while in order to stretch and grab some tea, but soon enough I was back in and found myself at the closest spawn point, a small base in the lower part of the map. Nearby was a timed event, a shooting contest that had me killing waves upon waves of baddies with one massive gun. These hotspots, timed events, and little bits of content are spread throughout the entire map. A player can easily do nothing but these solo minigames and have a blast earning experience and EGO points that are used in unlocking EGO attributes. These attributes can be active or passive abilities or buffs. I made a note to try an evening of nothing but instant content in the future.

Next, I saw another large Arkfall on the map, just waiting to be brought down by players. I got to the spot as quickly as I could, told my clan to bring some people, and plunked four more (expensive) batteries into the ground. At this point I was wondering whether there is a term for free players who stand around, practically tapping their digital feet, waiting for a player like yours truly to come along and bring down a massive loot bucket for them to reach into. We didn't bring the Warmaster down as before ("Don't bust the locks yet!"), but I got a batch of new guns to play with.

In total, I spent two hours and 47 minutes in-game that evening.

Defiance screenshot
I wanted to use this real example because you could literally replace my character in this story with a brand-new player, provided he has paid for the recent DLC and completed a few basic tutorials. Within an hour (if not minutes), a newbie could make an account, download the game, make a character, and fight alongside me in almost any area of the game. This is the good kind of accessibility.

Defiance has some issues, of course. Problems with the chat box (soon to be fixed) and confusing gameplay elements need to be explained better. There are server issues occasionally, strange graphical burps like floating objects, a need for better enemy AI in many situations, and more incentives for players to work together instead of working near each other. I have faith that the game will continue to grow and change. While I can enjoy the show separately from the game, I think that the two will intersect a bit more over time for as long as the show stays on the air.

I play Defiance because it can be as easy or hard as you need it to be. It can be instant gratification or an arduous quest for long-term goals. And most importantly, it doesn't bother players with annoying level gaps or time-sink requirements. I might have time for a three-hour session a few times per week, but I don't want to spend that time grinding out levels just so I can play with my new friends. In a game like Defiance, I can jump right to the teamwork. That's the point of MMORPGs, after all.

There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.

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