It’s been about three weeks since Defiance 2050 entered headstart. In that time, I have capped out my Ego at level 50, maxed out most of the classes (Assassin, why do I hate you so much?), run through most of the main story along with a ton of side quests, and began the grind of powering up my preferred weapons. I grouped up to run instances and completed more Arkfall events than I could count. Along the way, I killed hundreds of raiders and thousands of hellbugs. Now it’s time to once again step away from playing, this time to wrap up the review I started back in launch week (check it out here).
The whole time I was playing I had two questions running through my head. First, is the game fun? Second, has Trion done enough to keep players coming back for more? The answers are…complicated. As I stated in part one of my review, Trion promised that “Defiance 2050 is focused on bringing the game into the current generation. In addition to taking advantage of modern hardware to improve the original game’s visuals, Defiance 2050 also makes major updates to Defiance’s gameplay systems, streamlining and modernizing them for today’s shooter audience.” To answer my questions, and along the way put a final verdict on whether Trion delivered on their promise, we need to decide whether the changes made to the game actually made Defiance 2050 a better experience than the original product.
Note: To make discussions a little clearer, forum posters have been using the designations D50 (Defiance 2050) and D13 (original Defiance). I will be doing the same for the rest of this review.
The C Word
The biggest change Trion made has to be the switch from an open skill system to a class system. The classes and their skill trees make it easy for new players to jump in and create effective builds without a lot of research, but veterans of D13 will find the new system takes away the freedom they had to min-max their builds. Both systems have their merits, and whether you like or dislike the new system really comes down to personal preference. I personally like it since I don’t have a lot of game time available each day, and I would rather spend my time killing things as opposed to researching and testing builds. Or so I thought. Trion took this system and made it too restrictive.
Liking the class system doesn’t mean I don’t have issues with it. The problem with the new skill trees pops up when you go to spend your skill points. Like most games, you must spend a minimum number of points in lower tiers to open up higher tiers. In D50, where this goes wrong is twofold. The first issue I had was only being able to put a maximum of five points into any single tier. I was forced to put points into every tier even if I wanted to put more points into additional perks in lower tiers.
This limitation is further compounded by only being able to put points into three of the five Ego Powers in each tree. Your first Ego Power is the only skill available in the bottom tier of each tree, and this makes sense considering this power defines your class. For example, the Guardian starts with a force shield, while the Combat Medic gets a heal bot. The other four Ego Powers are split across two tiers, and you are only able to put points into one of the two skills per tier.
Beyond the restrictions in spending points, the different classes all play differently, and more importantly, they work well together, at least in dungeons. In four-person instances, you really can feel how the different classes compliment each other. While you are firing away at wave after wave of mobs everyone using their different powers in unison really reduces the time needed to clear the dungeon. And when you finally get to the boss you will rely on the holy trinity for survival.
That same feeling of purpose doesn’t carry over into the open world events, at least not to the same effect. In minor events, there isn’t really a threat of failure, so it’s pretty much run and gun. Dropping a damage boost or a barrier may shorten the fight by a few seconds, but yeah, big deal. And while I can still contribute to the battles in whatever fashion I want, my actions really don’t affect the outcome of the larger events. There are so many people (that’s a good thing really) that your class skills just feel insignificant. That doesn’t mean that events are something you should skip. On the contrary, they are a blast, and reward a good amount of XP and loot for the time spent.
Level Up Buttercup!
In D13, EGO rating was the catch-all for leveling. Skill points, weapon power rating of loot and vendor items, and even the threat level of events were tied to EGO. Just like an onion, there are many layers to leveling in D50. Capping out your EGO Level and reaching max level for all of the classes is pretty easy. Expect to hit EGO Level 50 in 10-20 hours. Unlike most games where your character level is the ultimate measure of your character’s power, your EGO level does only one thing – one very important thing – for you. Once you hit EGO Level 50, you are able to complete Contracts. Completing these daily and weekly objectives will earn you Faction Rep, which can then be used at the faction vendors to buy cool stuff.
As you level up your EGO you will also be leveling up your chosen class. Getting to the current Class Level cap of 25 is pretty easy. Even with having to level each class independently means this grind is only going to last two or three weeks. Usually leveling multiple classes on a single character means having to head back to the starter zone and donning low-level equipment. Fortunately, Trion didn’t feel this was the route Ark Hunters would want to take. Weapon power is not tied to class level, so switching to a lower level class doesn’t reduce your DPS beyond the loss of EGO Powers and Perks. This means you can continue moving through the harder missions and zone events as you level up your remaining classes. Because of this, leveling up each successive class requires less time than the previous one.
Leveling up your EGO and classes is quick and painless, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to grind in D50. Trion has just tucked it away in a couple of hiding spots. Welcome to the hell that is weapon skill and Power Level.
Although each class has a synergy with certain weapons, you are capable of using whichever weapon type you want. There are eight weapon types, and your skill in each one levels up as you do damage with it. There are a total of 50 levels for each weapon skill, and each rank gives a small bonus when that weapon type is equipped. The rate at which you improve your weapon skill is based on the amount of damage you are putting out, expect this grind to be painful until you are able to pump out some decent DPS. I have spent most of my time focusing on the light machine gun, and my skill level in LMGs is still in single digits. I can only imagine how epic it will feel if I am ever able to max out all eight weapon skills.
Just as daunting as leveling up your weapon skill, and apparently much more confusing, is increasing your Power Level. Each weapon, grenade, and shield has a power rating. Your Power Level is simply the average of your equipped item’s power ratings and is currently capped at 5000. Your Power Level affects many things, including your health, item ratings in loot drops and vendor purchases, and even enemy power.
This Is My Rifle. There Are Many Like It…
For those that know the rest of that creed, be prepared to wipe it from your thoughts as you increase your Power Level. With Power Level directly affecting loot drops, you will always want to equip gear that gives you the highest level possible, even foregoing a weapon with more damage potential. In fact, unless you are specifically trying to increase a certain weapon skill, your weapon type is really insignificant for most content. So, in short, don’t get too attached to any single weapon during the early or mid-game.
This doesn’t mean you should save up salvage and skip modding your weapons as you do the PL grind. The exact opposite is true. Spend all your salvage to rank up your equipped weapon and slap on as many mods as you can to increase its power ranking. This will, in turn, increase your Power Level, netting you better loot. Swap to the next weapon, mod, and loot. Rinse and repeat to keep the wheels turning. There will be plenty of time at end game to focus on tricking out your gear with the stats you want.
This shift away from item rarity and DPS felt a little weird at first. I have been conditioned by MMOs over the years to covet that blue or purple weapon since it will last me for several levels. D50 works more like a single player ARPG (minus the loot pinatas), where you are checking each piece of loot for that additional +1 to your stats. After a while, I realized the end result was the same either way, shrugged my shoulders, and moved on.
One of the reasons to release Defiance 2050 as a stand-alone title instead of just updating D13 was to take advantage of the power current-gen consoles and PCs had to offer, and this is where Trion fell flat. Right off the bat there was major lag and disconnects for many players. This has gotten better over the last couple of weeks, but it is still occurring. You could say this is normal for MMO launches, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still an issue.
Trion did move to a 64-bit client, and that in and of itself is technically an improvement. We were told this would give us more immersive gameplay due to the updated graphics. For me, there is an improvement, but I need more to call this a win. The textures are improved but aren’t even close to what 2018 hardware has to offer. Even more disappointing is the texture pop-in and overall draw distance. I get that we are in San Francisco, but 24/7 fog a few hundred feet away really kills the immersion for me.
Spit It Out Already
Ok, enough already. Back to the original questions. Is Defiance 2050 fun? Hell yeah! Defiance always has been. Sci-fi shooters are a rare breed, and D50 brings the goods. The main storyline is good, and there are plenty of side quests to keep you going for a long, long time. World events (when they are working) are really top-notch, and I doubt I would ever grow tired of them.
Exploration is a treat, with pseudo-real-world locales to discover, though improvements to the aforementioned graphics issues would make this even better. The physics model is horrible, but that makes driving so much better. Nothing beats hitting your boost at just the right time to send your vehicle sailing through the air.
The new class system makes it easy for casual players to jump in and start shooting, and each weapon has a unique feel, making it easy to find something you like. The game is co-op friendly, and grouping up for instances is a lot of fun. And as I already said, world events are just a blast.
All that makes for a fun game, but is it going to last? That is a little harder to answer. There is always a drop off of players after the first few weeks, and D50 is no different. While I don’t know the numbers for players logging in through Glyph, Steam concurrent users are already down to half of its launch week population. When you are out and about doing missions, it feels even worse, as I don’t come across too many players. That all changes when I hit up group content though. Co-op instances in the matchmaker pop quickly, and world events are the true indicator that the game population is currently still healthy.
As far as the changes to the leveling and weapon systems, I consider everything more of a lateral move as opposed to an actual upgrade. While Trion didn’t make any changes that would make a veteran of D13 turn and run, there isn’t anything groundbreaking to make them leave their old world (and fully fleshed out character) behind. This alone could be the biggest obstacle facing the health of the population. Splitting the population between what is virtually two identical games is a real threat.
The one thing that can solidify D2050 as the place for all players, newbs and vets alike, is fresh content. And as if they knew what I was typing, just a few hours ago Trion revealed their roadmap for new content in D50. Included are the Demolitionist class unlock for non-Founders, as well as the Crusader and Engineer coming before years end. Players are also going to get new story content with all new enemies, as well as more weapons to add to their arsenal to fight them. With Trion planning on feeding the new content on a monthly cycle, this may just be the glue that holds the community together.