A week or three ago, Bungie, the makers of Halo, opened their upcoming MMO first-person shooter, Destiny, to PS3 / PS4 players, for an open beta and stress test. I played it for a few hours, the night before the beta ended.
A day or three ago, Trion Worlds made their MMO third-person shooter, Defiance (sponsored by Dodge!), free-to-play for people on PS3 consoles. It's based on a SyFy TV series that I've never watched. I downloaded it a few days ago, and have played it every day since, partly because a PSN friend invited me to her clan.
Here's what I make of the two.
A few minutes into Defiance, I thought "This game is awfully silly." That impression has yet to leave me.
It tries very hard to be "hardcore" with its characters and world design, from the square-jawed colonel in charge of the Not A Spaceship at the beginning to the wise-cracking, alien Bad Girl, who largely pushes the main plot forward. She loves chargin' in and killin' her some post-apocalyptic mutants, and the whole game is based on the premise that you do, too.
Which leaves my "survivalist" character up shtako creek without a paddle, because so far she's run into:
Men who can take a direct shot to the face from a bolt-action rifle,
Hills that can't be climbed even with a backpack full of survival gear,
Wildlife that runs after her as soon as it sees her,
Trucks that just sit in one place and disgorge wave after wave of enemy soldiers without resupply,
Quests that can't be completed until I run up close to a target with no cover,
"Friendly" soldiers that shout at her to "Get over here and HELP!" while she's finding a position to snipe from,
And more cheesy one-liners than you can shake a hellbug at.
In a way, it's kind of a letdown. Because they let me create, as my character, a woman of colour who's a "survivalist" and a "professional" and who actually dresses the part, right down to the beat-up propane tank attached to her pack. And instead of Don't Starve in 3D, I ended up having to bro it up in the bro-iest bro shooter ever.
So why the jekk am I playing it?
Because I haven't played pretty much any shooters since DUST 514, minus brief excursions into Uncharted and Bioshock, and it's ... actually kind of fun. In a cheesy, ridiculous way, but fun nonetheless. The premise (an alien colonization of Earth gone wrong) is interesting, despite how the game handles it, and I feel invested in my character. This is one of the few games that feels like it lets me inhabit a world as myself, so I figure I might as well make the best of it, especially as long as I have a few friends here.
I just get the impression that it was made by a bunch of TV execs, based on a stereotype of "what gamers like."
Other than that it was made by the people behind Halo, and that it involved a big sphere floating over a city for some reason, I had no idea what to expect when I logged in to the Destiny beta. But enough people were talking about it online, with what seemed to be wonder and awe, that I started it up with my headset on and the overhead light switched off.
It pulled me in right away, with graphics that seemed almost PS4-quality and ... a reverence I rarely see, for the power of myth and the people who want to be part of it. Just the way they use words, like Titan and Ghost, that makes it seem like these are the names for something sacred. I didn't feel like I was "playing a game" so much as that I was physically there, helping act out a story, like when I went on the Star Trek: The Experience "ride" years ago.
I didn't know what was shooting at me, or why I was able to shoot back. I just knew these things were somehow responsible for the destruction that I'd woken up in, and that my revival was supposed to somehow bring back ... what?
Transhuman civilization, apparently, including both living machines and mysterious "Awoken." "These worlds were once ours," says the poster in the limited edition set, depicting the solar system. But what was that civilization like, besides grand and ancient? It felt kind of like playing Journey, and having to use your imagination to fill in the intentional gaps in the myth. This was no dystopia I was fighting for; it was whatever I thought was ideal. The best impressions I'd gotten from living on Earth.
I'm sure there's story material that fills in the gaps, somewhere. But they don't give it to you up front, and there aren't all the silly, ridiculous things in the gameplay that jarred me out of Defiance. Granted, I haven't played Destiny as long. But it left a strong impression, and I am tempted to preorder it.
Oh, and the gameplay was fun, too.