Trion’s Defiance is a relatively straightforward game that’s slightly more involved than most shooters, but far less complex than the standard MMO. Still, I think there are a few good tips we can offer to help new players being pulled in by the solid Syfy TV tie-in, or for those who (smartly) had waited for the inevitable launch hiccups to get straightened out. As always, this Kickstart Guide is intended to provide general tips, not an advanced take on a small section of the game.
Wait, How Do I Log Out?
I’m thankful Defiance has relatively few gameplay systems, because the interface leaves a lot to be desired. It may seem trite to begin a guide about getting into a game with how to get out of it, but it took me five minutes to figure out how to log out of the client on PC. To save you the unnecessary frustration, hit Esc (or pull up any of the main menus), hold space bar to bring up the extra radial menu, and Log Out will be at the top right of your screen.
Designing a Character
Everyone starts in the same zone and experiences the same story. Defiance is not, strictly-speaking, a class-based MMO, but you are presented with a choice of 4 different powers at the end of the tutorial level. Decoy does exactly what you think it does. So does Cloak. Blur increases movement speed and boosts melee damage. Overcharge is the most immediately useful skill, giving a temporary boost to damage that’s quite useful in taking down elite and boss-level enemies.
Surrounding each of the 4 starting powers is an EGO Grid full of passive perks which modify your character’s stats in very specific ways (e.g. recharge shields if you do damage type X). As you gain levels, you receive EGO points which allow you to unlock and level up those perks. The number of perks you can equip increases as you level up, and you can mix perks from all of the 4 parts of the grid once you (slowly) gain access to them.
Defiance has a very flat level progression compared to most MMOs. With one notable roadblock that requires progressing the main story, a level 1 character can scoot around (and survive) pretty much anywhere but there is still an appreciable power gain as you progress through the game. Don’t come in expecting a power fantasy and you’ll be happy. Instead, it’s a rare open world game that’s truly open and not level-gated.
Progressing Weapon Skills
In addition to the EGO Grid, you also slowly increase stats based on the weapon types you use. The more damage you do with assault rifles, the better you’ll get – but there’s a catch. XP on an individual weapon has a cap. If you have a gun that you love, but the XP has maxed out, you’re not helping level that weapon type anymore. This incentivizes experimenting with new weapons, even within a preferred type.
This Isn’t Gears
If, like me, you’re playing the majority of the game solo (co-op being a function of serendipity) Defiance can be brutal at times. Disabuse yourself of the notion that you’re playing just another current-gen third-person shooter. Gears of War this is not. There is no cover mechanic. There’s rarely even a good reason to crouch behind chest-high walls. Instead, learn to run away, kite, or circle strafe when your shield drops. Roll-dodging is your best friend, even if the default button map takes some getting used to.
The game really started to click when I realized that you should almost never be standing still. For all of the awkward character animation in the game, staying alive is about being fluid, running and gunning – but doing it smartly. Twitch reflexes aren’t required, but getting into the correct position is a must. Flanking attacks can be devastating to bandits and enemy teams alike.
Enemies are Bullet Sponges, but Always Go For the Weak Spot
Nearly every enemy in the game can absorb a freakish amount of damage, especially if you only attack center mass. The game is all about finding the weak points of each enemy type and getting into position to exploit them. For humanoid enemies, that’s (almost) always the head, but other enemy types will have a literal glowing spot to indicate the best place to hit them. For certain ones, that requires having someone shooting from behind.
The Loot Tables Are Dumb, Deal With it
Don’t spend a lot of time analyzing loot. In my opinion, the system in Defiance needs a lot of work. Perhaps I got lucky, or maybe it just really clicks with my particular play style, but I’ve spent well over 50% of my time with the game with the same gun as my primary weapon. This isn’t a game where you’re constantly shedding equipment as you get better loot. In fact, inventory management is cumbersome enough I rarely pick up any loot at all unless it’s colored rare – and even then it’s still almost always worse than my current items.
Your active loadout is limited to two weapons. I tote the FRC Saw light machine gun as my primary weapon, which deals heavy damage, and has a massive magazine to limit reload time during Arkfalls and boss encounters. Alongside that, I typically carry either a shotgun for close-range or a burst-fire assault rifle to gain extra distance. I have yet to encounter a situation where I really needed a sniper rifle, and the alien weapons I’ve found have been universally disappointing though quite imaginative in their mechanics. YMMV.
What’s the Gear Chase?
Getting better loot from drops is relatively rare, as I just noted. It pays to check the generic “Supplies” Vendor for their constantly rotating specials. You also slowly accrue keycodes which can be used to buy a lockbox – essentially a random chance to gain loot. The higher tier the box, the better the loot is supposed to be.
About 10 hours in you’ll gain the ability to do Contracts, accessible in the Goals part of the radial menu. By working on tasks for the various factions, you’ll increase your reputation with them, allowing you access to their special weapons, some of which offer significant stat bumps compared to what you’ll get as quest rewards or drops.
Pay Attention to the Map, But Don’t Live By It
The main map is your guide to the various quests and activities. Main story quests are pinpointed quite well on the minimap but the game currently doesn’t support setting a custom waypoint for side quests, frequently making navigation frustrating. I’ve found that toggling off “rotate map with camera” makes navigation much easier. In fact, I wish all games would just stick to a fixed north minimap, or at least make that an option.
It’s tempting to turn your Defiance experience into a checklist. Quest over here. Complete. Quest over there. Complete. Now there’s a quest back there? Okay, complete. As you drive through areas, however, you’ll discover all sorts of incidental encounters not marked on the map at all. I really hope future title updates expand on this, because the world as it is can be sparse. I also like to keep my eye out for players working on quests I’ve completed, in case they need a hand. The quests are all built around easy repetition, the only downside being that hardly anyone bothers to communicate over public chat (whether voice or text) on PC currently.
An Arkfall a Night
Arkfalls are Defiance’s analogue to Rift’s eponymous Rifts, and offer crazy spectacle in an otherwise understated shooter. Do too many in a row, however, and even the most exciting part of the game gets tedious, since there’s not much diversity in the encounters. Strike a balance between questing and chasing Arkfalls. They’re fun, but don’t represent a persistent threat like Rift, nor offer a unique currency reward like the public Events in Guild Wars 2.
At this point, many of Defiance’s technical flaws have been ironed out and patches to add content are on their way. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch, but with these tips you can have a lot of fun being an Arkhunter. As Jim Hunter and I have both observed, it’s far more addicting than it has a right to be on its surface.