de·fi·ance n. - The act or an example of defying; bold resistance to an opposing force or authority.
So what is Defiance? Well, Defiance it's kind of a unique game. To put it in simple words, its a MMO game brought by the guys behind the critically acclaimed Rift. So where is the uniqueness in this, you might ask? Defiance is a science-fiction-themed persistent world MMO third-person shooter available on PC and (for the first time?) on consoles with a unique transmedia deal going on which I'll talk more down below. Also you might ask, this game is a month old so why did you decided to wait this long to review it? Well, I could have written a lame review very early telling that this is Borderlands MMO and that the game has a ton of glitches and all of that cr*p that you might have read till now. But no I waited, cause reviewing an MMO requires patience and cannot be rushed.
As we all know by now, there's a TV show with the same name, Defiance that it is airing on SyFy Network. The TV show tells the story of a human drifter and his adopted Irathient daughter who put down roots in Defiance, a community where humans and the many different alien races of Votans coexist in the ruins of St. Louis in a near future where Earth is almost alien. It is a very interesting show and I highly recommend you to watch it. The game in the other hand, does not follow the same story-line, but has a totally original one that is based on the same universe and builds more upon it.
In Defiance The Game you play as an ark hunter, a scavenger hired by Von Bach Industries to search for a powerful alien artifact. However that's only the first layer of the story, the introduction to the game. During the campaign, your role in the story grows as you become more than an expendable hired gun. The main storyline is interesting and it offers many insights on what happened during the war, who won and who lost, why did it happened and who were the ones that finally ended it. The cast of supporting characters is interesting in overall, but not entirely new. We have seen the douchey boss, the regretfull soldier, the badass soldier, the angry reporter chick, the "I've lost everything so everyone needs to pay" guy before. So don't expect something special and new here, but it's still interesting to see how your relationships grow with these characters. It is also interesting to see how your reputation grows and how the other characters change their opinion about you and their way of talking towards you as you grow to be the "Hero of Paradise", the one who saved the earth from another armageddon or that's what the game wants you to believe. Being a MMO game, all this sense of achievement and pride kinda fades away when there are more than a million of other players or "Heroes of Paradise". I am not a hardcore MMO player or even a fan of the genre. I played some Lineage II back in the day and goofed around Fiesta, WoW and Rift but I didn't really connect with any of them like many other players did. Not saying that those games were or are bad, what I am saying is that those weren't and aren't for me.
So did Defiance connect with me? It kinda did. Mainly because it's a third person action shooter game in its core and it offers a sense of freedom that other MMO don't really have. In MMO games once you've created a character with a specific class, you are stuck with him/her, but here's not the case. In Defiance get to be the holy trinity, you can be the Tank, Healer and DPS at the same time. Defiance doesn't really have a set character class system, you get to be what you want and you can change that whenever you want. After you crash-land on earth, you acquire the EGO, the Environmental Guardian Online. This EGO implant fuses with the body, unlocking its dormant powers while providing up-to-the-second environmental intelligence. You get to choose a special power from four available, Blur which makes you run faster, Cloak which makes you invisible, Decoy which creates a decoy hologram and Overcharge which boosts your damage. You can't really change the power once you get it, but you can mess around with the perk system to get different results and character builds. Another thing that Defiance gets right, for my opinion, is that it offers many different characters build slots, which you can change and switch very fast even in the middle of a battle. For example you can have a only explosives build or a close range one with two elemental shotguns and a slowing grenade or a long range one with a sniper and a lock-on rocket launcher. It is an interesting feature and it works perfectly in the game. Apart from the equipment, you can also customize your characters look. You can buy or get as rewards different outfits or head wear for you character.
Now let's talk about the feel of the game. How does it feel to play it? Controlling/moving, aiming and rolling feels like Mass Effect, so simply put it feels great in this part. However in the shooting one, it's no where near the Mass Effect or Gears feel. It feels like you are firing rubber ammunition and the same is for the explosives. There are many different weapons that shoot rockets or grenades, but you don't really get the feeling that you are using a powerful rocket. Puff! they explode and doesn't even cause a knock back effect to the enemies. Bullets doesn't have a satisfying impact or any impact at all, explosives just explode visually and yet the combat still manages to be fun and as strange and contradictory this may sound, it's the truth. Mowing down hellbugs, scrappers, mutants, big balded mutants, big scary hellbugs, elite soldiers etc. somehow manages to be satisfying and fun. Traversing around the big world is done by walking, fast travelling or driving. There are different vehicles ranging from ATVs, dune buggy, a very fast Dodge Challenger, vans, but I what I would really love to see is a flying vehicle. Driving feels a little floaty, but it's fun. Jumping off a cliff and pulling off a 7200 on the ATV... yeah, it's awesome and fun.
Fun. The definition of fun changes for everyone. For example, for some of you who are reading this it might be fun to do the same thing over and over again with your friends and I am not against that, but for me doing the same thing over and over get really boring really fast. The missions here are an excellent example of that. If you could sum up the main and side missions in the game in one sentence it would be "Kill, kill, kill then hold X or Square (or whatever the PC button is) till you complete the objective." This is the ugly truth behind the mission design in Defiance. It all boils down to holding a button to complete the mission and this gets boring. Making it more boring and annoying is the inconsistent AI. Sometimes they will just stand there doing nothing while you shoot them and in some other cases they will literally whup your a$$ as they don't miss a bullet and lob perfect grenades from miles away.
To increase its lasting appeal, there are some challenges like a horde mode type where you are given a weapon (most of the times a minigun) and you have to survive waves of enemies as much as you can. There's also a race through checkpoints time trial style and the protect "something" from "something" till time runs out challenge. Some nice challenges but I wish there more. I wish there was a multiplayer mode where I could race other players in Death Race style, cars with guns and rockets. Also I wish there were some minigames too like poker or a futuristic card game. Or something like a shooting competition, score X number of headshots or whatever all in multiplayer type of challenge or a scavenge/treasure hunt challenge where you search for weapons part and other loot. Or a bounty hunter system where we have to hunt the best player of the day/week/month and capture or kill him. The possibilites are infinite! Also I wish they tone down the boring instances, I don't want to rescue the same farmer again and again. Another thing that I felt was missing was a loot chest type of thing. The map and the world of Defiance is big and finding a chest with an awesome weapom after killing a sh*t ton of mutants or hellbugs would feel very satisfying. Borderlands did an amazing job in this part and I think it would be a fantastic addition for Defiance in the future.
Now what is fun in Defiance or at least what is fun for me, are the cooperative missions. Four players are teleported in a separate map and have to complete the mission. These missions are, maybe, the greatest thing about Defiance cause they are done in a fantastic way and have a very interesting story to tell. And the boss fights at the end are super cool. I highly recommend to play all of these co-op missions. The competitive part of Defiance, the PVP side, yeah you can skip it and not miss a thing. It's a cluster-f*ck of rockets, grenades and lame cloaking shotgun insta-kill players. It's frustrating and can get on your nerves pretty quickly. There is also a Shadow War mode, think Call of Duty Domination or Battlefield Conquest, that can be fun to play when there is one going on. Waiting a full day for the lobby to fill up with 64 players for the match to start isn't the way to go, the devs need to find another way.
Now let's get back at that whole transmedia deal. What they promised us before the game and Tv show launched was "Stuff that happens in the Tv Show will somehow affect the game and stuff that happens in the game will somehow affect the Tv Show". Till now the only thing that matches this description are the Rynn missions. More crossovers are promised and more are hinted, so I can't really comment on this right now. Considering all of this and the 5 announced DLCs, I think Defiance will keep us entertained for a long time.
I got to play Defiance since the first closed beta and to tell the truth, it has changed a lot from that time. The guys at Trion have been hard at work ironing out tons of bugs and glitches with their numerous patches and making the game more fun and enjoyable, but there are still plenty that need to be addressed to and from what I am seeing fixes to these problems will come in no time. For example in the early days of Defiance, some of the missions won't even load or the initial cut-scene would just keep looping over and over again and you had to restart the game to fix it. Or sometimes while I was running, my character would fly up in the sky for no apparent reason like someone Fus Ro Dah him. Or sometimes the weapon wouldn't reload or sometimes I could continue to fire practically forever and still do damage to the enemies. And a ton of other silly stuff that they fixed, but there are still a large number of bugs and glitches that need to be patched. MMO games are like wine, they get better with age, if the devs and the community supports them.
MMO games are all about playing with a large number other players at the same time. Defiance manages to create this feeling using a cool neat trick. Each server in consoles support up to 100 players I think, but you don't see all of them all on your map. They only appear when you are near them or when they are doing the same mission as you. You can chat with the other players, you can trade with them, you can invite them to your clan, ask for help for a mission or you can just hangout. The only moment where you can see all of the 100 players the server can hold are during the arkfall events which are practically Rift events that happen in the world of Defiance. If you have played Rift, then you would understand me, if you haven't go watch a video of that on Youtube. So during these events a big boss or a crystal or something will appear on the map and you and all of the other players can choose to tackle it. If you take part in it and if the event is completed, you get rewards. Now I don't know how these events play like on PC, but on the PS3 these are awful. The frame rate is as low as it can be and the only thing you do is stay at one place and shoot, for 10 minutes. This is not fun! There are also small arkfall events which play better and the frame rate is somewhat steady, but still nothing special there, at least on consoles.
To stay in contact with friends there's a clan system, which I don't really get what is it used for (till now). There are no tournaments (till now), no online rankings (till now), you can't really set up or schedule shadow war or even competitive matches (till now). The only benefit being in a clan, as I found out, is that sometimes a rich dude will buy a boost in the game, being a XP/Loot/EGO/Scrip one for the whole clan. Here comes in play the Defiance Store. The game is not play for free, but it also isn't subscription based. You only pay the retail price and you can play it with no additional cost. However there's the in-game store, where you can use your real money to buy in game content. It's not really pay to win as you can buy only vehicles, outfits, headgear and boosts, but it can become one when you buy lockboxes. Lockboxes are practically "loot chests" which depending on their level, can give up to three from low to rare items. You can also buy these "chests" using in-game currency Scrip, but you can easily buy them also using real cash. So think it like this, you have been playing for 100 hours and you earned some sweet gear, but a new player that just got into the game using real cash gets a rare gold weapon and with it he totally wrecks you in competitive matches. This may be a little pay to win for me, but again you can also get these gold weapons without paying a dime.
The presentation of the game is great. The UI is easy to understand and easy to use. Quick chat menu is bound left on d'pad and quick menu to the right on the d'pad. Visually the game on the PS3 looks good enough, the terraformed earth has some great looking sceneries but also some generic ones. The draw distance is fine on the PS3. The textures look really good, but in this version there is a lot of texture pop-in and sometimes many of the world's elements will not load so many times, while driving, you will hit invisible things that completely stop your movement. Maybe this is from lag or it is a technical problem since maybe the PS3 can't handle it, I don't know. The frame rate is steady most of the time with a few hiccups here and there, but it really suffers during the arkfall events which makes them nearly unplayable on PS3. Character models look very good and the monsters/mutant designs are very interesting, their animations likewise. The only things that looked horrible are the face animations and the lip syncing, just plain horrible. In the sounds department the game does well too, the sound effects are well done and the music is cool enough. The voice over is really good for the most parts but sometimes it's just silly.
Bottom line: Should you give Defiance a chance? Totally, it is a very good game with a really cool and interesting story that just keeps expanding. Sure it has many glitches and bugs, but the support from the developers is constant and from what they have been telling me some amazing things are going to come soon. The transmedia deal seems very interesting and something to watch out for. The gameplay is fun and cooperative missions are fantastic. As I said previously, MMOs are like wine, they get better with age so don't take this score for granted. If the support continues it may become a +1 or it can also become a -1 or -2 if somehow they manage to screw things up.
Defiance was reviewed on the Ps3 using a promo key provided by Trion Worlds. Defiance is now available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.