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Defiance Review

publisher: Bandai Namco
developer: Trion Worlds
genre: MMORPG

ESRB rating: M

release date: Apr 02, 13
» All About Defiance on ActionTrip

Massively multiplayer online games have been around for a while now; long enough for players to have grown tired of the typical fantasy setting, play styles and reoccurring monthly billing structures to start looking around for something new to throw their cash at. Publishers seeking to get their share of the players’ cash have been spinning out new titles with varying play styles at a startling rate. So, how does a publisher try to set itself apart from the ever growing group of titles? Trion thinks it might have the answer and has teamed up with the SyFy channel to launch Defiance – a massively online multiplatform game for PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and TV series that not only share the same name, but feature characters, story elements and locations that they say will evolve and change as the series plays out.

Similar to the Guild Wars 2 price model, after you buy the game itself, you pay nothing more for online play. Unless you wish to purchase in game boosts, costumes or items you need not spend another dime to continue playing after the first month is past. The idea here is that by offering people a chance to play a third-person shooter with MMOG elements set in a science fiction world that they can also watch on a basic cable channel will provide a unique experience that will hook an audience for both. Whether you view this as an interesting concept or a marketing ploy, one thing is clear: the real gamble with such a setup is that by tying a TV show and game together if either fails to connect with consumers, both might flame out. While I have not watched Defiance the TV series (yet), I have been playing the game on the PC and I have to admit, the game is fun but I cannot predict the end result of this experiment.

Defiance is set on Earth of the future, following a series of events that have radically changed the planet. Aliens searching refuge arrived in giant ships promising to live in peace with us and offering to share their technologic advances. While trying to decide what to do in the face of such an offer, Hell breaks loose in orbit: people die, ships blow up with some then crashing to Earth thereby causing an environmental disaster that forever changes the landscape and ecology of the planet. Humans and Aliens make nice and start trying to deal with this brave new world. There is more to the backstory and it makes a lot more sense if you watch the series at all. If you haven’t seen any of the TV shows you will still get the general gist of the storyline, but it’s not required. Not by a long shot. Basically all you need to know is run, shoot, loot and then lather, rinse and repeat. This is one of more than few Defiance is similar to the Borderlands series.

The player enters Defiance filling the roll of an Ark Hunter. These mercenaries are part scavenger, part delivery boy and part gun-for-hire that roam the countryside looking for action, adventure and loot. Every Ark Hunter has an implanted AI that provides details on missions, weapons you find and the various factions you will encounter. The AI will provide a brief tutorial (heavy emphasis on ‘brief’) for you when you first start the game, but this leads to the first and most overreaching issue I have with Defiance: lack of detail on how to play the game to its fullest. Sure, the AI tells you how to equip weapons, how to spend character points on skills and how to navigate around the map to find missions, but beyond that, you are going to have to hit the forums or Google to find player created guides. Defiance is hands down, the most lightly documented MMOG I have played to date. While I enjoy the thrill of discovery when learning to play a new title, I find myself wondering if the development team has a sadistic streak for keeping players in the dark or if this lack of info is due to some other reason. More on this later.

As far as the gameplay goes, players can choose from four different characters ‘Origin’ types, but this mainly just affects your starting look as all origin types have access to the same powers and perks. You choose one (and only one) of four powers that can be upgraded as you level up. There are also supporting ‘Perks’ that can be unlocked and enabled that will stack additional benefits and mods to your character. Perks work on a tree system meaning you have to unlock one in order to access the other perks around it, which grant more ammo or money from drops, damage reduction and other bonuses along those lines allowing you some flexibility on how you want to spec your character (again, somewhat similar to Borderlands). However, while the perks help you in game, this is another area where the lack of documentation and a short tutorial can frustrate the player. You can unlock as many of the perks you like but unless you open your character sheet and EQUIP those perks, you will not gain any of the benefits from them. It took me a little while to figure that out only after I had upgraded the increased hit point perk and did not see any benefit.

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7.4   Good

Fast sci-fi gunplay in a massive online setting, free online play, lots of loot drops, lots of missions and challenges in game;

Lack of documentation makes parts of the game a mystery forcing players to search out details online, clunky facial animations, annoying bug sometimes forces missions to be dropped and rerun to be completed.


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