You may have heard of Defiance before. A new science fiction show debuting on the SyFy network is bound to turn some heads. Usually any game tying in with a TV show or movie is doomed from the get-go. However, Defiance is a fully fledged third-person MMORPG. This has piqued the interest of many as it is also a third-person shooter. Can Trion Worlds’ second MMO become a mainstay in a genre that already has millions committed to their respective titles? Let’s read on and find out.
The place is Earth. The year, 2046. Earth has been forever changed by the arrival of different alien races. The land has been scavenged to all hell and resembles nothing more than a desolate wasteland. War has changed Earth, and not for the better. More of the story becomes apparent as the plot of the TV show will actually change the storyline in-game. It has been said that your actions in-game will actually have the ability to change the plot of the show itself. That still remains to be seen, but it does sound pretty nifty.
Now immediately upon booting the game, you are asked to install the game to the hard-drive. This was confusing at first as I already installed it to the hard-drive via the dashboard. Confusion, be damned. We got it done in a record 17 minutes! The game then demanded that I search for patches and install them. This is inherent with MMOs and expected so no biggie. Another 19 minutes go by and I’m ready to play the game. No? Oh, another patch. So 10 minutes go by and I’m into the gameplay. No, I’m not (there is a slight pattern forming here). So four patches later and approximately an hour gone by, I was ready to jump into the vast world of an MMORPG for the first time.
The very first thing to mention about the game is the bad connectivity. Random disconnections and server downtime comes in abundance here. Trion Worlds have been extremely vigilant in their efforts to correct the situation. They’ve even sent out emails with extra in game incentives and an apology to their faithful consumers. Scenery pops in and out as well as the players and weapons like an old PS One game that hasn’t quite loaded yet. The frame-rate is as erratic as Kanye West at an awards show. Although, despite all of its problems, Defiance is not a bad game.
You’ll start off at a character creation screen where you will choose all the defining features of your ‘Arkhunter’. After choosing your look, race, and traits, you will set off into the wasteland that Earth has become. Right into a tutorial! The game plays quite well in comparison to other MMOs. Judging this game against other shooters will make you notice that Defiance just doesn’t stack up, however. Enemy AI is as gormless as anything. They will spend a lot of their time ignoring the fact that you are even running up their backside firing rounds off like nobody’s business. The lack of any kind of cover based gameplay does make some of the missions a trial. But if you happen to be in the vicinity of any other human players in the world, it won’t be a problem at all for you.
The missions in the game are abundant. A large campaign will certainly keep you busy for a good few days. However, all missions consist of “go here, shoot this, press this”. There is literally no deviation in that process whatsoever. The side missions are plentiful, although these lack just as much diversity as the main missions. There are survival challenges in which you will be forced to use a specific weapon type. There are also time-trial race missions in which you must make your way through various checkpoints and beat the time to your destination. Random events can pop up, however. Most of them demanding that you rescue civilians that have carelessly gotten themselves surrounded by wretched alien hordes.
There are these things called ‘Arkfalls’. Randomly generated missions that only appear at a certain time. Again, these don’t vary at all. A giant red icon will appear on the world map, and every human controlled player in the area will be dashing towards the event. This means excessive lagging, dropped frame-rates, and an annoying amount of people driving around in circles to pick up the free XP. The majority of these will see you and dozens upon dozens of other chipping away at a giant bug’s health for up to 10 minutes until a giant explosion sends him packing. Yet again, no variation and no sense of any unique gameplay whatsoever.
There are some competitive modes that will keep the game fresh for those who will become tired of constantly performing the same menial tasks over and over again. There are deathmatches on a decent amount of separate maps. Then there is also Shadow War. It is almost a domination type game-mode that takes place on the game’s main map. Neither is all that captivating as again, the game just doesn’t stand up to other shooters on the market in the slightest. Although there is a nice little piece of innovation that other games can learn from. Whilst you sit in the lobby waiting for the matchmaking to do its thing, you are actually still on the main game map playing just as you were. It will transport you into the competitive modes once the lobby fills. When the matches are finished, you will be transported to the last checkpoint you were at on the main map.
Getting around war-torn San Francisco can become a chore even with a large variety of vehicles at hand. The controls are stiff and clunky when driving. It’s not like a GTA game where driving is a chore until you get used to it. It is just flat out bad. You might even find yourself using your various fast travels rather than opting to drive.
The ranking system in game doesn’t work like other MMOs. Heck, it doesn’t even work like other RPGs. You will earn EGO for each mission and task that you complete. EGO is an alien implant that allows you to see your hud as well as use your special abilities. Special abilities like invisibility and using decoys would be useful. However, they’re just not necessary at all. Unless you are doing a mission yourself, enemies will largely ignore you if you pick your spots. You can just mow them down without a care in the world for the most part. Defiance is not very good at all at explaining the game to you. You get weapon mods right from the start of the game. However, you won’t be told that you can’t use these mods until you’re a higher level. You either need to be told by someone else who has figured it out, or randomly find out that it finally works much later in the game.
Defiance is a game that has a hell of a lot to do. Albeit unvaried and with almost no sense of accomplishment. It is however nice to see a company pushing boundaries and bringing the first real free-to-play MMORPG to consoles. It’s not the best MMO, but the constant patching leaves plenty of room for improvement. The gameplay is barebones and could use a little work on hit detection and frame dropping. The connectivity issues will continue to be a huge problem for a while. However, Trion Worlds has assured their fans that they are painstakingly working on the issue.
I do have one major gripe with the game. For all the effort that you go through to level up your character and upgrade your weapons and abilities, your character is never yours. There’s no defining characteristic that makes people think “hey, it’s that guy”. Every event and mission you do is awash with a sea of green and brown camo. Hell, the only reason I could spot my friends on the battlefield is because their names are highlighted with blinding neon green. MMOs are supposed to be about defining yourself. It’s the reason people become so enamoured with them.
For all the negativity shrouding this review, I bear no ill thoughts about Defiance. It will continue to get better. A season pass totaling at 3200 Microsoft points almost guarantees that. This was a tough game to review. The game is hilariously bad, and then all of a sudden it’s not. I guess it all comes down to one thing. I had fun when playing Defiance. This in the end is what gaming is all about. For a first console outing on the MMO plane, Trion Worlds show that they have a lot to learn, but they are definitely on the right track.