Bioshock Infinite and a Baptismal Refund

The contents of this article may ironically be inflammatory or offensive.
More importantly, it contains spoilers for Bioshock Infinite.

Please read at your own risk.


Polygon and Kotaku posted reports earlier today about a player of Bioshock Infinite who supposedly received a refund from Valve through Steam because of his discontent with the game’s content.

The player, Breen Malmberg, stated in an interview with Kotaku that, “As baptism of the Holy spirit is at the center of Christianity — of which I am a devout believer — I am basically being forced to make a choice between committing extreme blasphemy by my actions in choosing to accept this ‘choice’ or forced to quit playing the game before it even really starts.” He also states in his support letter to Valve that he must receive a refund “on the grounds that he cannot play it.” The full Kotaku and Polygon articles contain the entirety of the interview with Malmberg and his letter to Valve voicing his concerns.

If you’re already beginning to form your own opinions on Bioshock Infinite, Malmberg, and Christianity, you’re not alone. Without going into explicit detail, suffice to say that I am familiar with both the tenants of Christianity and the criticism it receives. For those unaware, baptism in Christianity symbolizes the washing-away of one’s past sins and being seen as a new person in the eyes of the Lord. That’s the gist of it, anyway.

In Bioshock Infinite, one of the very first moments in the game involves the player character Booker DeWitt being forced to undergo a baptism to enter the eponymous floating city of Columbia. Malmberg’s discontent comes not from the act of baptism itself, but that the baptism is carried out in the name of a religion that is not his own. To him, being forced into a baptism in the game is equatable to committing blasphemy to his own, real-life religious beliefs. It is because of this that he asks for a refund — he refuses to carry on in the game so as not to spoil his own faith. Depending on your viewpoints, this either makes perfect sense or is utter lunacy. I happen to be in the ‘lunacy’ camp, but not because of his Christian faith. Not directly because of it, anyway.

Bioshock Infinite is an immersive video game, without a doubt. As you can read in my review, I lauded the game for presenting players with a living, breathing world to venture through and the gripping struggle that Booker and Elizabeth face throughout it. The baptism in the beginning of the game is symbolic in its own right; not just because of what it symbolizes for Christianity or the religious zealots of Columbia, but because of what it represents for Booker. At the end of Infinite, it’s revealed that the Booker we play as refused a baptism earlier in his life that an alternate-reality Booker accepted. The Booker that accepted it became the game’s antagonist Zachary Comstock.

My issue with this entire debacle — with Malmberg’s contention, Valve’s refund, and the in-game baptism itself — is that his complaints are utterly unjustified even in the eyes of a devout Christian. As I mentioned, I’m not critical of Malmberg’s actions because of his faith. No, I am critical because of abhorrent lack of attachment to reality on the behalf of Malmberg and any whose perceptions align with his own.

It should be seen as common sense that video games are not reality. I do not actually feel as though I’m throwing a fireball with the “Devil’s Kiss” Vigor, nor do I feel as though I’ve been washed by the Blood of the Lamb when I went through with the baptism to enter the city, yet Mr. Malmberg apparently did. Well, I suppose it’d be more accurate to say that he didn’t, since he never experienced either of these things. I don’t claim to blame him individually for these views, but he does happen to be the offended party in this situation.

Where is the line drawn for being offended, though? If one is offended at a baptism in a game, then surely one would be offended by the practice of slavery. Or the worship of the Founding Fathers. Or the contempt for Abraham Lincoln and praise of John Wilkes Booth. Or what about the player themselves killing hundreds of thousands of people throughout the course of the game? At what point does one stop being offended by offensive things? Is it Irrational Games trying to make you question your faith? Or bow to idols? Or encourage subjugation? Or is it simply that they are using these as literary elements to draw the player into a more involved and immersive world? My money is on the latter.

It is curious to me that so many different people find so many different things offensive. Mr. Malmberg was unwilling to continue past the baptism. Would others have been unwilling to continue past the infamous Raffle? Would still others object to the Order of the Raven and refuse to advance through the game? Malmberg chose to end his playthrough very early. Others may have chosen to end it a bit later. Are not all of these things horrifyingly offensive, though? Does not the act of enslaving another human being draw contempt and hatred? Is it acceptable to murder hundreds, destroy cities, and ruin lives? Did Malmberg see the man in the lighthouse at the very, very beginning, shot in the head execution-style with a burlap sack over his face and think to himself, “This is perfectly acceptable,” and move on? At what point does one draw the line at being daunted enough to refuse to go any further? It appears to me to be a case of hypocrisy at best and wildly misplaced morals at its worst.

Malmberg isn’t the only one complaining about these sorts of things, of course. You can look back in time and see plenty of people not engaging in media they disagree with. After all, how many complaints were there by Christian groups in 2005 when “Brokeback Mountain” was released? Yet just a year before, how many of them flocked to see “The Passion of the Christ” in theaters? Does seeing a film about an interpretation of the sacrifice of their prophet suddenly make extreme, gruesome, and graphic violence acceptable? What makes the events of “The Passion” any more real than the events of “Brokeback Mountain” or Bioshock Infinite, or any less offensive? If I find the excessive violence of a game offensive, can I receive a refund?

You are not Booker DeWitt. You are not being baptized. You are not killing people. You are not helping a girl name Elizabeth escape from a floating city in the sky. It is not 1912. This is more about realizing the difference between fantasy and reality than about anyone’s religious beliefs. There are plenty of Christians out there who realize the difference between being baptized in real life and being baptized in a video game. What has happened here is that Valve made a mistake by kowtowing to the wishes of one such individual who cannot. Inability to separate fantasy and reality to enjoy a fantastic work of art is not grounds for a refund. All this has served to do is set a bad precedent, not only for Valve and game developers, but for reasonable, level-headed people everywhere.

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On the Defiance TV Show

Defiance Syfy

My experience with the Defiance game encouraged me to check out the TV show on SyFy if just to learn a bit more about the world they live in. I did learn a little bit more, but not nearly as much as I had hoped.

What I did get was a witty and engaging sci-fi program in a world that actually felt real populated by characters that actually mattered. I have got to say, I’m impressed. I’m impressed more because it’s a SyFy exclusive show, not because it’s also got a tie-in video game. Defiance has stark shades of Eureka and Firefly with just a light sprinkling of Battlestar Galactica, and all of that coalesced into a show I found myself laughing at, cheering for, and desperately wanting more when it ended.

This isn’t going to be a blog about the Defiance show, nor will I cover any more on the Defiance game, but I will absolutely be checking out future episodes of this show on my own time. I hope that the high points of the outstanding premiere can carry on into the rest of the series. Like the game, the TV show suffered when it came to the action, but also like the game it soared when the writing and actors were allowed to flex their muscles.

I haven’t sat down to watch a TV show in months, but I am glad that it was for a show with this much raw potential. I just hope it executes it better than the game.

Defiance Fails to Defy Mediocrity


Reviewing a massively multiplayer game is difficult. An MMO always has more content, balancing, and fixes added in after launch, and most of them typically have a few features missing or incomplete. Defiance is no exception. In some ways, it’s a prime example of a game released before it’s had time to be properly completed, but far enough along in development that they’ve ironed out the glaring issues. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it, but it’s nowhere near as completed as it could be. It’s merely “competent”.

Thankfully, Trion Worlds did not release a broken game with Defiance, just one that hadn’t yet fully matured. All of the systems work and there are no game-breaking flaws as are present with so many other MMO launches. It’s simply that what is there is not as fleshed out as one would hope for such an ambitious project.

What this title does differently right out of the gate, though, is hook you with an interesting premise. Defiance is a tie-in game to a SyFy channel original show of the same name which takes place in a destroyed and terraformed St. Louis, Missouri. The game, however, is set in the similarly destroyed and terraformed bay area surrounding the coastal city of San Francisco, California.

A catastrophe involving crashed alien ships has caused Earth to be transformed into something nearly unrecognizable. In this post-apocalypse, the few humans and aliens band together to attempt to survive while salvaging useful alien ‘arktech’ from wrecked ships and try to forge a living with what remains. If you’re already starting to feel lost from that lack of exposition, then don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Since this is a television tie-in game, Trion seems content to let most of the actual backstory be told in the show.

A short slideshow gives the very basic gist of just what the hell’s going on and then a few cutscenes later you’re dropped into the world. You’ll likely pick up bits and pieces along the way, but most of the game’s setting and characters are completely unexplained without heading to the Wikipedia entry.

Drab Locations

Those familiar with the Bay Area in our real world may notice some dissimilarities with the Bay Area in Defiance as Trion has taken some major liberties in constructing this open-world playground. Notably, the city of San Francisco is now a desolated island and the beautiful rolling hills of Marin County and the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge are now have been replaced with fields of brown dust and a towering heap of twisted metal respectively.

If you were sick of modern games featuring desaturated colors and various shades of grey, be prepared to be disappointed by Defiance. While there are some interesting graphical perks like pretty explosions and reasonably high-quality character and enemy models, the overall graphical fidelity of Defiance leaves much to be desired. Expect to see multitudes of destroyed buildings and streets nearly everywhere you go, all complete with muddy textures and low-quality models.

A poor draw distance and disappearing NPC models from long range puts the final nail in what could have been a great looking game. The design seems to be there in fits and starts, but the actual look of the world is just a step above an eyesore. Thankfully, the game does scale very well to older hardware, although given that this title wouldn’t be graphically out of place 6 years ago, this isn’t necessarily a surprise.

Though the locales may be drab, the way you get around them is certainly not. Early in the game you’re given access to a personal vehicle, with new rides available for purchase later on. They’re fast, agile, and very fun to drive. The handling of some of the larger vehicles leaves a bit to be desired, but their faster speed or sturdier shields can make up for a lot of lost maneuverability from the off-road quad bikes.

Pic 8

Menu navigation is a big problem in the PC version of Defiance. Unlike in most MMOs, any active menu will fill the entire screen and the screens themselves are a chore to navigate. It absolutely reeks of a concession for the console versions that translated poorly to PC, as does most of the interface in the game. To go from menu to menu (from Character Loadout to Settings, for example), you must hit ESC, hold the spacebar, and then click the option you want from a popup radial menu. It’s obtrusive and unnecessary, but on a slight positive note, the menus do look very slick. It’s also worth noting that there are almost no graphical settings to speak of. A simply “Quality” selector and a few other bits and bobs amounts to the entirety of graphical customization.

Through my many hours of playing through the early days of Defiance, one thing has become very clear to me: this game is basically Borderlands The MMO. Combat, items, weapon design and function, and game mechanics and skill trees are all hugely reminiscent of Borderlands and Borderlands 2. It’s almost as if Trion took the ideas from Gearbox’s franchise and stuck them into a destroyed world with Guild Wars 2‘s questing system. It’s not uncommon given their history for Trion Worlds to “borrow ideas” from other MMOs, but Defiance proves different enough from the many games it derives from that never once does it feel like you’re playing a two-bit knockoff of another title.

Episode Mission 4

The quests and storyline of Defiance is hit and miss. Public quests in the style of Guild Wars 2 or Warhammer Online are present here but in a very limited capacity. They generally amount to running to an objective and holding the ‘Use’ key to complete it or defending an outpost for a set amount of time. The repeating side missions provide little challenge, little reward, and very little fun. Said optional missions are just a unnecessary distraction, however, as the real meat of the questing comes from the Story and Episode missions.

Story Missions lead you through the main campaign of Defiance in a rather impressive cinematic quest chain. The character models and voice acting in these missions are leaps and bounds above the quality of the rest of the game and you’ll actually feel compelled to go through them instead of just going through the motions and clicking “Complete”. Interesting characters and engaging story arcs are the silver lining in what would otherwise be a rather run-of-the-mill game.

Perhaps the best example of the storytelling that Defiance has to offer are the Episode Missions. Episode Missions are, as their title implies, missions that are tied to the actual Defiance television program. Your avatar joins the main characters Nolan and Irisa on various missions to help them escape from the Bay Area to head to their eventual destination of Antarctica.  In what capacity they actually influence the show remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that they provide some of the most interesting story and character-driven content in the game.

Nolan and Irisa along with the various side characters inject a fantastic narrative into the interesting setting of Defiance along with providing a bit more detail on the backstory of the world. The presentation of the Episode Missions is cinematic in every sense. Dynamic camera angles, appropriate musical cues, and well-animated characters all contribute to a sense of high production value, none of which I was expecting in an MMO.

Episode Mission 6

These missions, especially the cutscenes, feel like the natural progression of what The Old Republic was trying to accomplish with their cinematic presentation, but Defiance has the advantage of well-done animations and characters that actually show emotion. Don’t expect to be making any moral choices here, though; the storylines of Defiance are on a very strict rail and you’re just along for the ride. This is really not a complaint so much as a general statement, as I wouldn’t really expect to be able to personally influence the major characters from the tie-in TV show.

Perhaps the most exciting multiplayer portions of Defiance are the arkfalls. These randomly-generated, sprawling encounters have multiple phases that encourage players to converge in a smaller area of the map to cooperate toward a single goal. Smaller objectives build into larger ones, eventually setting all of the potentially 100+ man strong force against a single boss encounter. They are long enough to feel substantial, reward you for contributing, are difficult without being frustrating, and give you real, tangible encouragement to actually give it your best to complete them.

Pic 11

The skill tree in Defiance is an exercise in frustration and poor design. The EGO Grid, as it’s called, works very similarly to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X or the Passive Abilities in Path of Exile. There are four active abilities to pick from such as a temporary speed increase or damage boost, but the abilities are so short-lived that they do little to influence your style of play. In addition, the perks, or passive abilities, that can be acquired through additional skill points are boring and underwhelming, such as small percentage bonuses to specific types of damage.

Worse yet, the perks that surround each of the four starting points are catered specifically to a single playstyle. Want to use the Cloak ability to sneak behind enemies? That’s great as long as you’re using a sniper rifle, as every perk surrounding Cloak deals almost exclusively in dealing extra damage with headshots. The same is true with the Overcharge damage boost — nearly every perk surrounding it is activated with explosives, something a machine gunner would never use. This unfortunate shoehorning of playstyles can ruin attractive skill choices and frustrate players looking to play the way they see fit.

The gunplay in Defiance won’t light the world on fire, but for what the game is (an MMO) it does it reasonably well. Taking cover from fire, controlling recoil, and aiming precisely are all important skills to master in Defiance, as is choosing the correct loadout. In what I consider a supremely foolish move, Trion has restricted the number of weapons per loadout to two. Yes, in a game with an overabundance of interesting and unique weapon choices, you are expected to use precisely two of them in any given encounter. Changing the loadouts can be done in combat, but you must open the menu screen and manually switch them, though there is no penalty in doing so.

Arkfall 5 - Hellion2

The guns themselves perhaps steal the show in Defiance far more than any story mission. I alluded to Borderlands earlier and not for no reason. Randomized weapon effects and visual variety is one of the major highlights in the game. From sniper rifles that shoot dark energy to double-barreled shotguns that fire grenades instead of shells, the number of interesting and wacky weapons that you can find in Defiance is staggering. Very rarely if ever will you find a weapon that’s the same as another. Adding to this is the ability to attach mods to your weapons that have actual visual distinctions. The minor bonuses the mods confer make their practical use underwhelming, but the customizable style and flair they add to the weapons still gives a big reason to use them.

Sadly, levelling up through Defiance’s 5000 EGO Rankings, or levels as they’re more commonly known, is less exciting than it sounds. Yes, there are thousands of levels, but there is very little sense of progression from level 1. Every weapon you acquire will do a set amount of damage based on its type. The very first sniper rifle you get in the game will still be competitive with the Level 400 rifle you obtain later. The main difference between them will be visuals and the variety of stat distribution. It doesn’t help that many weapon and grenade types feel worthless or redundant, as well.

This lack of progression, more than anything, is what will hold Defiance back from becoming a great game. Within the first two to three hours of Defiance, you’ve seen and done almost everything there is to do. After the story missions are finished and you’ve gotten your fill of arkfalls, there remains very little enticing you to return to the game.


Weapon collecting is only viable for so long as the weapons themselves never upgrade in stats. The random events are only fun for the first few times, and then you’re tired of them. The lack of things to do is something that plagues new MMOs, but in this sense Defiance is one of the absolute worst offenders of the genre.

The longevity of the game is entirely dependent on new updates and DLC, which Trion is no doubt hard at work on. You’ll have to fork over some extra for the good stuff, though — a $40 season pass is available to get all the additional content, and one can only hope they are expansion-sized to justify that price tag. Trion does have a good track record for delivering post-launch content, though, so it may yet save the title in the future.

If nothing else, what the Defiance game has encouraged me to do is check out the “Defiance” TV show to learn more about the characters and world. I suppose in that sense, mission accomplished to the marketing team behind Trion and SyFy. The biggest crime here is that a fantastic setting and interesting characters are held back by a merely competent and utterly forgettable game. The most that can be said about Defiance as a whole is that it exists, and merely existing in the MMO space is a death knell for any new franchise.


New content and a tie-in show may reinvigorate this game that has such huge potential, but for now we are given a not broken, yet incomplete video game. An MMO is defined by its launch and the short time after, but it may very well be that anything that is added down the line will be too little too late for Defiance.


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Defiance Daily Diary Part 5

Hello and thanks for joining me! My name, of course, is Ryan Coleman, and welcome to the fifth and final entry in my Defiance Daily Diary. Today’s entry will be focused a bit less on a specific topic and more on my general thoughts of the game as a whole. After playing for a few solid sessions I feel like I have a firm grasp on how the game works now and this entry will serve as a preface to the full review I’ll be posting this weekend. Also, the images posted may not necessarily coincide with the topic. They’re just some screenshots I found interesting.

Through my many hours of playing through the early days of Defiance, one thing has become very clear to me: this is basically just Borderlands: The MMO. 

Combat, items, weapon design and function, and game mechanics and skill trees are all hugely reminiscent of Borderlands and Borderlands 2. It’s almost as if Trion took the ideas from Gearbox’s franchise and stuck them into a destroyed world with Guild Wars 2‘s questing system. This seems to keep in line with Trion’s history of “borrowing” ideas from other games and incorporating them into their own. Their previous MMO, Rift, was infamous for being, at least on the surface, a direct carbon copy of World of Warcraft. Indeed, if Defiance was in first person instead of third, you’d think you were shooting through Pandora and not San Francisco on Earth.

I want to stress that this is not a bad thing. If you’re going to imitate franchises, you might as well aim high. Thankfully, Defiance proves to be different enough from the games it borrows from that it doesn’t feel derivative. It has enough of its own life injected into the formula that never once do you feel as is you’d be better off playing one of the other games.

That also leads me into my next point: Defiance is a damn good game. That’s a spoiler for my review, I suppose.

Orange shotty pic

Defiance has been getting a lot of hate in the gaming community since its release and I must admit not all of it is unwarranted. There are technical issues, the game is not terribly good-looking, and the lack of explanation for its mechanics and systems may leave some unsavvy players scratching their heads. The issues that get some flak that I do not understand is the actual gameplay.

Defiance does not have amazing gunplay, but for what the game is (an MMO) it does it pretty damn well. The fact that movement, aim, recoil control, diagnosing enemies on the fly, and even correctly timing reloads are all important in an MMO setting is unprecedented. More importantly: Everything works. I never once felt as if I was playing a two-bit knockoff of a “real” shooter while playing Defiance. Everything performs as it should for a shooter, and that’s something to be praised.


I do have gripes, though. Defiance is not perfect — nowhere near perfect, in fact. However, the game is competent enough, fun enough, and has enough stuff to do that these complaints never get in the way of the fun.

By far my biggest issue is the lack of weapon slots per loadout and the obtuse nature of changing loadouts. For each of your loadouts (of which you start with two), you can have two guns, a grenade, a shield, and a vehicle equipped.  However, with the huge amount of varied weapons and the fact that you can carry up to 20 extra guns with you, having only two weapon slots per loadout is inexcusable. If it’s done for the sake of “balance” then it’s horribly misguided. One of the reasons it’s misguided is because you can change loadouts at any time, even in combat. It necessitates going into the (full-screen) menu and manually clicking which loadout you want, but it can still be done with no penalty. If more weapon slots aren’t added, then a quicker way to change loadouts needs to exist. It simply does not make any sense in its current form.

The second issue I’ve got is the way the skill system is set up. The EGO Grid seems almost cordoned off from rational decisions at times due to the way the perks are distributed. You can choose between one of the four skills I mentioned earlier and work your way out on the grid from there. The issue is, a lot of the perks revolve around only a singular play style, despite the fact that you can choose to use and specialize in any weapon type.

For instance, the perks surrounding the Cloak ability all have to do with dealing extra damage to critical points and to unaware enemies. These are great for a sniper who takes single shots at precise locations, but do very little when using a shotgun or a rocket launcher. “Okay,” you might think, “I’ll just respec and choose Overcharge instead for extra damage,” except that all the perks surrounding Overcharge deal with activating effects by killing enemies with explosive damage, something that a machine gunner would almost never do. Worse yet, you are required to take these perks to get to the other more useful but less interesting perks farther away from the EGO skill nodes. It’s a frustrating system that needs to be re-thunk in the future.

My third biggest issue with the game is the tedious nature and lack of variety in the side missions that aren’t major arkfalls. “Rescue the soldier”, “defend the miner”, and “kill the raiders” are not fun, not engaging, and serve only as a momentary distraction from the actual fun the game has to offer. After completing 5 side missions in my very first play session, I’ve not touched them again and I feel no regrets about it. The randomly-spawned events are just as dull, but at least you don’t have to manually activate them; you can simply take your car and run everyone over to complete it instead.


Finally, my fourth biggest problem with Defiance is the fact that so many interesting story elements, game mechanics, and need-to-know information about the game is hidden three screens deep in the unintuitive menu system. How to mod weapons, what ark salvage does, and what numerous different systems actually do are all hidden away from you with no tutorial or even a loading screen hint of how to access them. I’m all for exploration and figuring things out, but let me do that for the more advanced things in the game, not the bottom-level basics.

In addition, while the game never mentions it, there are actually Bioshock-style audio logs to pick up throughout the world that give fantastic insight into the world of Defiance and the legitimately interesting characters that inhabit it. I strong recommend navigating to the Intel section of the EGO menu to check these out if you haven’t already, because I’m sure you never even knew they existed until now.

Product placementThis is not so much a “problem” so much as just a “thing”, but there is product placement in the game. It’s only for one company, Dodge, and it’s not shoved in your face (save for a cutscene at the beginning for a split second), but it is there. For people who really hate that kind of thing, I hope it won’t bother you too terribly much that some of the best vehicles in the game are Dodge Challengers. To Dodge’s credit the cars do look cool, but it’s a bit odd to think that the only cars that will survive in 30 years come from a single manufacturer.

JumpThere are so many thing about the game that I do like, though, that these complaints almost seem small by comparison. Freedom of movement from the cars is a huge one, as is the fantastic realization of group quests via the major arkfall events. As I mentioned in the last entry, arkfalls are great fun and a good opportunity for cooperation, and even become more varied in location and enemy type as you move further into the game.

The most fun part of the game has to be the weapons, though. When I say it feels like Borderlands, I absolutely mean it. The guns look awesome, perform awesome, and sound awesome. There’s style and interesting design dripping off even the most mundane weapons, not to mention the crazy, ridiculous weapons you get of Purple or Orange (Epic and Legendary, I assume) quality that can have a myriad of effects or designs.

Orange shottyThis shotgun was acquired from a lockbox (an item purchased using a special currency obtained from arkfalls) and it’s become my new best friend. Without going into too much intricate detail on each and every stat, suffice to say that this shotgun holds a ton of shells, fires fast, and does tons of damage from close range. It also happens to be the first Orange-quality item I’ve found in the hundreds of guns I’ve come across.

Like Borderlands, half the fun of the game comes from finding new and exciting weapons and seeing if they’re effective enough to incorporate into your arsenal. A machine gun with an extra-high ammo capacity is one thing, but a double barreled shotgun that fires grenades and deals poison damage is entirely another. These types of exotic guns are commonplace in Defiance past the starting areas. It’s just a matter of finding them.

ExplosionIf nothing else, what the Defiance game has encouraged me to do is check out the “Defiance” TV show to learn more about the characters and world. I suppose in that sense, Mission Accomplished to the marketing team behind Trion and SyFy. You’ve gained a customer and a watcher. I have high hopes for the show after playing the game if not just to see the terraformed Earth of Defiance with real people and see how the crazy world of the game translates to a live-action show. I wonder if they have to kill Hellbugs at arkfalls…

Thanks very much for joining me on my adventure through the war-torn Bay Area in my Defiance Diary! I had a lot of fun playing and writing this series and I sincerely hope that I’ll see some of you soon in the in-game ruins of San Francisco capturing some salage and weapons!

Be sure to look for my full review coming this weekend! If you’re interested, you can see these posts and more on Next Gen Update and Hard Reset. Thanks for reading!

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Part 4

Defiance Daily Diary Part 4

Hello everyone and welcome back to my Defiance Daily Diary! Once again, my name is Ryan Coleman and I’m here to be your guide into the war-torn San Francisco Bay Area in the MMO shooter Defiance!

Today I’ll be taking a look at only a single facet of the game, but one so important and so much damn fun that I’d be remiss not to give it its own diary post. The topic of today’s entry is Arkfalls.

Arkfall 1

Arkfalls are random world events that cover a large portion of the in-game map in a deep red circle. Inside this circle, you’re given a Time Remaining counter and an event title at the top of your screen. Your objective, along with the objective of any and all other player who join in the event, is to destroy the ark crystals that have fallen from the sky. In a given arkfall area there are typically 4-5 individual large crystal events for players to converge around and focus their efforts on.

These crystals have tons of health and also attract the attention of hellbugs, which can and will kill you if you and the players around you don’t kill them first. Heavily armored, ranged, and even flying bugs will attempt to kill any players entering the area of a fallen crystal. There are two types of arkfalls — major and minor. Major arkfalls are the events that I’ll be describing in this entry, while minor arkfalls are rather simple events that consist of only the first part of the event that I detail in the next section, but you have to fight mutants instead of hellbugs and there are no crystal weak points.

Arkfall 2 - crits

The arkfall crystals themselves take normal damage from your weapons, but have a “damage phase” of sorts. Every so often, skittering hellbugs (the very tiny bugs that die from a single hit) will walk up to the crystal and take a bite out of it, exposing a weak point. Attacking this weak point causes your weapons to deal entirely critical hits for the short duration the weak point is visible. Your computer guide will point this out to you every so often just to ensure you’re looking for and focusing damage on those points.

This system presents an interesting dynamic — you can either choose to nuke the hell out of the crystal and destroy it with raw damage, or watch your collateral damage and allow the small bugs to chomp a weak point into the crystal to kill it faster. In the arkfalls I’ve been a part of, most players were cognizant enough to stay their fire when the skitterers were going to the crystal, and then everyone unleashed hell upon that spot once the vulnerable area appeared.

Arkfall 3 - destroyed

Destroying an individual arkfall crystal can take anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes depending on how many players have congregated around it. Once a crystal is destroyed, it vaporizes any hellbugs nearby and creates a brilliant beam of light into the sky. After it fades, you’re free to talk toward the former crystal resting spot and collect your loot, and said loot can be of quite significant value. Most of the weapons I’ve found myself using have come from arkfall events and I’ve found some very interesting and wacky weapons from these loot piles.

After the single crystal is destroyed, the game will display a marker on your HUD directing you to the next undestroyed crystal in the arkfall area. What often happens is, after a crystal is destroyed, all nearby players hop into their vehicles and speed off at full throttle to the next crystal. It creates an amazing scene of an impromptu caravan heading off to complete the next objective. Each new crystal you arrive at has progressively more players, and once the final crystal is destroyed, you head to the real objective: the boss fight.

Arkfall 4 - Hellion

This grotesque creature is known as the Hellion. Or, rather, the bug inside of it is. This three-headed monstrosity is just a host for a parasitic flying hellbug. This fight actually contains three phases, making it one of the more traditional MMO fights in the game.

The first phase involves fighting the towering beast itself. Its weak points in the mouth, as expected, cause critical hits. Phase two begins when the Hellion flies from the spiked back, revealing that it is in fact just controlling the grounded monster. This flying version has a weak point on the protected underside of its abdomen and forces players to face the enemy head-on in order to deal maximum damage. In phase three, the Hellion flies back into the larger creature and a slew of heavily-armored and very powerful hellbugs attack the players. Once these bugs are defeated, the Hellion flies out, and phases 2 and 3 are repeated until it dies.

During all three phases (but especially in phase 2), smaller hellbugs continuously pelt players with acid bombs and quick, hit-and-run melee strikes. Even if you aren’t focusing the main target, you can still eliminate the smaller targets to assist your teammates.

Arkfall 5 - Hellion2

These fights are some of the most intense, most grandiose, and most fun I’ve had in a video game in a while. They are extremely reminiscent of public quests in Warhammer Online, but they perhaps resemble the large world events in Guild Wars 2 even more. Player counts skyrocket to over 80 or 100, but interestingly and thankfully enough, my computer’s performance never once took a severe hit.

The action in these events is frenetic and fast-paced. Still, despite being surrounded by plenty of other players all focusing on a single objective, you still get the very real feeling that you are contributing. This is reinforced even more by the ‘end of event’ scoreboard, detailing your money and experience gains after each arkfall.

Arkfall 6 - completeNot pictured above is the actual scoreboard proper, which ranks all players in terms of their damage dealt to all enemies and crystals from 1st place to however many players were involved. Besides the XP and currency gains, you’re also given a piece of loot from the end of the event, and some of this gear has been by far the best I’ve seen.

Defiance encourages these arkfall events for a few reasons. Firstly, they are a major part of the narrative and story interaction (though I had to find this part out on the Wikipedia article). Second, they yield very good rewards and incentivize providing more damage and player revives to increase your standing on the scoreboard and gain a higher experience and money bonus. Third, they are fun as hell.

Hyperbole aside, arkfalls are one of the most fun events I’ve taken part in in an MMO. They are long enough to feel substantial, reward you for contributing, are difficult without being frustrating, and give you real, tangible encouragement to actually give it your best to complete them. If there are any more events like this in Defiance then I am absolutely ready for more of this game and the challenges that await.

Thanks for joining me on today’s Defiance Diary. Be sure to join me tomorrow where I give my overall impressions on the game, my progress update, and the lead-in to my full review coming next week.

If you’re interested, you can see these posts and more on Next Gen Update and Hard Reset. Thanks for reading!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5

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Defiance Daily Diary Part 3

Hello and welcome back to my Defiance Daily Diary! I’m now on day 3 and I think I’ve gotten the hang of this game enough to have a good idea of how it works. All those other MMOs really helped out a lot, it seems.

Before I get started properly, I wanted to go over this little tidbit.


No, it’s not to look at the horrendous texture quality. Those low textures are there because this isn’t somewhere you’re normally meant to get. I took one jump with my ATV that was a little too extreme and wound up in this pit. In most games, winding up in a pit like that equates to worse than death. In MMOs, though, there’s usually a way to get out, whether through inventiveness or admin interaction. This was an inventiveness time. I got back in my ATV, activated the rocket boosters, and launched myself out.

It was awesome and effective, and I must say that it’s refreshing to have boosters on a vehicle in a video game that actually function like thrusters instead of just making your vehicle go faster on the ground.

So, back to what I originally wanted to discuss: what is questing in Defiance like? Well, it’s mostly like this:

Hold E

Yes, most of the objectives in Defiance will boil down to holding the Interact key (default E), regardless of what you’re actually doing. Hacking turrets, restarting generators, and reviving allies is all done with a 2-5 second press of a single key. The hardest part of actually doing anything is the fight on the way there. I don’t think it’s an unfair complaint to want a bit more interaction in my video games, especially a game like Defiance that’s willing to do a little bit extra to keep everything different and fresh. From main story missions, side missions, and small world quests, the “E” key is likely going to be your best friend.

Breaking up the monotony a bit are the Rampage and Time Trial missions. You can probably already guess what these are from the description. Time Trials put you on a pre-set vehicle and have you drive through a set of rings on the ground to beat a high score and gain extra experience and money in the process. Rampage missions give you a pre-set gun and have you go on, well, a rampage against a horde of small enemies or against a few larger ones. Both of these mission types place your score on a scoreboard ranked against other players who have tried the same mission.

Episode Mission 1Allow me to discuss some of the most enjoyable missions of Defiance, however: Episode Missions. I would wager to say these tie-in missions have been some of the most impressive parts of the game as a whole.

Episode Missions are, as their title implies, missions that are tied to episodes of the television show Defiance. In what capacity they will influence the events the show remains to be seen, but what I can say is that they provide some of the most interesting story-driven content in the game.

Episode Mission 3

These missions see your character, whomever you may be, joining the main characters of the SyFy show on various missions to collect money or items. Nolan and Irisa (the human man and alien woman, respectively) seem to be hands for hire, bounty hunters, and general ne’er-do-wells, but while they are rough around the edges, they both seem like interesting characters. Nolan in particular seems to be a combination of every movie role Harrison Ford played in the 70s and 80s. Their main motivation seems to be to travel to Antarctica, although why that is exactly isn’t explained. I can only assume it’ll be a major plot point in the show.

Episode Mission 4

The presentation of the Episode Missions is cinematic in every sense. Dynamic camera angles, appropriate musical cues, and well-animated characters all contribute to a sense of high production value, none of which I was expecting in an MMO. These missions, especially the cutscenes, feel like the natural progression of what The Old Republic was trying to accomplish with their cinematic presentation, but Defiance has the advantage of well-done animations and characters that actually show emotion.

Episode Mission 2

What’s not present in Defiance, however, is choices when it comes to the story. This is really not a complaint so much as a general statement, as I wouldn’t really expect to be able to personally influence the major characters from the tie-in TV show. I haven’t yet seen any choices available in the main story missions either, but I would assume there aren’t any to be had there as well. Again, this is not really something that can be considered a negative since this is an MMO and that’s a concession I’m willing to accept. The Old Republic did choices rather well, but most of them managed to be wholly inconsequential anyway at the end of the day.

Episode mission 5 (instance entrance)The final Episode Mission (there are 4-5 total so far with more to be added later, as I understand) had me entering a personal instanced area by way of a portal as seen above. This particular portal led into a rather nice-looking cave where Nolan, Irisa and I were tasked with recovering an item for their employer. The mission was scripted and straightforward, and really felt lacking gameplay-wise compared to the wide-open areas you fight in for most of the combat in Defiance. There were some interesting enemies that required me to target specific locations on their body to do any damage and other enemies that carried shields that forced you to flank them from above or behind to defeat them.

Episode Mission 6If you’re noticing that Nolan and I have the same clothes on, that’s because one of the rewards from the Episode Missions is outfits for your character to wear. I thought Nolan’s apparel was rather appropriate looking for an adventurous ark hunter like myself, so I donned it as well. I don’t think he minded all that much. Along with outfits, you also receive weapons from doing these missions, and most of them were reasonably powerful or interesting. They certainly weren’t overpowered compared to my other gear, but they fit in nicely with the rest of my arsenal.

This bit of extra content was so impressive to me that I felt the need to spend this entire diary on it. If you play Defiance, I strongly recommend checking out these Episode Missions. I also recommend doing it quickly, because they are optional and time-limited. Based on the information I was given, the Episode Missions rotate along with episodes of the TV show. That being the case, this current batch will be gone by the 15th, which is Monday of next week, so do these while you can!

Thanks for joining me for this time on my Defiance Diary. Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 4 where I’ll be talking about one of the most awesome group events in the game: Arkfalls.

You can also check this and more of my posts out on and! Thanks for reading!

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Defiance Daily Diary Part 2


Welcome to day 2 of my Defiance Diary. After only discussing the intro area and my menu gripes in the last part, I decided I ought to actually talk about the game this time around.

I can certainly confirm this about Defiance: it’s a third person shooter. The MMO aspects like extensive customization and inventory management are definitely there, but by and large it’s going to handle like an action game. That is most certainly a positive given the half-assing that many MMOs do in terms of their combat. It gives the refreshing feeling that TERA did when I first got into that game. Your skill and actions in combat actually matter beyond pressing 5 keys on a hotbar (it’s worth noting that there is no hotbar in Defiance), and that includes precise aim, reloading at the correct times, and avoiding enemy fire.

Boss Fight

One of the instances where that is absolutely true is in the above boss fight versus a very angry looking mutant with a very dangerous grenade launcher. Yes, I did say boss fights; it was complete with an intro cutscene and everything. This big palooka carried a big damn grenade launcher and he was deadly accurate with it. My little rifle and pistol did the job, but I had to duck and weave behind cover just to stay alive.

The accuracy and relentless nature with which this particular enemy (later known as a Mutant Grenadier, implying I’ll fight more later as regular baddies) was impressive and nerve-wracking all at once. I had to carefully time my shots between the volley of explosives hurdling toward me, to say nothing of the regular grunts with assault rifles trying to gun me down. If there are more encounters like this in Defiance, especially on a larger scale, then I am absolutely looking forward to more of this game.

Speaking of things to look forward to…

Burst Shock Shotgun

This little beauty right here. This is called the “VOT Auto-Fragger”. It is a 3-round burst fire, 15-round magazine plasma shotgun. Yes, that is as awesome as it sounds, and yes, it does perform as expected. That is to say, amazingly. The fact that a weapon that looks so cool is also so effective with such a unique ability is very satisfying.

Defiance has actually reflected Borderlands in more than one instance, and the gun design and randomization is one of them. I have been incredibly impressed with the weapon variety and random effects. I’ve seen electric, burst-fire carbines, fast-firing semi-auto sniper rifles, and a pistol that has a small magazine and low fire rate but a 4.0x multiplier on headshots instead of the regular 1.5x multiplier. Even with the seemingly standard fare of machine guns and shotguns, the plethora of random weapons and item modifications grants you the ability to customize your play style to the way you want to play and still look cool doing it.

Drab Locations

One thing that does not look very cool, at least in the starting area, are the locations. Expect to see Copy-Paste Ruin #12 inside Ruined Town #3 often. Brown and gray are the colors most present in Defiance, and it’s a real shame because the setting is very interesting. There’s a lot of potential for cool vistas or locations and I definitely hope they come later on.


Thankfully, traversing these areas is rather diverse. In the above image, my objective is to get to a control panel and erase data on it. The control panel was up on a ledge inside of a building and I saw no ladder or staircase with which to ascend. Then it hit me: think outside the box. Or rather, on top of the box, in this particular instance.

Traversing the world is a bit more than looking for a ladder to climb, it seems. I actually had to do a bit of simple platforming to get up to where I needed to be to complete my mission objective and I can only assume this type of physical obstacle will be used more often, perhaps even to find hidden treasures as was done in The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2.


Though the locations may be drab, the way you get around is certainly not. Very early on, you get your very own off road ATV. It serves as the default mount, or at least this game’s equivalent. They are fast, agile, and get you from place to place in a hurry. They’re also very easy to summon: all you need do is press a key (default V) and the quad bike materializes before you, letting you jump on and zoom away.

Pressing sprint activates a rocket booster on the back for a limited duration, letting the already-nimble vehicles really take off at full speed, but you do lose quite a bit of maneuverability while boosting. What these boosts allow you to do, however, is take advantage of the conspicuous ramps and huge ledges.


Not pictured above: the 100 foot drop. It may not be the ATV’s intended purpose, but it performs it very well.

Speaking of performance, though, one rather glaring issue I’ve had is with mouse control and aiming. The normal mouse look controls work well enough, but it’s very clear that there is mouse acceleration in the game. This is a big no-no for basically any video game using a mouse and keyboard, but acceleration is a common and expected feature on controllers for console games.


As a result, many console-to-PC ports are plagued with poor mouse controls unless the option is given in-game to turn them off. In Defiance, it is not. This can lead to wild mouse controls when running around and very slow and very insensitive while aiming. It’s something that I’ll probably get used to, but it’s something that is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. I might be able to fix it by digging around settings files, but I shouldn’t have to.

Thankfully, the game doesn’t seem to have any major game-breaking glitches or horrible issues like most MMOs do on launch.

One problem it does have, though, is server stability. More than once I was kicked out of the server for no apparent reason only to be placed in a queue or unable to log in at all.

If these few issues are ironed out I can certainly see Defiance becoming a popular and enjoyable game. I’ve already had a good time with it so far.

Thanks for reading! Part three will be up tomorrow!

You can also check this and more of my posts out on and!

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Defiance Daily Diary Part 1

Welcome to my MMO Daily Diary of Defiance! My name is Ryan Coleman and I’ll be your guide through the war-torn, post-apocalyptic world of the San Francisco Bay Area of the near future.

I’m a longtime veteran of many MMOs, including, of course, World of Warcraft. I’ve also dabbled in a little gem known as R.O.S.E. Online in the far past. I know my way around a levelling system and skill tree, but for Defiance I’m basically going in blind. All I really know is the name, the basic premise and that the game is tied into a television show of the same name airing on the SyFy Channel next week.

I want to also note that I had very little interest in this title until seeing a few preview videos and streams from TotalBiscuit and Bwana. Their interest and positive words about the game convinced me to start a diary, so let’s jump into it.

This first post will be the introduction into the game, so don’t expect much in the way of me knowing what the hell is going on. The learning process is always the longest in a new MMO.
Pic 2

Well, here we are.

This is an MMO, after all, and a PC digital download, so I suppose this is to be expected. I can watch some Defiance streams in the meantime.
Pic 3

I would like to point out that that 5:19 seconds took about 4 minutes. The game won’t update every time, of course, but it’d be nice to have a launcher that gives at least somewhat of a close estimate. Still, 4 minutes isn’t much compared to the 2 hours of downloading, so I’ll let this one slide.
Pic 5

There was an intro video which gave a bit of exposition, but it’s still pretty light on back story so far. From what I gather, there was an invasion by a race known as Votan that terraformed the surface of the Earth, and now humans and another alien race are fighting against them together.

And now I begin the most difficult part of any MMO.

It appears that there are no “character classes”, but merely origins and races to pick from. I chose a human male Survivalist, who appears to start with a hunting rifle.

Pic 6

Not too shabby, eh? I do love my video game self-inserts. This is basically me if I was 10 years older and the veteran of a few more wars.

The cutscene following character creation shows my character (henceforth known by his name, Akuze), having to escape from a dropship with an escape pod after things predictably take a turn for the worse. Seated next to me were two rather realistic looking characters whom I can only assume are two of the characters from the television show.

One rough crash landing later…

Pic 7

A spunky alien girl named Cass and this ghostly looking figure awaken me from my rough fall and subsequent migraine. It turns out that this ethereal girl is called “EGO” and she’s been implanted into my brain. I’m assuming this is the handwave as to why you have a heads-up display, very similar to Borderlands.


Well, well, well. A floating exclamation point? That’s a new one. Still, the game certainly doesn’t look too bad, and on my PC it runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second with all the setting at max. Speaking of max settings…

Pic 8

Yikes. That’s the settings menu. A resolution choice, “Graphics Quality” selector and a few post-processing effects. I know this is a multiplatform release, but for what is supposedly a full-featured MMO, it would have been nice to have as many graphical options as other titles. You know, like the almost 10 year old World of Warcraft.

It’s also worth mentioning that, as I navigate the various menus of the game, including my inventory, skill screen, and control bindings, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: The menus take up the entire damn screen. This means that you cannot choose equipment, change settings, or do anything else without utterly losing control of your character. This is just not acceptable in a 2013 title and an MMO to boot. It’s not like the game pauses when you hit ESC. This is a glaring problem and one that I hope is fixed in a future patch.

Pic 9

Now we’re talking. I’ll call this rifle “Daisy”.

The first few missions are pretty standard fare: teach basic game mechanics such as movement, shooting, looting, and objective completion. What’s immediately clear is that this is not a typical MMO. It definitely seems to be, as far as gameplay goes, a third person shooter. Not a cover-based one, but a shooter nonetheless. You can jump, sprint, roll, shoot, and reload just like you would in pretty much any other third person shooter. Even aiming your shot placement counts – headshots do much, much more damage than body shots, especially with this hunting rifle I acquired.

As noted by others, the enemies in the starting area are dumb as bricks. They won’t attack or even notice you until you’re about 5 feet away from them, and by then you could have just punched them to death (using the F key delivers a melee blow).

Pic 10

This is the inventory screen. It’s not a bad layout, really, and the interface in all facets is extremely responsive. Again, the main issue is that it takes up the entire screen. I’m sure it’s something I’ll get used to, but it bears repeating that it’s not something that should even exist.

Speaking of interface weirdness, you might notice a circular object in the bottom left of the screen with the words “EGO” and a picture of a spacebar. That is how you navigate the menus. No, really. It absolutely reeks of a concession for the console versions that translated poorly to PC, as does most of the interface in the game. To go from menu to menu (from Character Loadout to Settings, for example), you must hit ESC, hold the spacebar, and then click the option you want from a popup radial menu. It’s obtrusive and unnecessary.

It seems to me that making a more PC-friendly interface would have gone miles to making this a better experience. On a positive note, however, the interface is absolute gorgeous. Menu presentation is something that gets overlooked a lot, but Defiance delivers in spades in this regard. Flash over substance isn’t something that normally happens for game menus, but it is appropriate here.

Pic 11

More menus! This time it’s slightly more interesting. Like Borderlands, the main difference between characters in Defiance is what EGO power you choose. They are Cloak, Overcharge, Blur, and Decoy. Cloak and Decoy are rather self-explanatory. Overcharge increases the damage of your weapon for a short time and Blur lets you move at rapid speeds while inflicting more damage in melee. The game lets you try each of them out before choosing in a cleverly-made tutorial. I chose Cloak, just to be that sneaky sniper that pops heads from a mile away.

This seems like a very smart way to make “classes” without actually forcing you into a class. From what I’ve read and seen, the EGO Grid works very similarly to the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X or the Passive Grid from Path of Exile. In essence, you have to work your way out from your starting point and gain powers as you move along. It stands to reason that you’d eventually be able to work your way to all the other powers and skills, but that remains to be seen.

Pic 12

What ruins a reasonably good-looking game, especially an MMO? Draw distance. That fog you see is obscuring faraway objects in order to save performance. A necessity on Xbox 360 and PS3, but a complete waste on most PCs. Also, though it’s hard to tell, there are in fact enemies on the hill over on the right of the image. They’re invisible, however, because they have disappeared due to being too far away. I can only assume this’ll be addressed in a patch, because unlike an obtuse menu, this legitimate has big ramifications on actual gameplay.

Despite my grievances and complaints, I am actually having a good time with Defiance so far. It remains to be seen whether or not that’ll last, however. The biggest positive about this game is that the controls are solid, and that more than makes up for the interface and other gripes I have currently. It feels like a third-person shooter, not an MMO, despite it very clearly being an MMO. I’ll give it some more time and see how things starts to shake out once I get farther in the leveling area and gain some new guns and skills.

Thanks for reading! Part two will be up tomorrow!

You can also check this and more of my posts out on and!

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
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Venturing into the world of Defiance

Pic 1

Very soon I’ll be diving into the world of the new MMO from Trion Worlds, Defiance. I wasn’t initially interested in this game, but a few videos and streams by TotalBiscuit and Bwana got me interested. I’ll be on the PC version of the game under the username Akuze (if it’s available!)

I’ll also be posting a Defiance gameplay diary that’ll be hosted on, one of the gaming sites that I’m currently writing for. Look for upcoming posts here and on NGU detailing my adventures in Defiance.

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EA Says “We Can Do Better”


In what is surely an early contender for “Understatement of the Year Award”, EA’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore posted released a press release earlier today on behalf of Electronic Arts entitled “We Can Do Better”.

In it, Moore responds to critics of Mass Effect 3’s ending, Sim City’s botched release, and the company’s front runner status for The Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” poll, in which they are currently “beating” AT&T 84% to 16% at the time of this writing. He states that “some of these complaints are 100 percent legitimate”. However, Moore also goes on to challenge the idea that EA should even be “competing” for the title at all, listing what he believes are positive practices of the company, including Origin’s 45-million plus user base and their positive stance on LGBT rights. Moore ends with stating that he is “…damn proud of this company, the people around the globe who work at EA, the games we create and the people that play them.”

This seems to be an unnecessary response to what seems to be an overwhelmingly sensationalist poll. While some consumers do passionately believe that EA is the worst company in America, it’s very unlikely that this is actually true. EA does have business practices that I and many others find to be underhanded due to their ‘nickel and dime’ execution, EA does publish many of the most popular modern games, including the Battlefield and Crysis franchises. Even the new Sim City, despite its abhorrent launch problems and game design issues, still drew in and maintains millions of players from around the globe.

This does not, however, excuse EA from snafus like the aforementioned Sim City launch fiasco or their highly controversial and game-balance breaking microtransations in Dead Space 3, not to mention the startling underperforming Medal of Honor: Warfighter, which released last year to mixed to poor reviews. EA must certainly do better in the public eye or their reputation will continue to plummet despite any worthwhile games they continue to publish.

Peter Moore’s Statement: