Defiance Is Off To A Rocky Start, But You Won't See Players Complaining

It wasn't until my third hour in the game portion of SyFy and Trion Worlds' crossmedia project that it struck me — this is the quietest MMO launch ever.I'd run into a couple bugged quests, marvelled over the purposeful stupidity of enemies in the tutorial zone, and giggled at the ridiculous vehicle physics, but no one was laughing with me.

No one was comparing Defiance to World of Warcraft. No one was asking questions that were answered only moments before. It was so peaceful. One might expect such quiet from the largely keyboard-less PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 crowd, but I was playing on PC, and PC MMO players (myself included) are notoriously loud and boisterous in chat channels.

It was then I realised in-game chat was broken.

It's probably a good thing that PC players weren't able to use any sort of general chat channel, because the text contained therein would not be kind. Though developed by a company with tons of experience in the PC gaming space, all it takes is one look at the video options to see that this is not a very PC-friendly game.

Low, medium and high are the options we get, with not much difference between. There's a custom option, but that just means you've got shadows, bloom or motion blur turned off. Oh, and note the monitor refresh rate. Players with monitors or televisions that run above 100Hz are crashing out of the game when opening the menu. Apparently that's been happening since before launch. Thank goodness I misplaced my fast DVI cable.

This is a game built for consoles and ported to PC. It shows in the graphics options. It shows in the menus, optimised for a controller and confusing for a mouse and keyboard setup. Were chat not broken, it would be filled with angry PC enthusiasts having overcome the world's shittiest game patcher (Slow. Wait, it's fast! No, it's slow again.) to find themselves trapped in a shoddy console port.

I've got a character over on the Xbox 360, and it's not all roses and cake on the console front either. While the game controls much better with a game pad (I've started playing the PC version with a wired controller), frame rates are low, textures a bit muddy, and the input delay and lag is just ridiculous. During the tutorial I would shoot things and have them die seconds after I had stopped firing. Opening boxes was a matter of holding down the open button and waiting until the game realised you were doing so. It's gotten a little better, but glitches still happen.

Defiance is a work in progress, a game designed to be constantly improved upon, just as it'll be updated on a regular basis to coincide with content from the SyFy series, launching April 15. I'll be playing it over the course of the next month, providing regular updates on my character progress (once I figure out how that works) and personal experience. At the end of that period I'll write up a proper review. I'm hopeful that some of these launch problems will be addressed by then, though it's perfectly OK if they leave chat broken forever. So peaceful.


Comments

    Yes to all of this.

      To be fair - I haven't experienced too many drop outs or too much overall lag. I am slightly disappointed with the multi-monitor implementation and the PC options. Overall I just be happy to have a FOV option, that's it and/or be able to go First person.

    wow... i'm shocked by this post as i haven't had a single issue...

    game looks great and plays great for me... solid 60fps @ 2560x1440 everywhere i go... extremely playable... only complaint is it isn't using SLI... but i'm pushing one of my cards pretty hard

    i'm using a wireless controller just because i prefer controller to keyboard and mouse (yes i'm weird like that)... i have seen occasional chat things but i agree its been very quiet so possibly it is broken... still lots of ppl playing and helping each other

    chat not being on screen at all times may be confusing people as well? i dunno... either way... i'm loving this game and its a huge shame to see articles like this popping up :(

      No complaints from me with the PC version, aside from one dropout, which took me a minute to reconnect. Sure the animations are a little ganky but it's perfectly playable. I too am using a 360 controller for the PvE portion of the game and have suffered no input lag or lag of concern to the US server either.

      I've sunk about 12 hours into it since opening day and besides chat being a little screwey, I'd say it's one of the smoothest MMO launches I've taken part in. Keen to see how it plays out with the show in a couple of weeks...

      Good to hear not everyone is having as many issues as in this article!

      I'm still a little put off by the idea of it playing better via controller...if I can't play comfortably with KBM I dunno if I'd enjoy it.

        i tried it with a keyboard and mouse and it felt fine... i'm just a controller junky lol

          How do you find FPS accuracy against KBM players? I know I can't play with them in Portal 2, they take WAAAAAAY to long to get the portals down. I have a controller, but tend to only use it in games that feel wanky on the KBM, like NFS and Prototype. Any 3rd person game with a 'tap to aim at next enemy' button is pretty rad with a pad.

            it has some aim assistance which helps for sure... that and i have 0 interest in PvP... so its always against AI/NPC's and doesn't seem to be an issue...

            did my first ark fall thingy this morning and was ranked 2nd for kills between about 15-20 ppl so i don't feel like i'm at a disadvantage or anything...

            some games it works... your example of portal 2 i do think KBM is better... most third person games i do favor a gamepad though

      Yup, no problems with me. Actually it has to be one of the smoothest MMO launches I have ever taken part in. No lag problems at all.

      Also I much prefer a KB&M setup. It all comes down to personal preference.

    No problems here either, smooth as silk. Took part in an Ark Fall last night, where there was over 70 players running around, no lag problems at all.

    Also loving it so far.

    oddly 120hz worked in one of the beta weekends for me but on launch it my 120hz crashes the settings menu completely, this game seems like a pleasure tho, alot to keep you busy.

    Considering that it's a semi-twitch-based aim game rather than tab-targeting with hotbars, I'm surprised that there isn't more lag than there is.

    ...But there is some. Don't be surprised when it turns up and yanks a monster out a dozen metres away from your cross-hairs, or when your driving turns a little floaty as the game tries to keep up. God forbid you try driving next to other players.

    Bad:

    Chat is fucking horrible and the worst indicator that this is a shitty PC port. Area (/say) and group/party are stuck over in a corner where they're not meant to be read. Only one or two lines ever shows up at a time, forcing you to switch out of targeting mode to UI-mode to go manually scroll up through chat, and my friends have been experiencing an issue where if we're in a group, every line we say shows up twice to the other group members.
    Not to mention there are no readily-viewable (if any?) 'console' or slash commands to switch between channels, meaning that you have to go manually clicking on your (unexplained) tiny channel switching dots if you want to alternate between chatting privately to group members and publicly to the area (like telling people not to shoot the skitterling hellbugs who open up vulnerabilities in the arkfall shards). Same goes for forming groups or trading with players. Be prepared to bring up a console'ified 'interation' menu, which then cycles between choosing which players you want to interact with (nearby/group/find), then the type of interaction you want to perform, all of which have to be clicked on, or use up/down/left/right to cycle between. No: '/invite friendname' or '/trade' here.

    Which brings us to the VERY console'ified UI: Menus within fucking menus. There are a handful of keyboard shortcuts to get to some of the menus, but more often than not, you'll still be opening sub-menus and double-clicking confirmations all over the place. ...Which works for weapon inventory, but not for skill-inventory - there's still lots of manually clicking on specific confirmation buttons which were probably once bound to X, A, B, or Y. The inconsistency and time-consuming busywork in navigating menus is grating.

    It's also very group-unfriendly in some ways. Loot and cash drops for everyone, which is good, and many of the encounters strongly encourage groups in their difficulty, but the mechanics of grouping are shit. Many of the quest areas are phased, so you won't be able to go back and help your buddies until they are up to the same stage of the storyline as you, and there are no quest-trackers to let you see where their waypoints are, so everyone knows to drive to the same place. The map has no indicators telling you the names of areas, just a satellite style view, so telling someone to drive to 'Serenity Power' means hoping that player has been there often enough to memorize the name and know its rough location... Locations which are not very distinct from one another. You've basically got to discuss (through the abysmal chat system) who has which quests available on their map, and let the least-accomplished take the lead.

    Good:

    That said - the man-shooting is (usually) solid and satisfying (as long as you get the trick of knowing that bullets land where the reticle is when you pull the trigger). For the humanoid enemies at least, head-shots with a high-powered weapon are often instantly fatal, giving a good feel of power, unlike many damage-sponge enemies in other MMOs who stretch the suspension of disbelief for the sake of padding out combat time. (*cough*SWTOR*cough* Ten minutes fucking work with a lightsaber... seriously?)

    Crafting is better than many MMOs - take a base 'found' weapon (which more often than not can be traded even after use, so your cherished heirlooms can go to a good home when you find an upgrade) and add mod slots to it, in order to add up to 4 types of mods (with their own levels and rarities) to alter the stats of the weapon in a minor way (accuracy/recoil/clip size/area effect/etc).

    Weapon stats are mostly horizontal. ie: Rank 1 bolt-action sniper rifle does the same damage as Rank 250 bolt-action sniper rifle; differences come from 'rarity' which uncommonly modify damage, more commonly modify more minor aspects such as fire rate, recoil, or reload time. Human weapons are distinct from their alien counterparts. Eg: a human bolt-rifle hits harder, but each round is chambered slower than the slightly weaker alien version. In the sniper rifle field, you also have semi-auto rifles which hit for around half the damage of bolt-action, but don't un-scope, allowing for continuous placement of fire.

    Using a weapon can build up 'weapon exp' on that weapon, awarding it very minor stat bonuses through frequent use, and I THINK opening up the ability to add more mod slots to it. I like this. I like making bars go up.

    These approaches to weapons mean that a lot of your progression will come from your levelling/passive skills rather than uber-loot, making it easier and fairer to group with others in PVE.

    The EGO (talent tree) system is fun to explore. In something similar to TSW/GW2, you have a fixed number of slots for passive buffs (which expands as you rank up), all available from a grid of skills. Spending your EGO points (talent points) can either unlock new skills in the grid adjacent to your existing ones, or can buff the ones you already have. It looks like the entire thing will be unlockable, but you're prevented from becoming OP by the restriction on how many of the passives you can have equipped. Simple and sensible.

    Constant unannounced mini-events which you stumble upon yield bundles of rewards, resulting in numerous diversions from the set path, with dopamine hit rewards, and often result in your barrelling into the middle of intense combat to help other players already undertaking the event.

    The cash-shop offers some useful shortcuts (most of which seem to be purchasable with in-game-earned currency as well) without being punishing or demanding. (Which is good, since there's a box price - this is B2P, not F2P.)

    Achievements (known as 'Pursuits') offer substantial rewards in terms of experience and outfits (cosmetics). They're plentiful enough that you can often find yourself achieving something by accident, and once the low-hanging fruit is cleared (not easy - there's a LOT of it), the higher level things aren't especially ludicrous. The hardest are reasonably few.

    On Cosmetics: the game uses an 'outfit' system, with your appearance/clothes being changed based on outfits you either buy from vendors, unlock through missions or pursuits, or buy in the cash shop. It's a welcome feature, being an incentive to try some of the pursuits you might not otherwise have done, and to ensure your character doesn't look like a mismatched clown committing fashion crimes in the name of stat-chasing.

    Overall:

    This isn't the Tabula Rasa replacement I'd hoped for, not having the same degree of polish as TR did prior to shut-down, and it suffers VERY heavily from console-porting. Not so much from the control system - KB/M is very responsive - but from the clunky UI and lack of quality-of-life features PC MMO players are used to. If you're not soloing, use Ventrilo/Skype/TS/Steam-voice with friends to save yourselves a lot of hassle. Being B2P means I don't feel guilty about doing something else and wasting precious sub time, so I'm probably more likely to keep coming back to it for making the bars go up. The story and acting aren't especially compelling so far as Madera, but I'm hoping to be surprised at some point down the track.

    I tried to plug in my PS3 controller, but it looks like the PC version is set up for the XBOX pad. Is this correct?

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