To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge MMO fan. Although, one day I’d like to be. My issue with MMO’s are they never grab my attention right away or make me feel like I should continue investing my time with them. Usually, a bunch of boring basic quests with tons of overwhelming tips and dialog draw me out of the experience. The few I have continued playing just don’t hold my interest very long. Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue with Trion Worlds Defiance. A third person MMO shooter with a TV crossover that we’ve never seen before. Defiance has brought me some of the most fun I’ve had with a shooter in a very long time, along with a handful of boring and shallow moments.
Before you start the game you’re greeted with a very basic, and I mean basic, character creation screen. There’s two races to choose from, but not many customization traits that will make your character feel unique. Also, choosing a class doesn’t have any effect on the game or your experience in any way aside from the weapons you start out with. These certainly aren’t game breakers since the game itself is so over the top fun, but I would have liked to see a more diverse selection of options. Hopefully, the new Alien race in the upcoming DLC will provide some sort of benefit and encourage players to make a new character. Otherwise, aside from a distinct look as an alien, not much else will change.
After creating your character, not much back story is provided. This is where the TV show comes in. If you really care about the story or lore, watching the show is a must as it answers many question you’d have if you’ve otherwise only played the game. After your ship crashes and you’re in the world of Defiance, you go through some basic tutorial missions that are pretty quick and painless. Which I felt was great because you get into the action and set free within a very short period of time. At the end you’ll be asked to choose one of the four EGO powers. These EGO powers are what separate you from the other players and offer a little more variety in how you play; Blur allows you to sprint at super speed causing confusion among enemies, Overcharge allows you to boost your weapon damage for a short period of time, Decoy sends a holographic image of yourself in the direction your pointing, and Cloak allows you to go invisible for a short period of time.
Personally, I went with the Cloak. I’m more of a sneaky type of player that also likes to stealth my way to the middle of the action and then unleash havoc. With EGO powers aside, everything else is similar to what you’d find in Borderlands; Shields, grenades, weapons, etc all have their own stats, and some times additional effects or elemental abilities. In fact, Defiance is similar in so many ways, some would say this game is a third person Borderlands MMO. The art style is also resembled but with a not so heavy cell-shaded look. Weapons can produce fire, acid, electricity etc. and you ride around in bad ass vehicles. The fun level is close to what you’d find in Borderlands as well. The combat is fluid and intuitive. Although, even though I played the PC version, a controller is almost a must. It’s rather obvious this game was built with consoles in mind first, then PC second.
Defiance packs a lot of content. I mean a lot. The story missions alone took me close to 30 hours with a little bit of exploration added in, but not much. There’s also a wide variety of mission and other activities; Side missions, Rampage, Time Trials, Hot Shot, Random Encounters, PVP, Shadow War, Co-op Maps, Pursuits, Contracts, Arkfalls along with a few more. The Episode Missions are easily the most interesting as they crossover with the show. Although, the Episode one missions were off to a rather slow start, they did do a great job at introducing the two main characters from the show. When I’m deeply involved within the games story, Arkfalls are on the top of my to-do list.
These missions randomly occur on different parts of the map that bring all the players in the server together. Before the giant boss battle, players must encounter up to 5 Arkfalls and destroy waves of enemies or the crystal itself to summon the boss. Once all locations have been eliminated, you start to see hundreds of players racing to a single point on the map with a boss that makes you feel like the size of an ant. The boss itself is rather straightforward to defeat but will require all players to work together in order to overcome him. Even with hundreds of players on screen along with many visual sci-fi effects and explosions, the game was able to maintain a solid 60FPS with max settings at 1080p. This is certainly impressive to watch, along with participating in.
I have a hard time liking anything sci-fi, it just never really appealed to me. However, Defiance was rather interesting to follow and the main missions never had me skipping a cutscene. I always wanted to see the story unfold, even if it was somewhat predicable at times. The side missions on the other hand can be an absolute bore fest. Some quest come in parts of three or four and by the end, do offer more variety in gameplay, but 90% of the side missions are too simplistic. They’re simply, go here and hold X while fighting a couple enemies. There’s no cutscene or unique dialog. Each side mission by the same NPC repeats the last line of dialog you heard the mission before. You also don’t interact with anyone, it’s just a floating blue orb. Design like this feels lazy and uninspiring. There’s only so many times I can do a side mission before I start to fall asleep.
Even some of the main missions share the same outcome, but the cutscene prior to the mission along with those characters help really makes you feel like you’re part of an epic battle and doing something that actually counts. The same can’t be said for the side missions. Even though the gunplay is so good you’ll find it hard to put down the controller (Assuming you didn’t stick with a mouse and keyboard), these side missions really ruin the fun and will have you screaming “Whhhhhyyy!!!”. Thankfully, the other activities are a lot less painful and offer more variety. The co-op maps specifically offer an end boss that you’d expect in an MMO. It’s a shame you’ll never see these types of boss battles outside of the linear co-op maps unless you play an Arkfall.
On the more detailed side of things, the games leveling system is something I haven’t really seen before. The level cap is 5000, but you don’t get a perk every time you gain one ego. Instead, the higher your Ego gets, the longer it takes to fill up the XP bar. Once you fill it up, then you’ll be granted a perk. The perk tree itself is rather large and has all four EGO powers built in on each corner of the tree. So as you advance your EGO and unlock perks, making your way over to another EGO power will allow you to switch up how you play. After around 60 hours of play, I’m current at an EGO level of over 700 with both Cloak and Overcharge unlocked. You also unlock more perks and load out slots as your EGO rises. Don’t expect to switch these load outs on the fly, and for good reason.
You must access the load out screen through the menus, taking you out of the action and vulnerable to enemy attacks. This is to prevent the game from becoming too easy. Even if one EGO power was in cool down, don’t expect to switch to another load out and use a different EGO power. It doesn’t work that way. I found this system rather easy to swap lout outs quickly, while still offering a decent challenge at some points during the game. You can also salvage old or junk weapons for ones of the games many currencies. This salvage matrix can be used to attach mods to weapons or purchase lock boxes that provide you with a couple random items at a certain rarity level.
Scrip will be your main currency in the game that will buy you new weapons, vehicles, mods etc. The game does offer contracts once you reach a certain EGO level. These contracts are a list of challenges which once completed will earn your reputation with a certain faction. You can use this rep to also purchase special items or weapons from their own unique vendor. This certainly encourages players to access all the game has to offer in order to obtain the best possible items and gear. Although, the gear itself isn’t what you’d expect. An EGO level 1 weapon has almost the same damage output as an EGO level 700 weapon. I guess this system is used so once you reach such a high level you can’t go back and kill everything in one hit, but it really discourages users from spending so much time trying to gather loot. You’ll almost never equip any weapon you receive from a basic enemy.
Most of the gear you’ll be using will be stuff gained from lock boxes, Arkfalls, or stores. So don’t expect a Borderlands like leveling system where you’re constantly swapping out stuff for new and improved gear. I remember using a few weapons for more than 200+ EGO levels because everything else I found wasn’t even close to what I had equipped. After a while I got use to the system and it didn’t bother as much due to the amount of fun I was having. I would like to see an update that can alter this system without making the game unbalanced or too easy. In some areas, Defiance is the most generic game I’ve ever played, but it’s also the most fun game I’ve played in a long time.
On the bright side, Defiance isn’t a pay to win game, nor does it require a subscription. Sure the microtransactions allow you to purchase bits for XP boost or even lock boxes, but most of the stuff is purely cosmetic and won’t alter your gameplay or give you an unfair advantage. Many MMO’s at launch usually have tons of bugs or server issues. The PC version of the game actually launched rather smoothly. The developers have taken the servers down fairly often, but usually no more than 30 minutes. Trion Worlds have been working night and day to provide various fixes and updates. Personally, this is the fist developer I’ve seen so dedicated in quickly fixing everything wrong with their game while still providing gameplay updates and user request. The latest major patch added the ability to replay all the story missions and tweaked many UI and gameplay elements that fans have been complaining about since launch.
Get this, they also delayed the DLC in order to put patches and updates for the game first. Yeah, that’s a rare thing to see. Many developers these days would just release the DLC and worry about fixing the issues with the core game at a later date. It’s very obvious Trion Worlds cares about this title as much as they care about their fans. They’re constantly communicating with the community and never leaving us in the dark or with many unanswered questions. If this type of support continues, Defiance could shape up to be one amazing MMO. Assuming the community continues to support it. Judging from what I’ve read on the games official forums, it looks like many users are in it for the long haul. Myself included.
Defiance is a hard game to recommend. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s so generic yet somehow manages to nail the combat so damn well that you’ll forget about those things. It’s certainly not a game for everyone and more of a love hate relationship. There’s really no in between. You either love it, or you hate it. That’s okay, there’s an audience for this type of game and I’m certainly included. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing a complex game that has my brain hurting. I just want to sit back, relax and have a great time. That’s exactly what Defiance has offered me and I’m hooked. Sometimes I may be doing the same thing over and over again, but it’s fun, and it continues to be fun no matter how much I play. That’s where Defiance really shines.
My best advice if you’re a console player is to rent Defiance before making an investment, especially considering there’s no subscription fee to play. I found the title to be easily worth the $60 and then some, but I do understand why some, if not many people wont. Defiance is a game on its on level. That pedestal may not be at the top of the ladder, but in my eyes it’s a fantastic game with so much potential to grow. Given the fact the developers haven’t let up for one second tells me I’m in for a real treat down the road, and I’m certainly looking forward to it.
+ Fun, fun, fun, and more fun!!!
+ Fluid and satisfying combat
+ Arkfall missions are some of the greatest moments in Defiance
+ TV series crossover looks to provide a great experience
+ Huge potential to grow
+ Fantastic developer support with constant fixes and regular updates
- No alternative UI for PC users. Very console focused.
- Side missions are uninspiring and lazy
- Many aspect feel rather bland and generic
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Defiance was developed and published by Trion Worlds. It was released on April 2nd, 2013, at the MSRP of $59.99 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. A copy was purchased by the review for the purposes of this review. The game was played to completion and spent an additional 30 hours playing and waiting for major updates. Episode one and two of the TV series was also watched to experience the crossover with the game.
Intel Core i-5 3300P 3.2 GHz Processor
8GB of RAM
Nvidia 660 TI x2 (SLI)
With max settings and 1080p, Defiance never struggled to hold a constant 60FPS. 30 hours were played with single GPU usage, and 30 hours were played while forcing SLI usage. Both settings performed exactly the same.