I remember when Defiance was first announced. I immediately shot it down as being even a decent game, mainly due to the fact that it was an MMO shooter and it was a tie-in to a SyFy television show. Now that the game has released and I have put a good number of hours into it, I can see that my original thoughts on the game may have been too hasty.
Defiance is a hybrid of MMO and third-person shooter. It primarily has players taking on quests and then playing them out in standard shooting form. There are other players running around doing the same things, and choosing to join them in the fight or going off and doing your own thing is what makes it dynamic in design.
Defiance takes place in the future, where the planet has been ravaged by a horrible war. Survivors of the conflict are scarred, mutated or dying. Needless to say, it’s not a very happy place. Players take on the role of Ark Hunters; who are equipped with a special internal system called EGO. This allows them to both communicate with a mysterious AI as well as enhance their combat abilities with certain powers.
These powers come in the form of four special abilities: an overcharge that grants users a power boost to attack, an invisible cloak for sneaking around enemies, a speed boost that allows users to move much faster in battle and a decoy that can draw enemy fire away from the player. Players choose which ability to use and then select perks to equip that surround the activated ability in the EGO grid, much like a skill tree. Leveling up will result in more points to spend on these perks, and allowing more to be equipped at one time.
Defiance is not as much of a loot game as I would have hoped for. Sure, completing a quest will offer up some new kind of weapon, but for the most part, many weapons feel and act the same, just with different effects and stats. This is not a very deep MMO, and stat tracking is really an after thought. Still it does allow for customization of weapons through special parts that can be equipped. New stocks, scopes, barrels and magazines are just a few things that can enhance weapons. Finding new shields and grenade types can also change things up a bit, but for the most part, this is a shooter.
Quests come in a variety of types. Story missions will have a mixture of objectives, but there are still numerous side quests and special leader board challenges to take on as well. There is a surprising amount of content available that can keep players going for hours on end. Of course, I began to see some overlap in many of the missions. Most revolve around gathering data at certain spots or clearing out an area. I had to get used to the “Go here. Kill these guys. Interact with this” mentality.
The interactions with other players had me intrigued. I never once had to join other player’s parties. Much like Guild Wars 2, everyone works together to complete objectives. So if I were to take on a side quest that had me going to three different stops on the map, other players doing the same quests could help me out automatically. These also come into play during the world events called Ark Falls. Here, players in the vicinity run to a large rock that needs to be destroyed. Doing so will give all players participating massive experience bonuses and loot. These pop up at random and doing them is a hectic ordeal. Even though everyone is just shooting at a large rock in the ground, it still felt fun and made me feel like I was a part of this world. That is one thing Defiance does rather well. The dynamic quest structure is one of the shining points of the experience.
The other notable point is the PVP aspect. Much like a standard third-person shooter, some matches take place on a designated map with assigned teams. The balance seemed very fair and I never experienced any lag during my sessions. There is the standard team death match and a capture point objective-based mode called Shadow Wars. Signing up for this mode will allow players to continue their play though of the main game until a new war begins. When this happens, a large group of players are put into teams and must fight to control points over the entire world. Even Ark Falls can occur when this is going on. It makes for a frantic, yet insanely fun time.
Of course, this is an MMO, and any game like this is going to have some issues. The story is lackluster at best. I don’t know what that says for the newly released television show, but the game’s narrative just felt mediocre. The visuals are bland, and many character models come out looking blocky and unpolished. The PC version does allow controller support, and it works well, but it doesn’t feel optimized for the menus. I also experienced some glitches while playing. Some objectives wouldn’t pop up, making the quest impossible to complete, and some graphical glitches occurred during my play time. Many of these problems can be solved with patches, and Trion’s support has been really impressive.
The game has a special charm to it that is hard to describe. I was never bored while playing, but I was never blown away either. It’s very standard in most aspects, but the dynamic quests and Shadow War PVP really help the game shine. I am surprised at how much I enjoyed Defiance. It has that “just one more quest” feel to it, even if those quests had me doing the same thing again just in a different location. People looking for a decent time with their friends can definitely get it here, and players looking for a simple concept with some fun player interactions will get their fill.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.