Defiance is a game that really can’t decide what to make of itself. Is it an MMO or a first person shooter with RPG elements? Is it a console shooter ported to PC or the other way around? What it is for certain is a genre defying game in that it cherry picks elements from various games and mashes it in a gigantic, frantic furball of player versus player versus alien bugs in a post-apocalyptic world.
If you haven’t heard of Defiance the game perhaps you heard of Defiance the show on Showcase and SyFy. The two Defiances are tightly intertwined in terms of story and world. In summary, a collective of alien races called the Votans come to Earth after their star is destroyed. Thinking the Earth is uninhabited, the Votans begin the colonization process with their huge colony ships called Arkships only to be met with understandable hostility by humans. A war breaks out, and unexpectedly, the Arkships begin to “Arkfall” (their words) down to earth causing a terraforming catastrophe. A mix of alien plants and life is mixed with Earth geology and flora to create a pretty messed up landscape.
Admittedly, I didn’t have high expectations going into the game but I wanted to give it a shot considering how much I liked the show. The aforementioned schizophrenia of the game didn’t help with my early appeal, in fact it took a solid hour before I learned how to enjoy the game. There are no clear classes like most MMOs other than four different power ups. Oh my god, the bugs! It’s pretty clear that Trion Worlds released the game ahead of schedule to meet the TV show premiere. Bugs include enemy monsters warping out of a fight in the middle of combat, falling through environments and one recent bug which caused everyone to momentarily receive a huge boost of experience points which forced the developers to rollback the database. Despite it’s lack of focus, polish, and bugs, it’s also a game which I found myself clocking over 40 hours of playtime and counting!
Defiance exists on one simple premise: shooting bad guys is fun and even better with friends. A third person view shows your character firing a huge assortment of weapons at bad guys and other players and some of the weapons are just plain satisfying to shoot. There is an upgrade mechanic to power up your character and weapons but this isn’t your typical linear progression like other massively multi-player games on the market. Within the first hour of the game, you pick your character’s EGO boost from a group of four, including a personal cloak, damage buff, a deploy-able decoy and a speed buff that propels you towards your enemy causing melee damage. Once you choose your core power, you pick passive powers that will slightly change your character’s ability to output or mitigate incoming damage. You can really customize a character build to your play-style but there is no one build that takes precedent over another. Min-maxers will be disappointed.
Weapon progression takes place interestingly from a point of view but a high level gun really doesn’t have much more damage than my initial starting gear. You can spend your real world currency to purchase outfits and weapon upgrades that will add a longer barrel or attach a scope to a pistol but these do little to effect your ability to kill bad guys, this factor relied on your personal ability. The game has great hitbox detection, allowing you to go for headshots for critical hits and even shoot through terrain and holes in walls. I haven’t been able to tell if bullets will drop allowing you to create defilade style ambushes like in similar first person shooters.
Defiance is an MMO and if you are familiar with Trion Worlds’ other MMO, Rift, you will notice a lot of similarities here. Quests revolve around a main storyline as you follow a mad doctor and his search for some sorta matrix thingy which causes his eyes to glow. Why and what are not explained and I found I fast-forwarded through the story just to keeping shooting at interesting, squishy bad guys. I’m hoping that the show will shed light on some of the storyline but the common complaint about this game is that the main story arc makes very little sense. There are some fantastic moments such as when a massive horde of Hellbugs begin invading the local countryside and you must unite with your fellow players to fight them back. But unless you are a fan of the series or want to try an MMO for your Xbox or PS3, there is not enough here to warrant a recommendation for the PC version.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!