Monday, August 7, 2017

Frontier Defense 2.0 - Titanfall 2 Impressions

The AI typically acts as score fodder in Titanfall 2; running around in small clusters begging to be used to boost your team or cooldown for a new Titan. Frontier Defense looks to turn that on its head much like the original Titanfall mode, providing a co-operative experience against the AI alone.

A team of four is dropped off onto a random map and must hold back five waves of grunts, titans, and flying drones from destroying The Harvester. It acts as a "defend the objective game" that evolves into working together to cover every angle the objective can be hit from, including across the map.

The first waves start simple with grunts and a single Titan to overcome. As the waves increase they intensify, with such enemies as Nuclear Titans that slowly lumber toward the objective to hit with massive damage or Arc Titans that drain the shield and emit and pulse of damage that makes close quarters difficult. Soon you find your team dividing lanes to stem the tide as drop after drop of enemies pile up to be managed. Even mortar Titans drive you out from your shelter as they pepper the shield of your objective from across the map.

You are not completely to your own devices, as a setup phase before each round will allow you to purchase equipment with money earned from the previous round by surviving the wave without dying, being MvP of your team, or preventing the Harvester from taking damage. Such items available for purchase include permanent arc traps that can temporarily disable enemies at a choke point, Sentry turrets, and even a nuke that can allow you to take a Titan with you upon your Titan's demise. Managing these costs and dispersing currency to your team to make sure everyone has a boost will help in controlling the waves of enemies.

The more you play the mode, the higher your Aegis rank advances. Your Aegis rank is tied to the Titan you chose to use, and makes them grow in power the more you play. Northstar, my personal favorite Titan to use, gained a slew of bonuses as I completed each match; the tether traps I usually send out would explode, my railgun would recharge faster, and even the cluster rockets I fired would be better. Every titan gains improvement in this way, some strengthening abilities to others strengthening armor and shields.

All this powering up is to help in tackling the more difficult modes; ranging from Hard to Insane.

It is hard to complain regarding free content, but the mode grew predictable after hitting your 3rd Aegis rank. You knew which maps had the mortar titans, which map had the flyers, and what wave they occurred. I found myself...bored. Bored during the initial waves, waiting for the real challenge in waves 3-5. By the time I had unlocked the harder difficulties and felt like I had the rank to make it happen, I became bored with the mode. Sure the tougher difficulties require coordination and communication to overcome, but the aesthetic reward you get must be paid for with purchased content, lessening my resolve to dive into the effort.

While the Aegis is able to power you up, it also limits team composition. If I am grouped with a bunch of people that lack an Ogre Titan to soak up damage, then we are automatically at a disadvantage and I must level another Titan up all over again. It is an insane grind just to allow you to even use a Titan that is needed on higher difficulties, and by the time that rank is reached you find yourself itching to play the shorter, more enjoyable competitive multiplayer modes.

Despite the shortcomings I found myself coming back to up my Aegis rank and see the potential power my Titan could have with each upgrade. It is an entertaining mode, but you find yourself gravitating back to the multiplayer to remind yourself what makes Titanfall so great in the first place.

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