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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Defiance 2050 - Better Than Warframe, Fight Me! - MMOMG


After a brief (and mostly regrettable) stint in Worlds Adrift, I was ready to try just about any MMO to fill out the rest of July. It so happened that Defiance 2050 had just went live, and several of my regular viewers suggested I give it a go. At first glace, the game didn't look like something I'd really enjoy, but it turns out that looks can sometimes be deceiving. Unfortunately, the game's future is currently somewhat up in the air due to Gamingo's recent buyout of Trion Worlds properties... though I'll get into the details of that later on. First, let's talk about the game itself.



What is Defiance 2050?

Defiance 2050 is an open-world MMOTPS (third-person shooter) with a post-apocalyptic future setting and RPG elements such as levels, classes and instanced group content, published by Trion Worlds in July 2018.

Though not explicitly stated, it seems to be meant as a replacement for the original Defiance (released in 2013), which according to Trion was becoming difficult to add new content for - let alone port over to current consoles - due to its game engine (Gamebryo 3). Oddly enough, both versions of the game are still live, though it seems like only Defiance 2050 is being actively developed (it's confusing, read on). I should point out that I've never played the original Defiance, so I can't compare the versions against each other... though there are a few other games I can readily compare it to (and will)!

Back on topic, Defiance 2050 has a handful of character classes. You'll begin with one of the four base classes of your choice, but can unlock any of them (and more) later on. At the time of writing, the classes are as follows:

  • Assault (Base) - a speedy, close-combat specialist (which notably also has a self-heal).
  • Assassin (Base) - stealth, DoTs and debuffs allow this class to dish out damage.
  • Guardian (Base) - shields, damage reduction and taunts make this class the tank.
  • Combat Medic (Base) - has healing and a variety of support handy in both solo and group play.
  • Demolitionist - a master of explosives, grenades and AoE attacks.
  • Crusader - A second tank class focused on melee, with a large hammer and gap closers.

While any class may technically use any weapon, you'll find that some classes are better suited for certain weapons than others. For example, the assault class has buffs for melee and close-range weapons, while the demolitionist's skills improve their use of explosive weaponry.

Defiance 2050 contains the MMO "holy trinity" of tank, healer and DPS roles, but they aren't a major factor during most of the missions. This allows solo and small group play to not worry about party composition, but also makes some skills really niche in terms of use. For example, I initially decided to go full tank as a Guardian with taunts and shields. When I got into the first group dungeon instance, my taunt skills shined, allowing me to hold the boss aggro and kite it while the rest of the team opened fire. Unfortunately, that same skill is much less useful out in the field, as battles are typically longer-range firefights with multiple enemies. Thankfully, Defiance 2050 allows players to reset their skill point allocation without cost - it's just annoying to do repeatedly without access to multiple loadouts (which can be obtained).

Content - Static and Dynamic

Gameplay typically revolves around completing story and side missions given to you by NPCs found at towns and outposts. Unlike more traditional MMORPGs, Defiance 2050 doesn't allow you to track multiple quests at once. However, any available missions are conveniently marked on your map for you to pursue later.

Missions themselves are often a multi-stage affair, meaning you never quite know what you may be getting into once you begin one. For example, a mission may initially ask you to investigate a location that possibly contains a hostage who has plans for a new weapon. On arrival, you find the area guarded by enemies and sentry turrets, both of which must be dealt with. Taking them out, you discover the hostage has already been killed, but their weapon plans have been stored in a nearby locked container. In the time it takes you to open the lock and recover the plans, enemy reinforcements have been dispatched, including some type of mini-boss you now have to deal with before finally returning the plans and completing the mission. The delivery of each step in a mission keeps objectives clear and simple while letting the mission's narrative unfold with very little spoilers.

Speaking of narrative, the main missions often include cutscenes that progress the larger story. The characters and dialogue here are a mixed bag - some scenes are great, some are lame, others fall somewhere in between - but overall I find them enjoyable enough.

In addition to the main and side missions, you can also find racing missions which ask you to complete a course in a certain amount of time. Considering how odd vehicles can be (either allowing you to mow down enemies in your way or blowing up at the slightest touch, depending on the current patch), these really aren't worth doing early on and are thankfully skippable. Since I mentioned vehicles, I might as well point out that you get a vehicle fairly early on - it's an ATV with poor speed and handling. It's faster than running, though, and you'll get better vehicles as you complete the main story missions. While I'm not normally a fan of mounts early on, the world is designed with them in mind and driving some of the later vehicles are actually quite fun.

You'll frequently encounter minor events scattered about the world (I think they're officially called "incursions" but I may be wrong) where a certain type of enemy has popped up to cause trouble. These can appear anywhere, including on roads and on top of other mission objectives, and they remain until fully defeated. This means that some areas can become downright deadly with a cluster of incursions on top of what's normally there, ready to ambush players entering the area. This is where you'll be quite thankful to have a set of wheels to make a quick escape! While the smaller events are interesting at first, it doesn't take long to find repeats. Eventually, these things just end up being annoyances you'll try to avoid (as best as possible) while completing your actual missions.

Speaking of content that gets avoided, Defiance 2050 has a number of small group instances (dungeons) that can take quite a while to find a party for. I only got to attempt and finish the first dungeon once, and that was during the game's opening week. Interestingly, one of the group members noted it was the first time ever completing the dungeon despite multiple tries during beta. Apparently having a tank with actual tank skills makes a big difference in the boss rooms (imagine that)! Again, I attribute the disparity in usefulness of skills depending on the content as the reason why players simply never try certain builds. In turn, this is likely why players tend to skip dungeons - if you can't complete them, you don't get boss loot, so you're just wasting time.

On the other end of the spectrum, Arkfalls and sieges are almost always worth participating in. These types of dynamic content, while repetitive, drop a variety of items while providing a break from running missions. Arkfalls consume an area on the map, spawning roughly half a dozen points where players gather to defeat a threat, each with several stages of combat. Once all these locations are dealt with, a final point containing a boss appears. Defeating the boss spawns a reward chest that can be unlocked with an Ark key (of which you can hold up to 5 at any given time). Even if you don't use an Ark key, it's often worth particpating in Arkfalls just for the item drops.

Sieges are events tied to specific locations that come under attack from time to time. They're a wave-based affair that increases the amount and power of enemy types thrown at you with each wave. Sieges include several points that the enemies are attempting to capture, which must be defended or recaptured before time runs out. Loot is also plentiful during sieges, and they're just damn fun to do in general! There's nothing closer (that I know of) to experiencing a Starship Troopers Bug attack than a Hellbug siege in Defiance 2050!
Pretty much what a Hellbug siege is like in Defiance 2050.

Grander still are Arkbreaks that allow up to 20 players inside the remains of a Votan ship that has crashed to Earth. Inside are more powerful enemies - including a massive cyber-gorilla boss (I don't understand why it's a gorilla either, but it looks cool) and a chance at equally powerful loot.

Progression, Upgrades & Scaling

Characters are defined not only by their class and EGO levels, but also their Power score. This is essentially a gearscore that's calculated using the power scores of your equipped items.

Weapons are fairly customizable, with a number of mods you can attach that alter everything from accuracy to damage type. Additionally, you can salvage weapons for scrap to use towards leveling your current weapons. Each weapon has a level cap, and each level provides a point you can use to further modify three of the weapon's stats. You can even swap one of these stats for another random attribute, so there's definitely some allowance in terms of customization! These features are all well and good, but the UI in this particular department really fails to explain anything. I recall there being a mission in the first camp that requests you add a mod to one of your weapons, but it doesn't tell you explicitly how to do so. All the other features (like salvaging, weapon levels and point distribution) are left up to the player to learn by themselves.

While your power score influences the chance to obtain higher power items (thus making it important for progression), you might rarely feel like your character is getting more powerful. This is because Defiance 2050 uses scaling to ensure lesser enemies aren't pushovers. I'm not a huge fan of scaling across an entire game (I feel it works best when used sparingly, such as for limited-time community events), but I prefer scaling enemies up rather than down to meet the player (such as in ESO). The later areas of the map in Defiance 2050 always present a threat, but you can participate in previous content alongside a lower-level friend without steamrolling everything in the area.

That said, the enemy types themselves could use some tweaking. It's common to battle elites during a mission or incursion that take forever to kill with 1-3 players, but the boss in the Votan wreckage can fold like a cheap suit against the 20 (and sometimes much less) participants it was supposedly designed for.

Unpopular Opinion: Defiance 2050 > Warframe

With Warframe's addition of larger zones and Defiance releasing new class types, the two games are each becoming a little more like the other with every update. Comparisons between the two are pretty much inevitable now, and popular opinion clearly shows Warframe to be well ahead. That said, I still prefer Defiance 2050 over Warframe. Why?

  • Defiance 2050 was designed from the start to support seamless transitions between zones in an open world, whereas Warframe is shoehorning larger zones in to appeal to more players.
  • I don't die in knee-deep water in Defiance 2050 - in fact, I can even swim if I want! I find it hard to believe that a society advanced enough to traverse the galaxy with such ease and create warframes (some of which can survive in the vacuum of space) can't seem to build a waterproof suit.
  • Riding ATVs across the map in Defiance 2050 is more enjoyable and less visually nauseating than the travel powers associated with the Tenno.
  • I find Defiance 2050's characters and story slightly more relatable than Warframe's space ninja battles. I also prefer the post-apocalyptic Earth setting and faction enemies, though I understand ALL of the above points are highly subjective.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you have even mild interest in MMO shooters but Warframe didn't necessarily click for you, give Defiance 2050 a try.

The Future Is Confusing

Back in October, word spread that Gamingo had come to an agreement to purchase Trion Worlds... or perhaps only some of its IPs (there were some very conflicting reports on the details). A significant number of layoffs at Trion followed soon after, and things were looking pretty grim.

According to the Defiance Team Letter published November 14th of this year, Trion was seemingly acquired in full by Gamingo and development on Defiance will continue. To add a further layer of confusion, the 'Solstice Strike' holiday event is active for both Defiance (2013) and Defiance 2050, with promises of more content on the way... for both verions of the game or just 2050 is anyone's guess at this point.

My Progress

Speculation on the game's future aside, I finished my month in Defiance 2050 with about 64 hours logged. In that time, I got to EGO level 50 (current max), leveled my Guardian to max, got Assault to level 25, obtained a prototype weapon (the E-Rep Retribution) and finished with a Power score of 2160. Having played only a little bit since then, I've raised my Power score to about 2400.

SUMMARY

Pros


  • The character system allows you to obtain more classes without having to roll alts.
  • Free respecs allow players to try different builds, though players rarely experiment due to the niche use some abilities have.
  • Zones only scale up to meet a player, making endgame areas an actual threat while still allowing players or varying power levels relatively even footing when running content together.
  • Multi-staged quest progression leaves room for narrative without spoiling it too soon.
  • Enemy factions contain some of the best sci-fi/post-apocalyptic tropes.
  • Sieges and Arkfalls are so fun they never get boring!

Cons


  • Incursions look like a good idea at first, but get old and annoying quickly.
  • Constant level scaling means you rarely feel more powerful, even though you're making progress.
  • Dungeons are skipped by most players, though the blame is split 50/50 between players not trying other skills and the game not encouraging them to do so except in very specific circumstances.
  • The newest classes are costly to obtain in-game without visiting the cash shop, with some (like Demolitionist) being arguably overpowered. That's a slippery slope that ultimately ends in a pay-to-win scenario if it goes too far.

Other

The recent layoffs of Trion staff and buyout by Gamingo doesn't help the feeling that the game could be shut down at any moment or die a slow death by going into maintenance mode, even though a statement was released promising continued development. The status of the original Defiance (2013) is even more questionable, but supposedly will also continue.

Overall Impression - Enjoyable Enough

I'm quite surprised by how much I ended up enjoying Defiance 2050. I've never been interested MMO shooters (other than a brief and badly-timed foray into Tabula Rasa right before its announced shut down), so my hopes for Defiance 2050 weren't high. It's not the best experience I've ever had in an MMO, but it's far from the worst and holds the distinction of being one of the few titles I've returned to after the month was over. I can't find the time to play as often as I'd like, but I hope the game sticks around... because I'm really gonna miss sieges otherwise!

Looking Ahead

I'm still very much behind where I'd like to be in terms of writing for this blog, but I've had a lot of higher priorities take precedence this year. Expect another post in the future covering Blade & Soul, and just maybe some opinion pieces that I've shelved for so long that several shining examples of my points have already come and gone.

In the meantime, join my livestreams to see a Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning playthrough the rest of this month. MMOMG streams return in January, with the title to be announced soon.

Feel free to share this post with friends! Follow me on Twitter or join my Discord server to stay updated on streams, posts, giveaways and more! If you'd like to support my work, check out my Etsy shop or Patreon for cool rewards and merchandise. Thanks so much for reading, and as always, take care guys!

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