Defiance: Not ready for prime time

by manylaughs on March 25, 2013

When it comes to Defiance, I’m sorta like that guy Katy Perry sings about in her song: I’ve been cold on this game, then hot, and, now… Now, I’m cold, again. After playing the game for the weekend, here are some thoughts. Keep in mind these are impressions from the beta and things may change, but the game releases on April 2, so don’t expect much to change:

Combat is fun

They got combat right. It’s dynamic and exciting – at least initially – full of explosions and firing guns. There are a lot of gun options, and the feel and sound of each gun is very well done. The SMG (sub-machine gun) was a fave.

The UI is buggy

Something as simple as swapping out your main weapon for another should be a simple double-click action, and that even appears to be the intent. However, many times you’ll double-click over and over before the change happens. Whether you’re salvaging resources, applying mods or just trying to equip another weapon, it rarely works the first time.

In addition to the bugs, much of the UI is confusing. Things that should be simple, such as adding a mod to your weapon, require more steps to complete than makes sense. Most everything about the UI seems engineered to add one or two more steps than should be necessary.

The help sucks

The game really needs, at a minimum, mouse-over help. It’s really lacking in this regard. There’s enough different about the interface from a typical MMO, you can easily find yourself adrift. If you’re lucky enough to find where they buried the help manual (It’s under Intel.), you’ll also discover it’s just about worthless. The help for fast travel, for instance, said something like, You can fast travel to and from some locations. There was nothing about how, just a very “useful” entry saying you could.

The character creator is meh

Defiance is a game about an Earth filled with aliens, but you can only play two races: one of them is human and the other looks like a human with a broken nose. Lame!

The character creator was very limited, providing only a few options for hair, eyes, etc. There were no options for changing your height or body build. It’s a disappointing character creator, especially for a game based on a TV show that has a variety of aliens.

The girls move like guys

Once, again, the designers of an MMO seem to think no one will care if they use the same animations for men on female characters. At the very least this is an indication the designers decided to cut corners and were lazy. Really, how much trouble is it to work up another set of motion capture animations?

Maybe someday, someone will design a game where all the male characters run and walk like girls. Do you think, then, the designers of MMOs like Defiance will finally understand that men and women move differently?

Side missions got repetitive

And speaking of lazy… The side missions all started to feel the same after a while. Hope you like killing bugs. No? Well, how about mutants. No? Sorry, that’s all we got here – bugs and mutants.

Oh, look. Another hell bug.

It felt like a single-player game

The chat was hard to use, so almost no one talked in chat; very weird for an MMO. It was hard to group or at least not obvious. There was no central town. There was no easy way to get in touch with the community. In group missions there should’ve been lots of chatter in local chat, but there was none.

All the normal tools for grouping or chatting or any of the other ways you’d make friends in an MMO were either missing or hard to use. As a result, the game felt like you were alone when you were surrounded by other players. You might as well have been playing solo.

So I’m back to cold on this game.  Some elements of the game are a little buggy, and maybe those issues can be fixed before beta. But other issues are far less likely to be fixed. It feels grindy, for instance. In beta, that’s never a good sign, because designers usually spend most of the time and effort working on those early levels – they want them to look good. Elements of the game are incomplete (e.g. The lack of help.) or indicative of a disturbing level of laziness and corner cutting (e.g. No female animations.). And, finally, worse of all, it doesn’t feel like an MMO. It feels like a single-player game.

Given that it’s unlikely they’ll get all these issues resolved before the game releases, Defiance gets a very firm don’t buy recommendation. Save your 60 bucks.


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