Defiance Review (PC)
Welcome to Defiance
Defiance is a third-person shooter MMORPG developed by Trion Worlds (known for developing RIFT) for PC, X360 and PS3. The game is based on a TV show of the same name which airs of Syfy. Being made by the same developer, you can notice a lot of parallels between Defiance and RIFT, but fear-not, Defiance is its own product. Defiance not only goes against the MMO grain, but it does it well. No longer mimicking the style of the ever-popular World of Warcraft and instead taking its own direction, Defiance may just be a foot-forward for the MMO genre. As this is an MMO, I’ve decided to go about things in a less traditional manner and split the game into the sections below.
Your EGO and You
Defiance has the controls you’d expect from a third-person shooter. The controls are intuitive and don’t require much thinking to work out. Left-click shoot, right-click scope or alternate fire. Shift sprint, ‘C’ crouch. ‘G’ grenade, ‘V’ vehicle. You get the idea. Sprinting is a toggle function. It’s amazing that such a simple thing which isn’t done often enough. There is also a dodge roll (Alt) which makes combat a bit more than just standing there shooting.
As an Ark Hunter, you are equipped with an EGO – Environmental Guardian Online. This will provide you with one of four skills to use: Blur, Cloak, Decoy and Overcharge. Blur increases movement speed and melee damage, it can also provide a boost to dodge. Cloak makes you invisible – useful for getting behind shielded enemies – and can provide shield regeneration. Decoy creates a clone that will attract fire giving you some down-time, it can later be used as a bomb or a means of teleportation. Overcharge provides a damage boost for all projectile attacks, when activated it also fully reloads the active weapon. At higher levels, the duration of Overcharge can be increased. These skills help diversify gameplay and are different enough that none are inherently better than the others. The skill you pick can be boosted by spending EGO points on the skill grid. While you can pick only one, you may re-spec at any time.
The user interface during play shows everything you need. Perhaps too much given that it shows a few of the main shortcuts (Equipped Skill, Grenades, Vehicle) which only really seem to clutter things. Other than that one gripe the rest of the user interface manages to show only important information such as the mini-map, health, level, experience and the chat box.
The menus in Defiance like they were created for consoles, but are well-streamlined to factor in PCs, too. Hitting escape will bring up a radial menu which gives you access to everything including the map and options. There are also shortcuts to open each menu. Pressing ‘K’ when you have your inventory open will provide you with a seamless transition to the inventory screen. There are also tabs across the top of the screen which can be clicked to change screens, if you prefer. One problem I did find is that when buying or salvaging a lot of items, it can feel a lot like a chore due to the lack of streamlining.
The map of Defiance is a wonder to use. Left-click will allow you to drag the map around, scroll-wheel to zoom in and out and right-click will set a way-point. Left-clicking any item in the key will remove it from the map or add it back. It’s incredibly simple, but works exactly as you need it to. Another great thing about the map is the ability to easily see roads – even side-roads – without even having to zoom in.
The Footprint of an Ark Hunter
As you begin Defiance the first thing you do is create an Ark Hunter. Currently there are only Humans and Irathient – One of the Seven Votan races. This was somewhat disappointing as I feel the diversity of having 8 playable races would have been amazing. The customisation options for your Ark Hunter are somewhat slim. A few faces, some different hairstyles, skin colours and four different backgrounds. Backgrounds determine your starting equipment and back-story. While there isn’t much customisation here, there are outfits and headgear which can be obtained by playing the game and some more in the cash shop.
A collective of races known as the Votans travelled to Earth seeeking a new home after the destruction of their own solar system. The Votans came into contact with humans and a war broke out in which the Earth was terraformed. As a result of the terraforming, Earth had changed completely; new species emerged on the planet and old ones died. This forced Humans and Votans to put their war aside and become allies. In this new world, alien technology can be found scattered throughout the Earth due to “Arkfalls”. These occur when parts of alien ships fall from space. They are highly sought after by Ark Hunters.
The story of Defiance follows you. You are an Ark Hunter hired by Karl Von Bach to go with him and his (Earth Republic) military escort on a mission you are given very few details about taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the ship you’re on flies into the Bay Area, something goes wrong and you jump into an escape pod, crashing to the earth. When you wake up you are greeted by an Irathient – one of the seven races in the Votan Collective – who then helps you. Together you work your way through the E-Rep Mutants around the crash site and make your way towards the Earth Republic base camp. Karl Von Bach isn’t there and you haven’t been able to find him, so your priority is to locate him. Working your way around the map while looking for him, you help the Earth Republic keep the peace and enhance their foothold. When you eventually find Karl Von Bach the true story of Defiance unfolds, but I won’t spoil things here. The story is thoroughly enjoyable, though not quite as good as the TV series, it easily holds its own in terms of MMO storylines.
In the radial menu (ESC) you can access Intel. Intel is throughout the world and will give further background on the world. I was a little disappointed these were collection items. I would have enjoyed just sitting reading these all in one go.
Gear Up and Move Out, Ark Hunter
Episode Missions are removed from the game as new episodes of the TV show air. That was a big turn-off for someone like myself who got into both the show and game a little late. The justification for this is so that the timeline of both the show and game are equal. While I think it’s a cool idea, in practice it’s just forcing people to watch the show and play the game. I would be all for it if they decided to add them back in.
Side Missions in Defiance have some variance. While the missions themselves amount to the same as more traditional MMO quests, the execution is different and varied enough that you won’t be getting quickly bored of them and doing them only for the reward. Somewhat similar to side-missions are ambient events which are scattered throughout the world of Defiance. Ambient events range from defending farms, assisting faction squads and destroying faction squads. Some of these events have fixed positions, but a lot of them can happen anywhere at any time – even in the middle of the road. It’s up to you whether you stop to complete them or just drive on by, but they really help give the world more of a ‘living’ feeling. Other side content includes Hotshots (you are given a gun and an endless onslaught of enemies and have to rack up as many points as you can without dying or running out of ammo), Time Trial (driving through checkpoints as fast as possible) and Rampage (you are given a small radius and a gun with limited ammo and no reload, kill as many enemies as possible).
Arkfalls are one of my favourite aspects of Defiance- these are parts of alien ships. As an Ark Hunter, this is the juicy reward you – and everyone else is looking for. E-Rep Mutants. Hellbugs. Other Players. Everyone. Luckily, you and other players combine forces to beat out other factions in the event of an Arkfall. The goal is to destroy the debris that has fallen while beating out whichever other faction is attempting to attack the same Arkfall you are. Arkfall debris falls in large quantities in a large radius. When you reach the final debris in an Arkfall, you’re in for a treat. In a Final Arkfall, there is a large circle of debris and a massive Hellbug. When you defeat this massive Hellbug, a smaller, more powerful Hellbug Hellion emerges from it and lays waste to anyone nearby. The Hellion sometimes retreats back into the large Hellbug to rest and when it does, it calls Hellbug Monarchs to defend it. This is not the only type of Final Arkfall, but I’ll leave discovering the rest to you.
Shadow War is the main form of Player versus Player in Defiance. Shadow Wars commence when enough Ark Hunters have joined and take place on the world map in real time. While in a Shadow War, you can still see neutral Ark Hunters doing missions and Random Events still happen. These only add to the chaos. Shadow Wars are 128 player PvP with the goal of holding the Arkfall points spread throughout the Shadow War radius. As time goes on more points appear. Because this takes place on the world map and not specific maps designed for the Shadow War, things can get extremely chaotic. Unlike normal PvP where each team has a side of the map, in a Shadow War, Ark Hunters – friend and foe alike – come from all direction.
Like everything else in Defiance, Dungeons (Co-op Missions) are made with the story and lore in mind. They are just like dungeons in any other MMO but with cutscenes (which can be skipped). You progress through mainly linear halls before reaching rooms with mini-bosses and finally a room with the final boss. While it’s not anything special, the addition of the cutscenes differentiate it from a lot of other MMOs out there.
Defiance has top-notch voice acting – probably due to its link with a TV series. All of the characters – even side-characters – that have voice roles are voiced to a professional level. Main characters are (obviously) voiced better and emote without being stiff. One problem I had with the voice-acting was the the small number of lines side-characters have. You will hear the same line repeated a few times, maybe more as you play Defiance, but it’s nothing so distracting as an arrow to the knee. Most of the music I heard was fitting, but the first theme I encountered was a weird dub-step battle theme which just seemed very out of place to me.
Visually Defiance is pretty, but far from the best. The terrain is a weird mixture of a post-apocalyptic wasteland and some sort of tropical forest which makes for a somewhat unique look to the game. While the game isn’t the best-looking game ever, it does have good animation. A lot of objects you can interact with have their own animation, though it’s somewhat disappointing that your character’s animation doesn’t quite match the quality. When switching weapon, your weapon disappears and you magically conjure a new one, it would’ve been nice if there was an actual weapon switching animation. Other than these nitpicks, the visual and animation quality hold up really well.
Scrip Will Get You Far, Where Will Bits Get You?
In Defiance You have multiple currencies: Scrip – the main currency, Scavenge – used for buying lockbox keys – and Bits. Bits are the currency you can buy using real money. These can be used to buy some items, but rather than powerful items that will make paying players stronger than non-paying players, they’re mainly cosmetic or convenience items such as vehicles, costumes and extra inventory slots. Let’s see what your money gets you:
Minimum purchase 600 bits = 6GBP (With bonuses received for larger purchases)
Boosts range from 40-160 bits
Lock Boxes (which contain gear) range from 120-400 bits
A variety of vehicles (7) are 320 bits
8 Outfits ranging from 180-560 bits
Headgear ranges from 60-440 bits
Inventory slots cost 120 bits per 5 slots
Personally, I can only see this as good value for money. Nothing is vastly overpriced or required. If you enjoy a game you should strive to support it. Other than the cash shop, there is also 5 announced DLCs (Which you can buy a 25GBP Season Pass for).
This Ark Hunter’s Already Racing to the Next Arkfall
For what I thought to be just a shameless TV tie-in game, I was completely blown away by Defiance. It’s a really solid game – and world – positively laced with humour that has entranced me – both the game and show. Though Episode Missions disappear left me a little annoyed due to being behind on the show. Leaving the show aside, the game is a really fresh direction for an MMO and it deserves to thrive It does have its problems – such as removing Episode Missions and some minor glitches – but they don’t detract from the whole package. I would highly recommend Sci-fi and shooter fans alike give Defiance a look, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s a peek at a Final Arkfall to whet your appetite: