Trying to write a review for a MMO on any level is exceptionally difficult, as the genre by its very nature is consistently changing and doesn’t always follow normal story structures. Defiance, the latest title by Trion Worlds is no different, as it as a persistent third person online shooter—a genre that takes the normal fundamentals of a MMO but mixes it with the dynamics of a shooter. Having spent a significant amount of time playing through the various modes and options throughout the game as it is in its current state, I will be covering Defiance as it is up to the point of it being published, while trying to be fair to its ever-evolving platform.
The first thing that needs to be stated about Defiance is that it is a pretty damn good game. The only issues that really hurts it is that it falls into so many of the pitfalls that many new persistent online games have, and they all cannot be ignored in hopes of an eventual fix.
As with many games that are strictly online, the ability to handle bandwidth and its ability to stream will always be an issue, and Defiance is far from immune to this problem. Within the first few minutes you will notice various amounts of pop-in whether it is from textures loading in too late, enemies appearing out of thin air or objects showing up long after have already hit them. Rarely do any of these issues become so bad that they actually hurt the gameplay, but the degree in which they occur can be quite off-putting.
Visually, the game does not break any new ground, but neither is it the ugliest thing ever; the only real issue it has is the quality of its animation. The first second you see a character speak, the poor facial animations of the characters look incredibly odd—as lips do not even look like they were attempted to be lip synced and character’s faces are stiff and emotionless. This issue is only exasperated by the voice work in the game being far superior than the work put in by its animators, which leaves the cutscenes in the game an uneven experience.
Past any issues with the visuals of the game, Defiance packs in a number of modes and options that should keep players busy for hours on end like any good MMO-styled product. The main mode or player vs. enemy (PvE) portion of the game brings in more than the simple grind and fetch quests. There are multiple story arcs that seem to be going in various directions, and that is exactly what makes Defiance feel unique. Later this month (April 15th) Syfy will be launching a television program under the same name that will supposedly have a unique affect between both products, as down the line both the show and the game will be able to shift the story based on the actions that occur in each. Currently there is only an epilogue story arc in the game that should move on as the show pushes itself forward—which means that it is still far too early to see how the concept works out past being a nifty idea on paper.
Sadly, while experiences will always differ for each person who plays the game, my experience was far from optimal. One of the main story missions had glitched out and proceeded to halt all story progression until it was patched, which thankfully, only took about a day. Still, it stalled my progress and hurt my experience despite the quick fix.
One of the more interesting things events that will occur in the game are Arkfalls, which center around the background of the story where wreckage of the destroyed Votan ships fall to Earth. Once these occur, a timer will pop-up and all players will have to take down various types of enemies to obtain the precious loot hidden within. Normally this style of combat on an MMO can become frustrating and cumbersome, but Defiance handles this through a leaderboard that takes in a number of factors to determine ranking for the battle—ultimately negating many of the standard looting hiccups.
Surviving this apocalyptic world will require skills from both your online avatar and your own ability to shoot. Defiance does not rely simply on stats to keep you alive or to kill you. Much like any real shooter, your ability survive a fight comes down to a fine line between finding the best weapon possible for the situation and your ability to put your foe in the reticule. There are multiple upgrades to each weapon type as well as unique traits that alter the way the gun works, much like in the Borderlands series. Controls are very solid and make the game almost feel like it is a single player experience, but as you go about your own adventure, other players will wander by reminding you that there are hundreds of people running around the same landscape.
Besides fighting the countless enemies with poor AI—something that seems to be getting better with each patch—players will have the option to immediately drop into working with or against other people online. Simply by the touch of a button, players can join a co-op mission that that places them and a group of friends on a private map with a set task, or on an online server for some player vs. player (PvP) – which plays out much like any online third-person shooter multiplayer. Both options seem to work well and add a great deal of depth and ability to help level your character up, without forcing anyone into doing repetitive missions.
Finally, the one thing that is important to state is that Defiance does not have a subscription plan based around it, as it follows the ever popular microtransaction model we are seeing many MMOs take on. None of the stuff that can be bought with real money makes enough of a difference to uneven the playing field, as most simply add inventory slots or dress your character up in more unique threads. The issue I do see with this model is the way the items are now monetized, a separate package of credits (one of many currencies in the game) is purchased with real money, but the denominations do not work out evenly for the items available to purchase— forcing the player to needlessly upgrade their package to a higher dollar amount to make up the difference.
Overall, Defiance is well worth the base price for players looking to find a great third-person shooter with a good deal of ever-evolving content. While it is far from perfect in its current condition, and the possibility for it to improve is a great incentive, the reality of it as it now stands is that it still is a very competent game that fans of the genre should check out—so long as they understand from the beginning that patches, updates, server downtime, lag and/or general internet problems are going to be an issue periodically through its life. These issues are commonplace with MMOs, so PC gamers are used to such problems, but with MMOs being relatively new to consoles, this is something to keep in mind if considering making a Defiance a purchase.