Defiance Revisited

One of the many reasons I am coming to like Shomi more than I liked Netflix is that it has the first two seasons of Defiance in their entirety. I’ve recently finished rewatching them, and I have to say, I enjoyed it a lot.

The cast of DefianceWith the benefit of hindsight, the first season of Defiance is actually a fair bit better than it seemed at first blush. There’s so much foreshadowing and intricacy that I didn’t pick up on the first time.

And of course the second season was always awesome. I do find it very hard watching the scenes with Pottinger knowing what I know now, but I comforted myself with recollections of his ultimate fate.

I’m also struck by what a visually beautiful series Defiance was. The video quality on Showcase’s website was terrible, but Shomi plays it in crystal clear HD, and the special effects turn out to be incredibly good. The Gulanee, in particular, is far more beautiful than I ever realized.

It all got me rather sad about the show’s cancellation.

As I said when the news broke, it’s not so much the show I miss as the world. The show was good, but sometimes hit and miss, and I really don’t agree with the direction they took in the third season.

But the world of Defiance is outstanding. I’m a huge fan of world-building, and Defiance boosts some of the best world-building in the sci-fi genre. There is such unbelievable breadth, depth, and richness to the world of Defiance and its history, from the majestic cruelty of Castithan culture, to the savagery of the New Frontier, to the murky political machinations of the Votanis Collective and the Earth Republic.

I can live without Defiance the show, but Defiance the world is dearly missed.

The new Silicon Valley zone in DefianceYet in this case all is not lost, for the world of Defiance lives on. So at last the time came for me to do something I’ve been talking about for years.

Homecoming:

Yes, I started playing Defiance again. Yuke Liro represent, yo!

At first, it was a joyous reunion. I was really surprised how good it felt to back among the familiar sights and sounds, sniping Dark Matter and blasting Hellbugs again.

One of my biggest regrets from when I played the first time was that I never earned my charge blade. A Castithan without a charge blade — truly I had brought shame upon my Liro.

So my first destination was the Thorn Liro Arena. For some reason I had a reputation booster in my claim items, so I activated it and set about grinding. The arenas were a bit of a baptism by fire after so long away, but it was a good way to relearn the game, and in a short time, I had completed the Thorn Liro story and earned enough reputation to buy myself an epic charge blade.

The AoE attack of a charge blade in DefianceLet me tell you, charge blades are crazy fun.

Oh, sure, they’re not the most practical weapons in all cases. They’re not recommended for major Arkfalls or other tough content, and there are a lot of bosses where they’re just plain useless, but for everything smaller? Prepare to be a tempest of bladed death, leaping, slashing, and laying waste to all around while reveling in your own reckless fury.

The first thing I did when I got my blade was find a Hellbug event and basically reenact the dinner party scene from season one, with me playing the role of Datak.

Charge blades add a surprising amount of depth to the game, too. They have three separate attacks with different uses, and being melee in a shooter requires a kind of agility and tactical thought that you otherwise wouldn’t need.

After earning my blade, I then became hooked on chain-running Arkfalls. This lasted for a few days. Repetitive or not, Arkfalls can be addictive. Run in, slaughter everything, hoover up loot, and drive off to the next alongside a swarm of other players.* It’s a rush.

*(With San Fransisco by the Mowgli’s playing in my head the whole way, due to the game’s setting and my fondness for headshots.)

Battling a Volge incursion with a charge blade in Defiance

Nothing says “I’m a badass” like bringing a knife to a Volge fight

In the space of less than a week, I wager I killed more Volge than Yewll did with the Terrasphere back in the pilot.

Along the way I began to wonder if I hadn’t given Defiance enough credit when I first played. The enemies have more variety and more complex tactics than in most other shooters I’ve played, and the dizzying variety of different weapons keeps things fresh.

The free to play model also remains fairly painless, though they are a little more in your face about advertising the cash shop than they used to be. Also having only two loadout slots did start to get a little bothersome, so I bought another, but it’s not like those are expensive.

At last, the Arkfall train began to lose some luster, so I started to move on to new content. I began with the remaining DLCs, which I bought when I decided to return to the game.

Thus began my troubles.

Hitting the wall:

The Arkbreaker storyline went by well enough. Basic story, but enjoyable.

My Castithan and EGO in DefianceI did make the mistake of trying to take on an Arkbreak solo afterward. This is not recommended. In this case I was reenacting the Gulanee story from season two, with me playing the role of Churchill. Eventually another player showed up, and we managed to slog through, but you really want to bring a lot of friends for those.

Then came Gunslinger Trials. That DLC’s story arc revolves around a series of arenas, and I simply could not beat the first one.

You see, Defiance is an incredibly grindy game with an absurdly high level cap. However, I had never known it to take its vertical progression very seriously, so I ignored the more dull content and the grindy leveling and just played through the story. And it worked fine. I never had any problems.

Somewhere along the line the developers’ philosophy must have changed. The Gunslinger arenas are clearly tuned around endgame players, and I remain a very low level player. I tried leveling up more and experimenting with different builds, but I was still very far off the mark.

Along the way of trying to improve my character, I also learned expeditions are another thing you’re not meant to solo. The game doesn’t tell you this, of course; if you queue for one in matchmaking, odds are good you’ll be placed into one solo. And don’t let the easy mobs at the start lull you into false confidence. It ends with you exhausting your library of swear words as you spend an hour endlessly kiting an entire Ekaru Kome death squad.

An expedition in DefianceThis is what you should not do, so let this be a lesson to you.

So I moved onto the free story updates since I left, which seemed far more interesting and relevant than the Gunslinger arc anyway.

This is where it gets ugly.

The story was great. Defiance’s storytelling is totally unsung, but it’s really among the best in the MMO world. Not The Secret World quality, but still quite strong. The characters are fun and colourful, and there’s no shortage of intrigue, mystery, and excitement.

This story spent a lot of time delving into the history of EGO implants. It turns out to be quite disturbing, and I have a totally different perspective on the perky girl chirping in my head now. Totally different.

I’d never seen EGO mad before. You don’t want the chip in your brain to be mad.

Again, I can’t stress enough — I love the story. It’s not entirely a substitute for season four of the show, but it’s pretty damn close.

Which is why what I have to say next is so painful.

Charge blades are pretty by nightThe gameplay of these newer missions is awful. Indescribably awful.

Most of it is just driving back and forth between the same few locations, occasionally fighting mobs along the way. Over and again. Yet even that was ultimately the highlight. There are after all worse fates than driving around the California wilderness in a souped up hotrod, and the new Silicon Valley zone is quite pretty.

The instanced missions, however, are a horror show. Like Gunslinger Trials, they are clearly tuned around endgame players, and would probably be pretty challenging solo even for them. We’re talking dozens of enemies of the strength you’d see in a major Arkfall, all coming at you at once, and in most of these missions you can’t even refill your ammo. That’s nuts.

In the end the only way through most of them was to just accept constant dying and focus on doing some damage in the brief window before each death, gradually wearing the enemy down through constant kamikaze runs. That is precisely as fun as it sounds, which is to say not even remotely.

Yet the story intrigued me enough that I was willing to put up with event that, but as of this this writing, I have finally hit the wall for good. One of the bosses of the final season two mission is simply unbeatable for me. I’m not even close; I die within the first few seconds of the fight, and it heals up whatever little damage I was able to do during the run back.

I simply cannot continue.

The new Silicon Valley zone in DefianceIt is, again, arguably my own fault for never bothering to level properly, but I simply never had a reason to before now. I feel like I’ve been the victim of a bait and switch.

So I am now left with the choice of giving up on Defiance’s story or grinding a tremendous amount of fairly repetitive content, potentially for weeks.

I really don’t know which I’m going to do. Neither option appeals.

It is the same situation as with the show. Defiance the game is something I can readily live without, but this would mean letting go of Defiance the world for good, and that would be a shame.

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2 thoughts on “Defiance Revisited

  1. I loved seasons 1 and 2, but 3 turned so dark that I was actually kinda glad with how they wrapped it up and called it a show.

    “The first thing I did when I got my blade was find a Hellbug event and basically reenact the dinner party scene from season one, with me playing the role of Datak.” — I wish you’d recorded that and put a video up. That sounds pretty epic. Ah well.

    • I tend agree on season three for the most part. I don’t even know how they planned to continue it after that. Who was left out of the cast? The Tarrs, Irisa, and Amanda, and that’s pretty much it.

      My initial Hellbug slaughter was probably less epic than you’re picturing, but it was certainly satisfying. One of the charge blade skills is an AoE leap attack, and it’s strong enough to one-shot the smaller Hellbugs.

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