System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Third-person shooter, action RPG
Developer: Trion Worlds, Human Head Studios
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Defiance is nothing if not ambitious. The latest effort from Trion Worlds (creators of the popular MMORPG, Rift) is a third-person shooter set in a large MMO world, with the caveat of being a tie-in for the Syfy show of the same name. Defiance also has the distinction of being a rare MMO on the home console market.
I have to admit I am a novice when it comes to massively multiplayer online games, but Defiance‘s Borderlands-esque gameplay had me intrigued from day one.
Much like Borderlands, the core of the game revolves around shooting and looting. There are five chapters of main storyline missions, a handful of missions based on episodes of the TV show, and countless side quests. There is certainly no shortage of things to do.
While exploring the in-game world, you will frequently come across others playing at the same time. While most people seem to be doing their own thing, occasionally you will see someone working on the same mission as you, allowing you to team up and work together. These types of encounters are when Defiance is at its best — it’s an especially great feeling to receive unexpected backup during a tense situation.
This is also an excellent game to play with friends. There are five co-op specific missions available, and main story quests can easily be started together as well (aside from a select few that are solo-only).
At the same time, if you prefer to go the solo route, the game can still be a blast. In fact, in many ways, Defiance feels like a single player game in an MMO environment. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s nice to be able to do what you want without having to worry about others, but it’s also difficult to communicate with strangers online when you might want to. The in-game chat system is a disaster, as the only way to really talk to anyone else is by using the Xbox party chat function. There are a handful of default sayings and emotions that can be used, but these are laughable at best. Just being able to voice chat with others in the surrounding area would be a huge addition to the game.
On the plus side, anyone who has played a third person shooter will feel right at home with the controls. The game is easy to pick up and play, and combat is fine-tuned. There are a wide variety of guns to choose from, including traditional weapons like assault rifles and rocket launchers, as well as those infused with alien technology. Weapon types can be mastered over time, and the more you use them, the more XP you get.
Now, even though there are quite a few weapons available, the game has a bizarre looting system. It’s quite possible to find a decent gun at the beginning of the game and just keep it for the rest of your playing time. Loot is plentiful, but it’s difficult to find a weapon that is significantly better than what you may already have. There are various forms of each weapon (ranging from white “common” types to the ultra-rare oranges), but each upgrade only slightly tweaks the overall gun performance. For a game that prides itself on looting, it’s disappointing that there is rarely anything useful to be found. It is rumored that Trion is performing a complete overhaul of the weapons system, however, so this may no longer be an issue at some point.
Defiance is constantly being patched, so the game is always worth keeping an eye on, even if you haven’t played in a while. A recent upgrade finally allowed for the release of more hard-to-find weapons, a much-welcomed feature. Most patches just fix bugs and glitches — of which there are many (more on that later) — but occasionally Trion will make some major changes. While it’s fantastic that the game is still being updated months after its release, it can get frustrating to try to play the game, only to find a number of patches being forced to download first. By the way, on your first time playing Defiance, brace yourself for a lengthy download of mandatory patches (I’m talking well over an hour, regardless of speed).
The in-game world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but there are always random events happening. At any given point in time, there is at least one Arkfall taking place. These events are where you will meet the most gamers. Arkfalls happen when massive chunks of alien ships fall from the sky, causing enemy scavengers and ark hunters (players) alike to fight over the wreckage. Successfully clearing out an Arkfall will net significant XP and loot.
Aside from these random events, the wasteland setting is actually rather decrepid. There aren’t many memorable areas, aside from perhaps the ruined Golden Gate Bridge. It doesn’t help that the game is ugly — it could probably pass for an original Xbox title. A major sacrifice was clearly made in terms of the game’s visuals, and there are constant issues with graphical draw-in, disappearing objects and the like. This didn’t bother me too much, and in fact, some of the glitches are quite amusing, but it’s worth noting for those who prefer slick-looking titles.
What’s amazing is that even while Defiance has so many bugs and annoying issues, I still find myself coming back to the game. In fact, according to my Raptr profile, this is my most-played video game from the past year. The core gameplay, although repetitive, can be insanely addictive, and it’s a blast to play through the game with a friend. I love being able to earn XP in a variety of ways, and there are just enough tweaks and settings to keep the game fresh.
The suggested retail price of Defiance has dropped to just $9.99, and at that price, there is really no reason to take a flyer on the game, especially if you are a fan of third-person shooters. While it is by no means a perfect game, it’s still a fun adventure that serves as one of this year’s more underrated titles.