Developing and maintaining an MMO is no easy task, especially one as ambitious as ‘Defiance’ by Trion Worlds. Not only is Defiance an MMO shooter available on PC, Steam, PS3 and Xbox 360, it also has a TV show on the Syfy network (SF in Australia).
There is a lot of hard work invested in both the TV show and the game of Defiance, but what really matters is how well the game plays. Despite a few niggling problems, Defiance is actually quite fun to play, after the beginning stages of the game.
Defiance takes place on Earth after it has been devastated by a global catastrophe. The landscape has been radically altered, leading to the extinction of almost all life. Dangerous new species emerge, and alien life comes to the planet in search of a new home. War between the humans and alien races ensues. Eventually the humans and “Votan” came together, ending the conflict and learning to live together peacefully. Now, enough about the backstory, and onto the game play itself.
Players create their own character and assume the role of an “Ark Hunter”in the service on Von Bach Industries. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of options in each category for creating a character, and as a result of this roughly one in four humans I’ve encountered on the game has a mohawk, or ridiculous facial hair. I understand the focus of this game is action, however I always feel there’s something to be said about a game that has a healthy amount of character customisation.
Your mission is to recover different alien resources and artifacts for the Von Bach Corporation, however it doesn’t go as planned, with the company CEO himself going missing after the vessel you are traveling upon crashes to Earth. There are a plethora of missions, side missions and challenges such as time trials, marksman competitions and rampage missions (which play like horde modes from other games).
The most fun I have had with Defiance so far has been playing the story missions, and the dynamic events, known as “Ark Falls”. The Ark Falls affect a massive area of the game world, causing different occurrences, which serve as difficult challenges with (as you would expect) rare and fantastic rewards. The most recent event was destroying “Hellbugs”. Normally when you encounter a Hellbug, it is the size of a small dog. In this event, the Hellbugs were the size of cars, and were five times as vicious as their smaller cousins. There must have been at least 50 other players frantically struggling against the legions of Hellbugs, and most of us had our butts thoroughly kicked. It was an absolute blast, and in my memory this is the only game to offer an experience such as this on console.
Gaining experience in Defiance is different to other MMOs, and that’s a good thing. Unlike other MMOs which are largely class-based, Defiance has a large, interconnected “perk” tree. Your origin story determines where you start on the perk tree, and you are able to gain numerous and varied skills. You aren’t limited to a certain skill set like in other MMOs, and it certainly makes for a refreshing change compared to other MMO games. If you feel like trying a different weapon, you are able to, and can even customise different loadouts (think Call of Duty).
Gameplay is certainly entertaining in Defiance, though it must be said there are several bugs and other occurrences that bring the experience down. One problem is the constant latency in the game, which isn’t a “game breaker” as some have suggested, but it is annoying to see other players disappear and reappear constantly while travelling on their ATVs and cars. The lag also affect some of the gunplay, and there have been numerous times where I was unable to hit someone with my sniper rifle, despite having a perfect headshot lined up and having the element of surprise. The game has so much lag that every single time I encountered another player, they clipped back and forth, ending and restarting missions that I was undertaking. Despite the issues plaguing Defiance during its first week, the gameplay is still fun, and despite the latency, is rock solid in every other aspect.
Defiance is neither an ugly game, nor is it gorgeous. I won’t use the words “average” or “adequate”, but there is definitely room to improve in the graphical department. This is where the TV show has a slight influence on the game too. The characters, weapons and environment are what one would expect from a science-fiction TV show, and therefore, look believable. This aspect of Defiance’s visual design make it weaker as a stand-alone game, but stronger as an overall franchise. If Trion Worlds had deviated from this and created wild and crazily designed aliens, it wouldn’t look as good when recreated on the TV show.
Some of the game’s textures look very ugly at times. This is especially prominent when you rotate the camera on certain angles (such as around you character after equipping a new outfit) and you see the ground. The road is meant to be cracked and damaged, but it looks as though someone has taken a permanent marker and outlined all the cracks. It would have been nice for the environments and the building interiors to have a little more variety too.
Easily the weakest aspect of Defiance. The soundtrack isn’t bad, its just average. You tune out of it pretty much immediately, and when it is meant to play a larger part, like during a dramatic story event, it is as boring as elevator music. It also seems like the enemies(particularly the mutants) have only a three or four things to yell when you are fighting them, such as “die”, “kill” (pronounced Keeeeeeeeee-el), and “enemy”. Hardly exciting stuff, and the rest of the game’s sound is also sub-par.
- An MMO on a home console (disregard, PC players).
- Classless system makes for a refreshing change.
- Dynamic events are a blast.
- Some ugly textures.
- Boring sound.
- Horrid lag.
While Defiance is off to a rocky start, things are guaranteed to improve. There is a patch coming to the console versions to address some of the lag and other issues. Taking inspiration from other shooter such as Mass Effect and Borderlands, Trion Worlds have developed a fairly solid title, despite a few ugly textures (which could also be patched) and boring sound design. Everything that matters in Defiance (missions, gameplay, co-operative fun) works well. Borderlands and Call of Duty players looking for a more rewarding experience should definitely check out Defiance.
Score – 7/10