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Defiance Progress Report: Stepping into the shoes of an Ark Hunter

Ninjaturtles

Posted by: Mike Splechta

Defiance has officially launched. While it's catching some people off guard as being one of the more silent MMO launches, it's comforting to see a lot of people online willing to quest alongside you.

I started my journey into Defiance as both a male Machinist on my PC and a female Survivalist on my 360. Oddly enough, linking my account with my console didn't grant me the option to continue playing as my female character on my PC. There weren't any explanations or summaries which differentiated the four 'classes' apart from one another, so I just went with whichever ones looked the coolest. I'm at least hoping for some explanation or backstory on Defiance when the Syfy show kicks off next week.

One thing I should get out of the way first is that by and large, I prefer the PC version of the game to the console one. Immediately, even before I got to play, the cutscenes had low framerates, background environments were muddled and not sharp. Once I actually got control of my female Ark Hunter, things didn't get better. Button prompts didn't respond to me until after a few seconds, enemies' health would jump around from being nearly dead, to full health, then back down to quarter health. Even traversing the environment, especially on a vehicle was laggy. Maybe these things can be ironed out with time, but for the time being, the PC version is the version of choice.

Defiance - Riding the ATV

With all of these problems gone on the PC version, I was loving my time with Defiance. My initial crash landing led me through a short yet intuitive tutorial which familiarized me with EGO powers. Speaking of EGO, or more properly called the Environmental Guardian Online is the game's version of Cortana. A blue AI will not only serve to be your quest giver in many instances, but will provide your character insightful backstory, commentary or just witty banter.

My adventure started in Mount Tam, near the Earth Republic Campsite, where I regrouped with a cliche angry military leader and a friend I met when I crashed. From here, I was able to partake in a bunch of missions, whether they consisted of being Story driven, side missions or trial missions like Time Trial, Hotshot and Rampage which are score based and instanced single player missions.

It wasn't long until I got my hands on my very own ATV, which made traversing the map with a breeze. It's nice to see an MMO embrace the fact that mounts shouldn't be available only mid to late game, but allowing players to quickly travel between points early on. The more I played however, the more parallels I saw between Defiance and last year's excellent Guild Wars 2. Major points on the map could be freely fast traveled assuming they've already been visited. Grouping was completely non-essential, since just running up to another player allows you to help them out. Even in-game achievements track your progress with kills, weapon proficience, exploration, etc. through Goals. Completing these yields you a reward toward your overall EGO Rating.

defiance - EGO Level up board

My EGO Rating as of right now is 98. Which can be roughly translated to being level 9.8. At first I didn't understand Defiance's leveling mechanics, but over time I grew to understand it. Every real level (meaning the level bar fills up completely) will grant you 10 EGO levels. Completing various aforementioned Goals will grant you a varying amount of EGO. Of course with progression, comes building your character. This is where I'm caught up right now.

In the beginning, I was able to choose a single EGO Power; Cloak, Decoy, Overcharge and Blur. However that didn't lock me out of acquiring the others. The EGO leveling board largely resembles FFXII's board, meaning unlocking certain skills on the board will then unlock their adjacent skills as well. However unlocking a skill doesn't automatically acquire it, as I found out about an hour later. On your loadout screen, you have to equip these as Perks. In the beginning, you only have 1 Perk slot available, though at my level I now have 2. I can see the potential once all nine Perk slots are unlocked, but right now I'm just having a hard time deciding whether it's smart to purchase skills I essentially won't even use.

As for guns, I initially went with the Light Machine Gun, since that was the Machinist's starting weapon. I did find a blue Assault Rifle early on which I quickly grew fond of, as it contained a property which melted enemies upon death. Not being a fan of Sniper Rifles and Shotguns, I went for an SMG as my secondary weapon. The problem I ran into though was that both Assault Rifles and SMGs use the same ammo type.

Defiance - Character Loadout screen

My favorite instance so far into the game were the random Arkfalls (the last bit in the video above). These challenges require players to come together to destroy these giant crystals that spawn tough monsters around it. Even better, I was able to participate in a Major Arkfall, which spawned five crystals in an area, and then led to a giant boss fight against an enormous Hellbug. It was pure chaos with players running around frantically, expending their ammo reserves, and eventually basking in the glory of XP and cash rewards.

I honestly didn't expect for Defiance to grab my attention so early on. As a game I knew generally very little about, I foresaw that I would grow bored rather quick. Turns out, it was quite the opposite. I spent six straight hours questing with friends, blasting mutants, riding ATVs, and witnessing my EGO grow.

Make sure to tune in next week for a much bigger EGO and even more experiences in the world of Defiance.

Tags: Defiance, Review in progress, MMO

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