Defiance PC and Console Beta Impressions

Trion’s Defiance beta weekend for PC and Console began today, and with it the NDA dropped.  Graev and I have been playing on the PC and Console versions all day to get a feel for the game and decide if Defiance is a game we want to pick up when it launches in just a few short weeks.

Defiance Mount Tam
Defiance is a very pretty game.

Since this is a beta test, and we do not have a finalized copy of the game, we can’t really give Defiance a fair review yet.  I know I’ve formed some definite first impressions, though, and I want to share what Graev and I have begun to think overall about the game.

Defiance handles beautifully on the PC.  My very first reaction was in response to the controls and the fluidity of movement.  Nothing’s better than a game that just ‘feels good’.  On the PC, the graphics are really, really good.  I remarked immediately to Graev and my friends that I wish games like Planetside 2, Battlefield 3, and even Borderlands handled this well.  My PC sustained exactly 60 FPS with no drops on what I assume are the max settings.   I was also unaware of any latency lag in the PC version.

Defiance Shadow War
The Shadow War region of the map. When a match begins, you can enter a phased or instanced version of the region to frag each other.

The Xbox 360 console version is slightly different.  I feel like the graphics aren’t quiet as good as the PC, and I was having some frame rate issues.  I also noticed a fair bit of screen tearing and slowdown with menus.  At one point Graev asked me to go watch the videos we saw last week of the console version because the console beta we have now doesn’t look quite as good.   Also, the console version might be a different build since feedback popups appear after finishing missions.

Graev and I are also a little disappointed by the latency issues plaguing the console version. At one point it was so unplayable that we just logged off.  Trion announced via Twitter that they are working hard to resolve those latency issues. Worth noting about the console version  is how few people I saw playing compared to the PC version.  PC version had people everywhere, but the console version felt like a ghost town.  There are a number of reasons why that could be the case, though.

Gameplay has been very, very mission-centric so far.  Lots of ‘go to this location and kill’, ‘defend x’, ‘find and retrieve’, and ‘interact with an objective’ missions.  At times I felt like I was being lead around around a bit too much.  I would really like to just find a nice area of the map and kill difficult mobs like the good old days of EverQuest pulling.  The closest thing I found  to staying in one spot and killing bugs was this mini-event I stumbled upon to protect some kind of objective or something.  I liked having to fight waves of bugs.

Defiance Shadow War Objectives
Sniping enemies who try to take one of our objectives during a 48v48 Shadow War match. It’s like Battlefield.

To best classify what Defiance gameplay is like, I’d have to say it most resembles Borderlands 2 if you could have a ton of players doing the missions and all playing together at once in that game.  Playing really does feel like coop on a massive scale.  Lots of people running around making the game feel busy and ‘online’.   Defiance uses lots of instancing and phasing to accommodate all the player, which is a little disappointing.  I like games where I know there’s one version of the world.  If my friend is on Tranquility Path and I go to meet him, I don’t want to get there just to realize he’s in another instance of the area.

My biggest disappointment is with the PvP because I am not a fan of matchmaking and queuing for instanced battles.  If you like battlegrounds and instanced objective-based PvP, especially with shooting mechanics, then Defiance has the PvP for you.  I prefer more of a connection to the world.  The Shadow War, which I thought would be true open-world, is really just a big instanced battleground.  I participated in a couple 48 vs. 48 objective taking battles that felt a little fraggy for my liking.  Basically you queue up for a Shadow War, and when it ‘pops’ you get teleported to the match.  The match takes place in a real region of the world, but it’s an instanced/phased versed. Teams are randomly assigned since there are no real factions in teh game, so you’re just fighting the sake of shooting each other and winning points.

Overall, I think the game has potential as an action shooter with RPG elements.  Some of the missions/quests are fun, and others are typical themepark, but I think the real fun will be had with a group of people clearing out a dungeon (whatever they are called).  I want to somehow get into one before I pass judgment on the game’s PvE coop content.  The PvP is a letdown for me in terms of style, but for the type of gameplay it provides, it pulls it off well.

Graev and I really want to explore the console version more when it is working properly, and get to do more of the content.  We’ll bring you more of our Defiance impressions soon.

  • I have not tried the pvp yet, but so far in my 2 hours or so of playtime I am having a lot of fun. Right now I am thinking it is pretty likely that I will go ahead and preorder it.

  • I played for about 3 1/2 hours tonight and really loved it. PC version like you said runs very smooth. I am running on a 2 year old or so Alienware running Win 7 64bit, on a i7 2.67ghz machine with 6gb Ram and a Radeon HD 5800 video card and it was as smooth as silk like you said so I am sure any machine in the past 18 months would run it similarly. Lag wise I don’t think I recall a single lag spike which says a lot considering my terrible at the end of the line DSL connection.

    I really was up in the air about buying the game but I am going to go ahead and pre-order because it seems like a nice little game. Even if I pretty much solo I had as much if not more fun than I did with Borderlands 2. I liked the cut scenes but there are a lot of things that I do feel have been left out of the game story just to allow you to experience some of the plot background of the Pale Wars and what not from the TV show.

    One thing I did find was that I didn’t chat a single time. Matter of fact while I ran into dozens and dozens of people I don’t think anyone said a word to one another. Not too big of deal if you run with a Guild and are all on Vent or just want to run solo like I usually do, but if you are looking for a game that will have a lot of chat communication (ie text) you will most likely not be overly happy with that fact.

    The game is what it is though. A nice MMOFPS that isn’t overly complex yet still has plenty of things to keep you busy including challenges. Arkfalls are okay but nothing we haven’t already seen with Rifts or Public Events in other games. Still it is nice seeing a dozen other people helping take down a crystal.

    The cash shop doesn’t look bad at all, felt like it was pretty much like Guildwars 2’s cash shop with just vanity items and lockbox keys. Nothing that I felt would be pay to win.

    PvP I can’t say as I haven’t tried it out yet. Then again other than RvRvR open world PvP I don’t PvP much in games. This game certainly isn’t going to be anything like DAoC or even GW2 as far as PvP.

    The bright spot is that Trion/SyFy went with a Buy2Play model which I do like. At first $60 bucks seems a bit much but as long as the DLC episodes aren’t overly expensive or overly short in the long run I feel I will certainly get my monies worth.

    I did enjoy every minute of the time I have played so far. I didn’t see anything that I just thought was totally unique or amazing, but by the same breath I didn’t see any real flaws. Any game still in beta (even if just a week and half before launch) that plays as smooth as this game did while looking as good is fine by me.

    At the end of the day the longevity of the game I suspect will be highly tied to how well the TV show does. If the TV show bombs I don’t see the game lasting for much over a year or so. As long as the TV show manages to pull it’s weight I think the game will be worth playing at least along each season of the show.

    By itself if there wasn’t a tie in, I would say that the game would fit somewhere between being a cross of Borderlands 2 on a larger scale like Planetside 2 but without RvRvR PvP.

    So from just my 3 1/2 hours or so playing I would rate the game a good solid 8. If it had just a bit more uniqueness outside of just tying into a TV show I might say 8.5 or even 9 but given that it doesn’t break any new ground outside that, yet seems to have nice solid game play and very stable if it stays that way at launch I would say it deserves being a strong 8 in my book.

  • I feel the best experience i’ve had so far in the game was the dungeon (mission?, not sure what to call it) with a group earlier today. Getting to see different looking areas and the little story that went with it about “Psycho Pete”.

    I’ve played in a few betas and i’ve decided to preorder it. Really think the value of this as a B2P will more than pay off for me. I recommend checking the preorders on Steam as you get a few other bonuses, and check out the “Arc Codes” that people have been locating through Defiance media. You’ll get some nice bonuses for when the game launches.

  • Ya I’ve entered all the available Arc Codes. I agree that the most fun/value in this will be found if you view the game as a buy to play action rpg.

  • I dunno, the game is pretty bland so far for me. I suppose this type of game on the console should be interesting, but on the PC? For a 3rd person shooter, they are missing some of the more modern day features like taking cover , sliding/attaching to walls and even going prone (to snipe).

    The environment is certainly not as interesting as say Fallout or Fallen Earth. By that i mean by wanting to hop off my quad bike and explore something. I drove around broken roads and rolling landscapes without noticing anything i wanted to actually go see. The map with the little icons indicating quests/activities does feel like this can get a bit repetitive?

    I did not find the character progression very intriguing either. Yes, even if we agree this is not an MMO in the normal sense, the options (starting from character creation) is even less than Battlefield or Planetside 2. I mean, there’s no classes? And the EGO system seems to revolve around 1 “active” ability and then you just upgrade passives (i.e. increased crit chance and faster shield recharge etc).

    So i’d give it a mildly entertaining rating, but i don’t quite see how this will outlast the tv series? I certainly hope the zones varies alot more and that there is actually cities or more interesting things than these copy pasted military outposts?

  • I personally think they marketed the game all wrong. It sets the wrong expectations.

    If they billed the game as a massive multiplayer version of borderlands I think the hype level and general acceptance of the limited feature set would much much higher. In this early beta state (Xbox version) it is way more fun and involved then either of the multi-million copy selling Borderlands titles.

    Instead they billed it as an MMO without tempering expectations so they are drawing in more of the FFXI/WoW/Rift crowd. This game is not deep enough to keep the crowd looking for a new MMO home happy. Due to this the hype is almost non existent.

    I hope its successful because I’m enjoying the game and I’m looking forward to having a go to title to play with friends on the XboX.

  • I just finished playing over the beta weekend and I have to say that I am impressed with defiance. The combat is very fun, fluid, and often challenging and the story seems very interesting so far. The world feels alive with tons of other Ark hunters around me going for the same objectives.

    Many things about the combat are done well. For example, the grenade cooldown and the special ability cooldown feel just right. They keep combat tense because you are often waiting for that cooldown to save yourself, but it never feels too long.

    The weapon modding system is very interesting. I’ve only been able to attach a scope to an assault rifle so far because it is rather hard to find the right MOD for the right weapon (the weapon has to have the right available MOD slot and you have to have the right MOD for that weapon AND that slot). However attaching that MOD made the AR a WHOLE LOT better and I felt like I had a better weapon than any other player I saw. I feel that this system could offer a great amount of depth down the road.

    onto the bad points…

    Defiance does feel repetitive. Granted I’ve only been playing for maybe 4 hours so far and only in one zone, but I keep running into the same 4 or 5 enemy types. Even the “boss” parts are just the same enemies in greater numbers.

    The character progression system (aka EGO grid) isn’t very interesting to me. Most of the points I’ve spent in it do not make my character feel more powerful yet. Most of your character’s power comes from finding better gear.

    The missions do feel a little fetch-questy – especially the side missions. The main story missions are probably the funnest part because they have great cut scenes and the those mission do seem to be much more varied and interesting.

    I think Defiance is a great game. I’m not entirely sure if I will pre-order but I do see myself playing a lot of this game at some point. If you are into this type of game there is NO WAY you won’t get $60 of fun out of this game. If you’re on the fence about buying it, GO FOR IT – it’s good!

  • Performance on PC is excellent and the gameplay is fun but nothing innovative. I can see this as a three-monther. As for PvP I doubt it will be interesting to me as it isn’t open world or more than two factions.

  • Just want to add, despite my misgivings earlier in the comments. I have pre-ordered the game (PS: Steam gives better rewards) . The main reason being: I simply had alot of fun.

    Yes, there’s alot of flaws, but i played this game for 10 hours this weekend, and completely forgot about the time! I’ve paid $60 for games that only lasts 10 hours, so if i get 50 hours out of defiance, money well spent.

  • “Defiance handles beautifully on the PC. My very first reaction was in response to the controls and the fluidity of movement. Nothing’s better than a game that just ‘feels good’.”

    I’m kind of shocked at this comment. I actually really wanted to like it, it’s a neat setting, and it is very pretty (and I will agree that the performance for the graphics level was fairly good). But the awful clunkiness of the PC-port kept getting in the way.

    Everything from the incredibly console-ized menu screens, to the maddeningly frustrating changes in mouse sensitivity between zoomed and unzoomed aiming (this probably more than anything renders the game essentially unplayable for me, it’s a shooter that won’t let you aim properly).

    It didn’t help that the longer I played the more things stuck out, like the 12 ft vertical jump that everyone seems to have, the buildings that are always blockier and less detailed than they look from a distance, the seemingly meaningless choice of class, the hugely important but terribly explained choice of EGO powers, and the list goes on.

    I’ll stop playing it for a day or so and slowly start thinking about how it’s a really neat game concept, and maybe it’s not as bad as I remember or I just need to get used to it. Then I go back and play and every time the actual gameplay is as bad or worse than I remember.

  • @Shutter: The console version feels like it was ported from the PC. I like the PC version more because it feels like the native platform. Higher FPS, better graphics, better view distance, better handling.

    It’s obvious they designed it for both platforms simultaneously, but it runs so much better on my PC.

  • I put in a tad bit over 30 hours (Raptr has me at 32 but I am sure 90 minutes or so was AFK). At any rate I feel like I already got my $60 out of the game and it has’t even launched yet. I do agree that the EGO grid isn’t amazing. But to me this is the type of game that would be somewhat bogged down if you had too many “activate” type skills. I think the variety will be from mods personally.

    Overall though I really dug the game and considering I was very much on the border about buying the game prior to getting in Beta on Friday I was very happy with the feeling I walked away from beta with. I personally have to say that it was a very, very smooth beta with very few glitches and zero lag that I could see other than one point it was lagging purely due to my sucky DSL connection having to deal with the game running, steam downloading, my wife downloading stuff, and my daughter watching Netflix. Any other game would have been unplayable with that mix normally for me.

    Graphics wise no it isn’t Crysis 3 but if anyone really was expecting it to be, you are about 5 years ahead of what of real life. Yeah there are a few things I had against the UI for example the first time I tried to find the Logout and Quit options. But over all the UI is simple which I liked. I played about half the time with Keyboard and Mouse and the other half with X360 controller and enjoyed both equally. Normally I don’t like using controllers for FPS games, but this one felt right.

    Like Borderlands I enjoyed finding a new gun even if it only had a different visual effect. All in all at least through the 30+ hours I spent playing the game I never got bored or ran out of things to do.

    I got to say as well that riding in the game just freaking rocks. Heck 5-6 hours of my play time was letting my 7 year old just ride around and she loved it to death. The 4 wheelers and the jeeps (or whatever they were) handled sweet. Draw distances even on a couple year old graphics card were very acceptable.

    Also like SilverTemplar suggested Pre-order from Steam (the more the better unlocks).

  • @Keen

    It runs nicely, but the controls handle like a pig.

    It’s like the worst of all possible worlds, graphics that only look good on a PC, and controls that are only bearable on a console.

  • @Shutter: Hmm… I wasn’t having any issues with the PC controls. It felt really, really good to me. In fact, I wish Planetside 2 felt as good.

  • Maybe I’m used to shooters on consoles but I found the PC controls to be just fine. I played it with a mouse and with a controller. Never had a complaint.

  • In terms of controls and animations. I must also add, yes the jumping is little off , but luckily it seems to have been tweaked to make you get over things easier (hence the high jump).

    Also, i think in terms of the controls the main thing that is probably throwing alot of people off is the 3rd person angle. I think the character is too far to the left. You will only realize this if you play with a sniper rifle. You will stand behind a building, with the building on your left , you will see the mobs with what looks like a clear view, when you go into sniper view (1st person) you will suddenly be blocked by the wall right in your face. You will be forced to move even more to the right. I had this thing happen quite a few times when i try to snipe from behind cover. The angle in 3rd person vs. 1st person is a little off.

    That said, i never felt the controls felt bad or anything. It handled quite well, including the vehicles. The sprinting + dodging also seems to work as intended.

  • It’s refreshing to see quite a few good reviews of the game. So far I have found alot (mainly PC players, sorry guys don’t mean to generalise) basically complaining about how rubbish the game is compared to what they want. How they cant aim, menus are console based or its not as good as several other MMO’s out there.

    I’ve only played the beta on my xbox and hear the main game is atleast 10x better which brings relief to my ears after experiencing several of the bugs mentioned. Also we all know how Microsoft keeps a tight ship so wouldn’t let a game have to many bugs on release.

    And yes, like those PC players, I hope some features like the customisation, features and menus were a little better. But as a console player I am never going to complain because we have been crying out for a game like this.

    Its the first one of its type in some senses and I hope it is a success so it can spawn more comprehensive MMO’s for consoles.