Defiance (PC), Review

Does the Defiance MMO live up to the hype, or is it just another sci-fi shooter that lacks originality?

Release Date: April 2, 2013

Genre: Third Person Shooter MMO

Developer: Trion Worlds

Publisher: Trion Worlds

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Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3

Defiance from Trion Worlds is slated to be the next big MMO from Trion Worlds, the developers that brought us Rift a few years ago. Defiance is a joint venture between Trion Worlds and SyFy, whom have developed a television show of the same name to intertwine with the game. In fact, SyFy and Trion Worlds state that Defiance is the “first interconnect video game and television series”. But does Defiance live up to the hype, or is it just another sci-fi shooter?

As you may be aware, MMO titles are incredibly difficult to review, as you can’t possibly complete enough of the content in time to give a full, whole-hearted review. But, I’ve put in more than a days worth of playtime already (that’s 24 hours for those keeping score at home), and it’s apparently only a small piece of the pie. I’m currently at EGO level 400, but that is out of a rumored 4000 possible (I’ve seen numerous numbers around the internet, none of which appear to be confirmed). My point is, I have not yet experienced all of the content, with that being said, I’ve experience more than enough to get a good feel for the game and its direction.

Character creation is very limited, having only a few numbered options available with little variation to them.  The very basics are there; you can change your hair style, hair color, skin color, eye shape and facial hair.  But, there’s no customizing beyond that.  And, there was no option to give your character a full beard.  Mustache? Sure.  Chops? Sure. Goatee? Sure.  No full beard to speak of. This is the first sign that the game isn’t quite the full experience you’re probably looking for.

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The story for Defiance is good, as expected (I mean, what did you expect when the game is based off of a television show, right?), but the game doesn’t do a very good job introducing the story. The characters are, well just that, characters. And, for the most part, you’ll enjoy meeting them throughout the story (which seems endless, by the way), but there are some moments that make you cringe. For example, your foul-mouthed Irathient (Google it) friend, Cass, is spunky at first, but then is just over-the-top corny with her dialogue. There are definitely some other oddities within the game, including a flambouyant Karl Von Bach (your boss), and Jon Cooper, a local lawkeeper. Joshua Nolan, a war veteran and main character in the upcoming television show, is very reminiscent of Drake from Uncharted, to a flaw; where’s the originality? But at its heart, Defiance is a story about aliens invading earth, and that’s always cool, right?

For the most part, the enemies in Defiance also lack originality. The mutants look very similar to the ones you’ll find in Borderlands 2 and the hellbug skitterlings take their name from TNT’s Falling Skies. But, there are some cool enemies along the way, such as in one of the Arkfalls where a big giant bee-like mutant creature thing pops out of a big volcanic-looking mutant thing. Gross, but delightful.

The graphics in game look pretty good, with rich environments and colors and great character design. However, you’re quickly reminded about how bad two NPCs talking can look in our current generation of video games. Facial expressions are stiff, but that is pretty much the game’s only graphical flaw. It looks okay on low graphic settings, but looks great on the higher end of things. The map is pretty big, but it doesn’t put you in awe, especially when a lot of the environments look similar to one another. I would have liked to have seen more variation in the look of different areas on the map.

Sound design is also just “pretty good”. While the soundtrack/music isn’t memorable, the guns sound great and the monsters and mutants sound as they should. Nothing too impressive, but it gets the job done.

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In Defiance, you earn XP as you complete missions, kill stuff, and complete “Pursuits” (challenges). As you complete Pursuits and missions, you earn EGO, which you use to unlock EGO Powers and useful perks. The upgrade system is surprisingly good and has a lot of depth to it. You’ll find yourself swimming in perk options and, since you can create more than just one loadout after you level up some, you’ll find yourself spending more than just a few minutes tinkering with perks.

Missions are generally repetitive, and either require you to go to X spot and kill everything, or go to Y spot and hold the X button to collect something, and then kill everything that attacks you because of your actions. I have yet to see much variation in gameplay, so pack your auto-pump shotgun for those hellbugs!

Aside from missions, there are dynamic events called Arkfalls that help you gain a ton of xp, and usually a cool gun or two after completing them. These are similar to the ones you’ll find in Firefall, although on a much bigger scale. Bring extra guns, though, as you’ll more than likely run out of bullets as you pump your hellbug enemies full of ammo.

Perks aren’t the only thing you’ll find yourself tinkering with (giggity?). Defiance has an incredibly deep weapon modification system that definitely warrants hours of your time. You can mod your weapon with new stocks, scopes, magazines and barrels, but only certain weapons can take certain upgrades, so you’ll be tinkering quite a lot. While the upgrade system seems pretty deep, a lot of the weapon types feel like they were taken from Borderlands, such as radioactive guns and guns that set your enemies on fire, and a weapon that shoots a ray similar to that in Ghostbusters (but I’m okay with that). Gun finding is pretty much the highlight of the game, and you’ll definitely be excited to find those uncommon purple drops that we all love so much.

Trion World had a great mechanic in the game with Arkfall Codes, but the execution went all wrong, not through any fault of their own. The idea is that players could find random codes hidden in advertisements that would allow them to unlock perks, guns, outfits, and vehicles. However, the entire list of codes (there’s 120 of them) leaked online by the time the game servers went live, and everyone rushed to the site to enter their Arkfall Codes for all the goodies (guilty). The codes code have been implemented in a more unique way, maybe a way that would even require gamers to watch the SyFy show when it debuts. But, no, there’s just a list of 120 codes you have to Google and enter.

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The UI/Menu system in the game is one of its strong points. While it does take some time to get used to, you’ll find yourself navigating through them like a champ. We’ve seen the round slider-esque menus before, but none that have been executed as well as in Defiance. If Defiance wins any awards this year, it should be for “Best UI Design” (that’s a thing, right)?

One of the highlights of the game is the fact that you get a four-wheeler within an hour or two of playing the game. You’re not walking around laboriously, and you don’t have to wait until level 20 to unlock a mount; vehicles are pretty much there at your disposal from day one. The controls of the vehicles are loose and fun to drive, and you’ll definitely find yourself looking to catch some great air from the perfect hill and your perfectly timed speed boost (anyone know of a great spot to catch some serious air?)

Another highlight of the game is the co-op, team deathmatch and shadow war gameplay options. While co-op and shadow war are fun to play once or twice, team deathmatch brings an entirely new element to the game that feels a lot like Halo, albeit not as deep. What makes the deathmatch so enjoyable is the fact that you can bring in all of your guns that you earned from missions/XP to test out against your foes in a fight to the death–which means you can bring your super, awesome RPG that explodes into smaller bouncing bombs in there with you. And, better yet, you can change between guns/loadouts freely, as you can during the open world gameplay.

My biggest complaint about Defiance is the fact that there is no crafting system. I know, I know; I can hear you say “not every MMO has to have crafting”. Well, you sir are wrong. A semi post-apocalyptic world certainly warrants the need for crafting and trading, especially when there is rampant talk about crystals that are necessary for power and plants that have special chemicals in them. If Defiance had some form of crafting, it would give the game the needed variation in gameplay that it currently lacks.

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Defiance is a mixed experience. The game isn’t a true MMO, but it has the same depth in gameplay as the original Borderlands. Trion Worlds has done a lot of things right with the game, but its not all sunshine and rainbows. Defiance has the potential to be great, but more content will have to be added in the near future to keep me interested, as the gameplay can become dull after a few hours of playing. The current result is slightly underwhelming, although good enough to warrant buying the game, and we can only hope that the game doesn’t turn out to be just a two-week play.

Story – 7/10

Graphics – 8/10

Gameplay – 7/10

Sound – 8/10

Multiplayer – 7/10 (Co-op, Team Deathmatch, Shadow War)

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Replayability – 9/10

What do you think of Defiance? Sound off below in the comments!

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