Hunkered down behind a boulder just outside of Split Rock Mine, explosions going off all around me as bullets tear into my scant bit of cover, I wonder how I’m ever going to get myself out of this mess.
I’m in the bay area, not too far from where the legendary battle of Defiance took place. On that day, a handful of human and alien soldiers decided to put aside their differences in order to protect a group of refugees seeking shelter in an abandoned museum.
The “Defiant Few” were grossly outnumbered, a feeling I’m becoming all too familiar with as an incendiary grenade lands nearby, forcing me to haphazardly roll out of cover before the area is engulfed in flames. Exposed, I take multiple hits from a hail of gunfire as I bolt for a nearby tree, the damage whittling away at my shield until an alarm signals that the next bullet will be tearing into flesh.
I wait for my shield to recharge before popping out of cover to get a good look at my situation. It’s not pretty. Two heavy raiders are coming up on my right, both toting massive metal shields and powerful shotguns. A squad of four raiders are off to my left, firing tirelessly and only easing off the trigger long enough to lob the occasional grenade. In the distance, four more raiders are spraying bullets in my direction. Behind them, I see two turrets stationed on short towers, lasers searching the landscape for any Ark hunter foolish enough to venture too close.
When that rich Liberatan told me he needed help clearing raiders out of his mine, he forgot to mention that I would basically be going up against a small army. Raiders usually turn up in small packs, harassing local farmers or laying siege to military transports. I’m not used to taking on so many at once.
I roll out from behind my tree and toss a stun grenade in front of the two armored raiders on my right, the charge paralyzing them long enough for me to run around to their backs and shoot them where they’re vulnerable. This, of course, leaves me open to the rest of the attacking raiders, which results in me having to dash behind cover once again, shield depleted for a second time and health inching quickly towards death.
The remaining raiders are closing in fast, which is when I notice the two purple dots creeping onto my mini-map. An overwhelming sense of frustration gives way to renewed determination as two fellow Ark hunters come barreling down the road on ATVs, both mercenaries diving from their vehicles and proceeding to pump round after round into the surprised raiders.
With a little backup to rely on, I abandon cover completely, joining the fray as the three of us manage to mow down the remaining opposition with ease. While my two saviors pick off the last couple of raiders, I activate my cloaking ability and sneak past the turrets undetected. I find the generator providing those bastards with juice and shut it down. Our path into Split Rock mine is now clear.
I press a button on a panel bolted to the massive wall surrounding the mine and a rolling door slides open, giving us access to the compound. We’ve still got three more generators to shut off and a handful of miners to save. And along the way, there’s sure to be a few dozen more raiders to take care of. But now that the three of us are working together, I’m far more hopeful about the future of this mission.
These types of situations pop up on a regular basis in Defiance, the new third-person shooter MMO from Trion Worlds, and I consider this to be one of the game’s greatest strengths.
I wrote a piece a while back about how multiplayer video games were losing their luster for me. I’ll still fire up something like Battlefield 3 from time to time but, for the most part, games with a heavy focus on multiplayer just don’t seem to hold my attention like they used to. I used to lose whole months of my life to the online portions of games like Halo 2, Killzone 2 and Counter-Strike but, nowadays, that constant chain of kill, die, upgrade, repeat just doesn’t do it for me.
I think I’ve become a bit too fickle, really. I like to jump into an online match from time to time, but I can’t seem to go more than a couple of rounds before deciding that I’d rather be playing a single player campaign. And I absolutely adore a good co-op session every now and again, but not if I’m going to be stuck with a couple of randos for hours on end while we tackle wave after wave of enemies.
It’s as if I become antisocial when I play games online, which kind of defeats the point, really. If I don’t know you, there’s a pretty good chance that I have no desire to talk to you. And I most certainly don’t want to hear you yammer on about strategy, how awesome you think you are and what I need to do in order to help you be even more awesome. I just want us to see the situation, work together to address it, and part ways when it’s over. If we can skip most of the jibba-jabba, that’s usually a plus in my book.
And that’s exactly what Defiance is providing me with. It’s basically the perfect kind of shooter for my bizarre tastes. If I want to jump into an online match, I can join a queue at the press of a few buttons and, when enough players are ready to roll, the game will automatically teleport me to the multiplayer map. From there I can mow down a few enemies, curse myself for not equipping better gear and, when it’s all said and done, drop right back into my single player campaign.
When it comes to co-op, it’s completely organic. I have the option to look for a group of like-minded team players and go on quests together but, as I’ve just said, that sort of gameplay no longer appeals to me.
What does appeal to me, however, is the ability to seamlessly wander into someone’s mission and help them achieve their goals. Or, as with the scenario I opened with, have said strangers wander into my mission and provide immediate support without needing to be invited, grouping up or any of that nonsense. We don’t have to talk, we don’t have to become instant BFFs and we don’t have to stick together after the mission is over. Instead, we can jump up and down a couple of times (the universal sign for “Hi. Thanks for the help. See ya later.”), jump onto our own ATVs and go our separate ways.
For someone who likes social gameplay without all of those typical “social” aspects getting in the way, it’s been pretty damn magical.
About the Author:
Ryan Winslett is an Arizona-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a contributing writer for Gaming Blend and his work has also appeared on Joystiq, Gamasutra and Joystick Division. His only crime is loving too much.
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