Let’s start with the issues:
Group chat in the beta was broken. There is voice chat amongst a group (which is four folks) and a clan, but the voice chat just didn’t work most of the time. You could see the little mic icon above a group member’s head flashing, but you didn’t actually hear anything. Other times, you would hear them, but it was extremely soft and muddled to the point of being completely useless. Likewise, the text chat a lot of the times didn’t work either (a message either wouldn’t show up, or it was delayed by upwards of a minute and a half). These are all supposedly fixed in the final version of the game, and I do believe that to be the case.
The biggest issues that I came across though, were related to the sound and some lag. In Arkfalls (big random world events where a lot of players will converge to battle different waves of enemies), especially the massive ones where there’s a ton of players, the sound was downright broken. It was so choppy and distorted that it almost sounded like the speakers were going to blow up. It’s a horrible issue, one that is probably fixed in the retail version (it’s so obvious any play tester would have caught it long ago), and as far as the beta went it was extremely annoying and almost sucked the fun out of the big Arkfalls.
Secondly, there were quite a few times (though most of these times were on Tuesday), where I would be damaging enemies until they should have been dead and nothing happened. Their health was all the way down, and yet damage numbers were still a popping and they just would not die. They’d either eventually just fall over, or another player would come by, shoot them once, and then they’d die.
At other times, I would be taking damage while nowhere near the enemies, only to see them converge around nothing swinging their cleavers at thin air. Apparently, to the game, I was somewhere completely different from where I was on my screen. These instances mostly only happened on Tuesday, when the beta went live. I don’t know if it was my connection being spotty (Charter does that sometimes), or lag on the server end. The servers were taken down for quick maintenance and restarts several times, and I didn’t really experience either of those issues again, so whether it was on my end or theirs, it seemed to be fixed throughout the rest of the beta.
There was still lag present though, and this was noticeable within the game’s audio. Plenty of times I did missions and drove by some of the stationary (and random) events, only to have everything being said one after the other many minutes later. It was almost comical to hear “we need to do blah blah blah” several minutes after you’ve done it, and then be immediately followed up with “there are people who need to be rescued,” “I’ve reconstructed you, but it was costly,” “I’m detecting something moving under the ground,” “It looks like the hellbugs have found us,” and so on all in rapid succession. Thanks, but this was all stuff I would have liked to have possibly known while it was happening, not minutes later when I’m driving toward an Arkfall.
Beta issues aside, I do have to say that I loved the game. The world in the beta was only two regions, but it was still a really big area and there was a ton to do (and yes, after many hours of play it did get to be repetitive, but you were in the starter zone). What’s really impressive is the world outside of the beta borders. Supposedly, the explorable areas of the beta only made up 15% of the game world. If that’s true, then the final product will have an absolutely massive world that will be packed with things to do.
As far as gameplay goes, it worked well enough. It is a third person shooter, and the genre isn’t being reinvented. The guns work well enough and the aiming/shooting is good, so on that front it succeeds. I love that the game has battles that are more frantic and fast paced (lots of enemies, although they aren’t the smartest bunch) as opposed to being a cover based shooter. Yes, you’ll want to occasionally get behind something and crouch to give your health/shields time to bounce back, but you’re not actually jumping into cover. You’re running around and jumping and constantly moving; I like that. There is aim assist, which has sadly become commonplace for console shooters, and it can be pretty bad (read: making things easy) but I pretty much ignored it and did my own aiming (or blindfiring). Definitely something that should be tweaked though, as it is, the aim assist auto-tracks to the head.
For quite some time, many folks have kind of described this game as being almost a third person Borderlands MMO. I almost hate to say it, but that actually is a pretty good description. It is very reminiscent of Borderlands/2, and that’s a great game, so the comparison certainly isn’t a bad one or anything negative. The enemies seem like the enemies in Borderlands, there are tons of guns and you’re always picking up some form of loot. You’re not a Vault Hunter; instead you are an Ark Hunter. It does very much feel like Borderlands (without the cel-shaded graphics), but obviously doesn’t look as good (hundreds of players playing in the same world instead of up-to-four will limit the graphical abilities of any game that wants to run smoothly).
In my article talking about how the game had become my most anticipated, I said: “Defiance though is finally going to give me the MMO, and in a lot of ways the game, that I have always wanted to play. It’s a check list of almost all of my favorite things: open world, massive, third person shooter, real time skill based (i.e. no roll of the dice to see if your shot connected or not), etc.” I went on to say that it was shaping up to look like the only game I’d be playing between April 2nd and June 14th.
The beta, for me and despite its issues, reinforced that belief. Now that I’ve played it– even just a small sliver of the game’s story and world– I want it that much more. The beta showed me that the game, even in its several months old beta form, was going to be everything that I had hoped it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of playing in the beta; whether I was completing a mission solo, playing with several dozen others in big Arkfalls, or playing with three random people in the co-op instances, I had a blast.
I’ll say what I said in the aforementioned article: April 2nd really can’t get here fast enough.