Defiance TV Tie-ins #3

defianceweek3

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 in its first season as of the time of this writing. Invisible Gamer has reviewed the core game and now continues its look at the MMO’s content as it, as designed, evolves to connect with the TV show. (See our coverage of the first and second rounds of new content.) This time, we look at content released to coincide with the show’s third episode, The Devil in the Dark.

Out with the Old

First, I should note that episode-related content cycles in and out of the game. Just as the prelude Episode Missions that set up the first quarter hour or so of the pilot episode vanished just before the pilot aired, the Lights of the Fallen and Armistice Day pilgrim-protection Emergencies that were added after the pilot episode, have been removed as of April 29, 2013. As such, two of the game’s Episode Pursuits, Peacekeeper and Shadows of Defiance, have both been removed, since they cannot be completed without those elements. The other Episode 1 pursuit, Memories of Armistice, remains available, along with the data recorders that are necessary to complete it. All three of the Episode 2 Pursuits were kept available, as they are mostly based on kills, PVE, and PVP missions.

For what it’s worth, the game has also dropped episode numbers from these sets of Pursuits. These Episode Pursuits are now listed as Episode: ArmisticeEpisode: Most Wanted, and (in the case of this review’s new material) Episode: Svushinnira. Numbers are entirely gone from the names, perhaps to hide the situation we ran into after the show’s fourth airing week, wherein no new content was released at all. (We’ll get to that below.)

Capture and Hold: Here and Gone Again, All Over Again

The Capture and Hold match requirement that was impossible for the Episode 2 Pursuits, which was removed for Xbox 360 and PC by a patch, was finally also removed for Playstation 3 players amid the flurry of three different patches (to catch up with the other platforms), also on April 29. Frustratingly, another new patch on May 2 actually added Capture and Hold back into the game with its only map, Freight Yard. It was supposedly now free of the bugs and exploits that caused them to remove it in the first place . . . and lasted just a few hours before it proved to be so buggy that Trion Worlds updated the game to remove the map (and the mode) all over again.

To make matters more ridiculous, the map was again added back into the game, supposedly ready to go, a few days later, only to be removed a third time, as of May 8, 2013. One wonders if this map and mode will ever work correctly at this rate.

In with the New

New Episode 3 Pursuits entered the game in the wake of The Devil in the Dark. With that episode being the series’ first to feature the iconic creatures of the game, Hellbugs (and the large Hellbug creature from the Island of Lost Soldiers co-op map to boot!), it was not a huge surprise that this episode’s new content would focus on Hellbugs as well. Whereas fans were hoping for new Episode Missions with substantial story content, none were forthcoming. What was added instead was, as with the previous update, a set of new Pursuits. And, once again, there were issues of frustration and impossibility in play.

This new batch of content introduced new groups of Hellbugs into the game. Whereas the major Hellbugs remain the tiny skitterlings, larger warriors, explosive-spitting archers, and large monarchs, the regular versions of these creatures were joined by electric, incendiary, radioactive, and syphon variants thereof. These new forms could appear in previously-existing Hellbug situations, along with some new Emergencies (random encounters that spawn throughout the game world). In order to earn an EGO boost and a new title (“Aberration Exterminator”), a player must complete the Thinning the Herd Pursuit, which requires the player to kill an electric monarch, five incendiary warriors, ten electric archers, ten radioactive skitterlings, and one syphon monarch. For the most part, these were fairly easy tasks to complete. (I managed all but one of those in about two hours of play, including travel time across the map.)

There was one hitch, however. Much like the difficult-to-find pilgrim Emergencies for Episode 1 Pursuits, the electric archers necessary for this Pursuit turned out to be extremely rare, compared to other forms. Only one form of random Emergency seemed to guarantee the appearance of such a creature, and that would often provide only a few of the necessary ten kills. Were it not for the possibility of running across a Hellbug Extermination Arkfall, which might randomly end up with all electric creatures amid its multiple waves of enemies, a process that was already frustrating compared to the other kills would have probably become this week’s controller-tossing equivalent of the pilgrim Emergencies in the previous weeks. Forums were again up in arms, but it was still a doable Pursuit, just by being lucky enough to hit an electric Hellbug Arkfall. Arkfalls in general, at least, are on marked on the player’s map, making it less frustrating than pilgrim-hunting.

As with the previous weeks’ content, though, this one introduced an element that was literally impossible at the time of implementation. The second Episode 3 Pursuit, entitled Unconventional Methods, originally required the completion of four Contracts. (Contracts, as noted in an earlier review, were originally limited to players at EGO level 250 or higher. That has been changed with the May 2 patch that lowered that requirement to EGO level 175.)

The four required Contracts (all preceded with the name Svushinnira to be easy to recognize) each focused on Hellbugs. For Profit! required gathering samples from Hellbug chrysalises. For Science! required engaging in ten Hellbug-based Emergencies. Just Business required the killing of ten monarchs or matrons, which could be carried out while working to complete the Thinning the Herd Pursuit. Those were all doable from the time of implementation.

Then there was the fourth required Contract for Unconventional Methods, entitled Svushinnira: Thinning the Herd. (Yes, they once again named a new Contract the same as a new Pursuit, leading to constant confusion and conflicting information on game forums.) It was indeed a new Contract, but fans had trouble figuring out how to complete it . . . because it was not in the game at all yet. Yes, players were given a requirement again that was entirely impossible to complete.

Why did they do this a second time? Surely they knew better, right? They actually had a decent reason, though not one made clear initially.

Defiance had just initiated a contest, Most Wanted, through which a player with enough time and lack of life responsibilities to grind the living crap out of the game could win a chance to have their character’s likeness appear briefly in the show. To do so, the player would have to register with a code to join the contest, complete two Pursuits (combat and PVP), and earn the highest rate of Ark Salvage (a reward pickup) per hour during the contest’s run. Apparently, however, this did not jive well with whatever the Svushinnira: Thinning the Herd Contract was supposed to require of players. Thus, they left that Contract out of the game, until the contest reached its end on May 12, thereby keeping it from conflicting with the contest, while simultaneously engendering a great deal of frustration and forum trolling over the issue.

To alleviate this problem, in the days leading up to the end of the Most Wanted Contest, the developers removed this fourth Contract requirement from the Unconventional Methods Pursuit, allowing fans to complete the Pursuit (and those who had already completed the other three Contracts to have the Pursuit auto-complete at their next log-in).

Addendum: Week 4

I should also note here that the Defiance television series moved forward to air its next episode, A Well Respected Man on May 6. The episode itself featured a scenario somewhat similar to the adrenaline-sucking peril of the Liberate the Lost co-op map within the video game. However, aside from that conceptual link between the episode and the MMO, there was no new content released whatsoever during the gap between A Well Respected Man and the series next episode, which came as a bit of a shock to players who expected, at the very least, more “checklist” Pursuits to complete.

The Verdict

It remains to be seen whether the elemental Hellbug variants are here to stay, though they make a welcome addition to the game’s scenarios. Still, though, the game/show dynamic that began with such promise in those Episode Missions before the show’s premiere has diminished down to just a handful of new Pursuits – basically glorified checklists of activities – or no new content at all for each week. We are told that Episode Missions will emerge again soon, and we can only hope that this is true. At this rate, the potential of Defiance’s shared universe is being squandered more and more each week, and the first season of the show has not even reached its halfway point yet.

The verdict for Week 3’s content, Week 4 content absence notwithstanding:

C

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