The basic shooting elements were reminiscent of other third-person shooters. The controls were intuitive, but the menus were a little cumbersome. I shot enemies in their weak spots, tossed grenades when I could, and I used my cloaking and perks to the best of my ability. Enemy AI was much more impressive than the mindless drones I had faced in the beta. Mutants actually took cover, flanked, and used grenades. The open world of Defiance was inviting, and I found myself drawn to random environmental encounters, such as defending survivors from mutant attacks or eradicating hellbug infestations. Of course, there were dozens of other players running around this starting area with me. For MMO veterans this was business as usual, but for console players, especially 360 gamers, this was a novel experience.
I noticed we would have access to several different unlockable loadout slots, affording my single character the ability to play any role I deemed necessary. With enough leveling you could potentially have access to all four EGO powers.
I dumped some EGO points into the Hunter’s Stance and Sucker Punch perks, which increased my damage when I was crouching and/or shooting enemies in the back. Not the most honorably choices, but I was playing as a cloaked sniper, what do you expect? I quickly gained access to a vehicle, which could be conveniently summoned with the simple press of a button. From here the world was basically open for me to explore, and it was time for some co-op.
In Defiance, gathering a group for co-op is simple. I could control social functions like grouping, queueing for events, and emotes with a few presses of the d-pad. I could fast travel to any player on my friends list with ease. Once I had joined a few players we could complete story missions together or queue for cooperative instances, PvP matches, or a Shadow War. I was a little disappointed to hear that groups and co-op instances would be limited to four players. I asked if this number would be increased in the future. Tony Morton, an associate level designer who is spearheading PvP and multiplayer, said, “We’ll never say no to anything.”
I’ve played through three co-op instances in Defiance: Explosions 101, Angel Island, and Cronkhite Bunker. All three had decent rewards and featured some nice loot drops. The Angel Island and Cronkhite Bunker instances were in last weeks beta. They were fairly simple. Explosions 101 was a bit more difficult. It featured the Cerberus, a jeep-like vehicle armed with a chain gun and rockets. The mission was highlighted by two tough bosses. These guys were happy to expose the weaknesses in my build and playstyle. Simply put, I got my ass kicked. Luckily I was grouped with some experienced players and we soldiered through.
I asked Morton how Defiance would handle potential co-op partners with different EGO levels.
“Let’s say you have 40 hours into a game, and you have a new buddy who hops in, and you want to play with him. Most of the time you have to re-roll, roll an alt and start over. So what we’ve done with the power curve and our leveling curve is we’ve really lowered it. So as you level up and you get more powers you’re allowed to do cooler things, but you don’t necessarily do a whole lot more damage. So you’re moving around a lot faster, your weapons are doing crazier things, your shields, your grenades are doing all these crazy things, now your buddy comes on and you want to play with him. Now you can just take your current dude and go over there and start playing with him. Now as you roll through with missions and stuff --you already completed the missions-- that doesn’t stop you from grouping up with your buddy, because he has the mission, and you’re rolling into POI’s together, and you’re still helping him out. So that really helps the whole co-op, which is one of the coolest things that we do.”
But what if we did a mission earlier, and we really liked that particular mission?
“If you and your buddy find an area that you really enjoyed, and you want to play again, you don’t need the mission, you can just go back in and replay the event.”
He went on to explain what set co-op instances apart from normal missions.
“These provide much more linear combat... We can really drive story. We can really drive cinematics. We know where the player is coming from. We know where the player is going to go. It let’s us crank up the difficulty in combat a little because we know exactly where the player fronts are going to be and how they’re going to repress the area, and those are really pretty cool as well. There’s quite a few different things you can do on top of that.”
Morton then brought up the cooperative nature of the Arkfalls:
“...then you have the dynamic content, which is the Arkfalls. Those things are a blast, right? So you’re out there, you’re playing with your buddies. You start doing these Arkfalls... People would start doing minor Arkfalls, two people would show up. They get done with that one and go to the next one, well now they run into two more people, so now there’s four, they run into four more, so now there’s eight. By the time we hit these big bosses there’s like 30, 40, 50 people just cranking away on this thing and before you know it you have this huge social event that has created itself and we didn’t have to do a thing. The game just kind of did it all on its own.”
Having played through several Arkfall events, I can say they’re pretty impressive. At the end of the event all the players involved receive some type of reward, be it cash or XP, and then you can compare your performance to other players on a final scoreboard.