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Defiance is almost entirely about shooting stuff, and therefore the gear grind is almost entirely about the guns. So why then does it get gun progression so horribly wrong?

After the jump, this was my gun

An important concept in an MMO — and Defiance is most definitely an MMO — is that a player needs a constant sense of advancement. Something should always be leveling up, or improving, or at least given a chance of improving. Interrupting progress is a no-no in an MMO. There a reason a level cap is never truly a level cap, but instead the beginning of the endgame.

At first, Defiance does a great job with the forward momentum. Your character has skill levels with specific types of guns, broken down into categories. And these aren’t broad categories. For instance, instead of a single shotgun skill level, you have separate skill levels for combat shotgun, pump shotgun, and sawed-off shotgun. As you use that type of weapon, you level the skill up, gaining special bonuses for those guns.

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For instance, you can see that I recently hit level three with assault rifles. I reload them 1% faster and their recoil is reduced by 2%. When I hit level three, I’ll have an additional 1% chance for critical hits. I’m about to hit level five with light machine guns, which will reduce my reload time by 5%. There’s a more traditional skill tree, but the weapon skills are one of the major tracks of advancement.

Furthermore, each individual gun can accumulate experience points. When a gun fills up its experience point bar, it unlocks a new special ability. Perfect!

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Note here that my Von Braun Industries LM-43 Thunder light machine gun does 8% additional damage for ten seconds after a kill. My Von Braun Industries Assault Rifle assault rifle (the name could use some work) has a bonus 5% chance for critical hits when fired from the hip.

These are great weapons with great bonuses that I earned by unlocking them. I’ve furthermore equipped them with a full suite of mods, which wasn’t cheap. Modding weapons is a significant resource sink in Defiance. These guns weren’t cheap. And given how there’s no level-based gear churn in Defiance, these guns should last me for a long time.

But where Defiance fumbles the sense of progression is by shutting off the weapon skill progression when you’re using a gun with a maxxed out experience point bar. Now that I’ve spent the time and resources to make these weapons the best that they can be, they no longer level up my weapon skill. Why would Defiance shut down weapon progression the moment a weapon is at its most useful? What kind of awful design decision is that? Am I supposed to carry around a second light machine gun to use when I want to level up my LGM skill?

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And what’s up with the level six bonus for runners? I suppose I should be grateful that the vehicle skill never shuts down, even if I am only unlocking a +0% bonus.

Defiance does what it does very well. The actual shooting is really gratifying. But so much of the rest of it seems poorly thought out.