Defiance DLC #1 (Castithan Charge Pack) Review

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Defiance is a multiplatform (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) MMO third-person shooter, based in the universe of the SyFy television series of the same name, which is now in a dead time between its first season finale and the launch of the second season in mid-2014. Invisible Gamer has reviewed the core game and now continues its look at the MMO’s content as it evolves. With ten updates surrounding the show’s first season, we now check out the first official paid DLC add-on for the game, the Castithan Charge Pack.

Let’s be clear here—people come to these Defiance content reviews because (a) we are one of the few sites to actually review each update and (b) the depth of coverage. This was a huge update, so expect a rather lengthy look at these. If you simply want to know whether to spend the money, skip on down to the two different letter grades at the end of this review.

A Mixture of Paid and Free

Since Defiance is an MMO, its add-on content works as a mixture of free and paid content. The game is updated for everyone to include some new content, and the paid DLC content adds extra goodies on top of that. The price tag is $9.99 for each DLC pack, or $39.99 for a season pass that entitles the player to all five of the DLC packs that are to be released between now and the launch of the second season of the TV show (at a savings of $9.96). Of course, all promises from Trion Worlds seem to be relative to the current situation on the company’s end. The DLC was originally meant to launch far earlier, but constant bug fixes delayed its release until after the first season of the show was complete. In any case, the question becomes whether the extra goodies are worth paying, and if the add-ons that everyone gets are enough to satiate the Defiance enthusiast.

Free Content: The World Evolves

The free content that has been added into the game with the patch associated with the DLC is substantial this time around, as one would expect with a true DLC update, rather than a weekly content update. 

All players now have access to a new form of major and minor Arkfall. Along with the standard three Hellbug major Arkfall variants and the Scrapper major Arkfall, players can now face a Dark Matter Arkfall, in which they face Dark Matter enemies (the fiercest in the game), a huge Dark Matter Monolith (the walker style robot that initially blocks the Golden Gate Bridge and will blow you to smithereens if you try to cross before the storyline allows it), and an unusual set of devices that supercharge your EGO powers during combat. Smaller Dark Matter Arkfalls are also now available, alongside the various enemy faction minor Arkfalls. These are a welcome addition to the frantic Arkfalls that often include dozens upon dozens of players at a time. Dark Matter doesn’t look so tough when pounced upon by a quarter of the players on a given server at once . . .

Sieges, one of the most acclaimed game modes that was added for the Afflicted storyline and subsequently removed, are finally back with a twist. Rather than facing wave after wave of Afflicted (quasi-zombies), players now face waves of Volge, the powerhouse enemies who appeared in the last regular content update to the game. Two new Pursuits (and data recorders) have also been added to the Volge Incursion Episode Pursuits to go along with these, providing awards that include special Volge helmets for player characters, akin to the (*cough* overpriced *cough*) Volge helmets made available for purchase with Bits (i.e. real money) in the game’s store. One new Volge Incursion Pursuit, Volge Vindication, features a brief data recorder hunt and a strange side mission that can only be undertaken during a Volge Siege (not made clear at all in-game). The side mission is well worth it, though, as it provides a new Volge Light Machine Gun variant that is quite effective. However, the second new pursuit, Volge Violence, is currently “bugged” and was apparently the same in the PC alpha game testing recently. It requires completing 10 Volge Sieges, achieving a specific score, and reaching a specific stage – all of which are doable – but then it also requires completing each “type” of Volge Siege. No matter how many times you complete each siege, that last requirement will not check off on any platform, making the Pursuit’s reward perpetually out of reach. A solution is said to be in the works, but since Episode Pursuits are often removed after a short time, there is some reason to wonder if that solution will come before Volge Violence is removed from the game entirely.

A second weapon type, charge weapons, are also available. These can be acquired through random loot drops, as rewards for Arkfalls (a type of loot drop), and from the Thorn Liro faction vendor. Charge weapons allow for a weapon to charge up before shooting, which provides a unique bonus for whatever blast it produces.

PVP fans will be excited to see two new tweaks with this update. First, the Shadow War mode (in which huge numbers of players play an expanded game of capture and hold in the regular world instead of a map that is separate from the main world, while other players and enemies continue to exist and interact in that same area) has been tweaked to begin with fewer players queued to play. This should drastically increase the frequency of these matches, which originally tended to require so many players that you would often find yourself queued for hours, watching the notifications note that you need 7 more players . . . 10 more players . . . 6 more players . . . 12 more . . .

The regular Capture and Hold mode, which until now has only had a single map (Freight Yard, which took many updates to finally return after being found to be rather buggy originally) has now been updated with a new (and, yes, buggy) map, the Military Academy. The new map is interesting in its layout and takes a blasted, post-apocalyptic approach to its style that makes stark contrast with Freight Yard.

Players can also now duel with one another, quickly challenging another player in a brief confrontation to see who can fire the first successful shot at the other player. Think of it as super-short, super-tiny PVP gameplay. It isn’t extremely interesting, but it marks the only other new Pursuit added into the game for all players: a new Duelist category within the Competitive Multiplayer section of the Season One Pursuits list.

I should also note that, while not considered a DLC connection, per se, there have also been updates to the chat system (a step downward, given that it seems to be pretty glitchy at the moment), the world map (with more details provided for each fast travel point),  fast travel points (with more now), and the way people can queue for multiplayer (competitive, cooperative, and Shadow War), which can now be done via representatives at most fast travel points, instead of having to use the menu system. This will hopefully draw more new players into those modes.

For a free update, this is the biggest and best yet. One wonders what DLC and Season Pass buyers have actually paid for, however, given how much has arrived free . . .

Paid Content

The answer is: a little new content, but mostly a head-start.

Since the game’s launch, only two playable races have existed: human and Irathient. Now, the Castithan race (think Datak Tarr in the TV series) has been added into the mix for paying DLC customers. Tied into this is a new means of redesigning your character’s look, which will require Bits (real money) for those without the DLC. DLC purchasers are allowed one free recustomization of their character, and they can create a Castithan character with any new character curing customization.

New storyline missions were advertised for the DLC, and what we receive is something that feels more substantial than a standard Side Mission and some of the Episode Missions, yet less robust and connected to the main Story Missions than we many had expected. Players begin with a new mission, The Whisper’s Scream, during which players again hunt down a few data recorders. These lead to the Diablo Lighthouse (an existing location with a new fast travel point), where the player gains access to the new Battle Arenas. For the storyline, the player must face each of five different Arenas, earning a silver medal on each to complete this new tale. As a reward for completing the storyline, the player receives a new mask and, most importantly, a new weapon type: a charge blade (lightsaber style weapons used by Castithans). The Battle Arenas are essentially a sort of “horde mode” in which the player can use any of their own loadouts to face off with five waves (per arena) of previously-existing enemies, increasing in difficulty as one moves up through the five types of arena. These award “Reputation” for a new faction, Thorn Liro, which has a vendor at Diablo Lighthouse. This new vendor sells charge blades, new titles, and charge weapons, which are all only available to those with Thorn Liro Reputation (i.e. paying DLC customers). The Battle Arenas can be returned to at any time, allowing a great opportunity for farming kills, gaining Thorn Liro Reputation, and a decent challenge for most players. For their part, charge blades drastically alter the melee combat in the game, which, until this point, has been limited to firearms that sometimes happen to have bonuses when smacking someone across the face with the weapon itself. Finally, the Blur EGO power looks like a more viable weapon in combat, instead of just a method of running behind players with a shotgun in PVP modes.

A new vehicle has been introduced to the game. Until now, fans could play with two rollers that can be purchased in the game with scrip: a Dodge Challenger or Duni Shetarru buggy. Two runners (four-wheelers basically), the Growler and Hannibal, have also been available for scrip. If you preordered via Steam, recommended the game to a handful of friends, or spent real money in the Bit Store, you could also access a pickup truck called the Nomad. Each has various scrip-paid and Bit-paid color schemes, but these five main vehicle types have remained static throughout the game’s life until now. Players have also had access to a military-style vehicle called the Cerberus, complete with a missile launcher and turret, but only in Capture and Hold, Shadow War, and the Explosions 101 co-op map. Now, players have access to the Raptor, a vehicle that looks similar to the Cerberus but boasts no weapons at all. It can carry three other players for when playing in groups, but is otherwise a dull and slow means of transportation that most players will quickly dump in favor of a Duni Shetarru or Hannibal. (Many fans have been annoyed that early plans commented upon by Trion Worlds that the Raptor would include a turret were changed, leaving it weaponless.) Paying DLC customers receive a Raptor automatically, while non-paying players will have to purchase a Raptor, if desired, in the Bit Store.

Paying players also receive one new Castithan-based costume that is available only with the DLC, along with a “starter pack” of charge weapons, including a pistol, shotgun, and sniper rifle. (These weapons are pretty easy to come by as loot drops without paying, though. During the downtime when the PS3 version of the paid DLC was unavailable due to an issue on Sony’s end, I managed to snag two charge weapons in the span of about half an hour of play.)

The Verdict

I have to give this one two different grades—one for all players, and another for those who actually purchased the Castithan Charge Pack.

For players who did not purchase the pack, the lack of playing as a Castithan and having to get charge blades through Tier 4 Lockbox luck, charge weapons via loot drops, and the Raptor via the Bit Store can be a bit frustrating (Then again, if you don’t pay, what do you expect?). Overall, this update has been a huge push of new content and something that any fan should be able to welcome and enjoy. For them, this update rates a grade of . . .

A-Plus

On the other hand, DLC purchasers will likely be annoyed by the sheer volume of “their” content that was actually just an update to the game for everyone, rather than something unique to those who spent cash to buy the DLC. Players who paid have gained:

  • Access to the Battle Arenas and their related (brief) storyline and Pursuits
  • a unique costume
  • a new race to play
  • a new faction with its own Reputation and vendor, which means new Contracts
  • a “free” recustomization of their main character
  • a uniquely-colored Raptor vehicle
  • a head start on charge weapons with one of each category (three total)
  • the ability to gain access to charge blades via the Battle Arenas or the Thorn Liro vendor, rather than expensive Tier 4 Lockboxes that only provide a chance at at charge blade

Given that other Raptor variants can be purchased for 960 bits in the Bit Store (the equivalent of $9.23, $10.67, or $11.97, depending on which bit package you purchase), then if you want the Raptor, the Castithan Charge Pack is a no-brainer purchase. However, if you really don’t particularly care for the Raptor, this may be a tough sell. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more “meat” to the Story Mission and at least to not have to use bits to purchase anything but the basic charge blade color (bluish white). While I am not adverse to paying $9.99 for this particular DLC, I would hope that future packs contain a bit more content for paying customers, even if that means a bit less for everyone else.

For missing the mark and acting more of a leg up in some areas than unique acquisitions for DLC purchasers, this DLC earns a rather “meh” grade of . . .

C

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