Home | Reviews | Defiance

Defiance

About This Game:

Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: 04/02/13
Developer: Trion Worlds
Publisher: Trion Worlds
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Length: 30 - 40 hours

Defiance first intrigued me last year when it was shown off at E3 as this huge MMO that would be on both PC and Consoles. This was a HUGE deal to me. I love playing MMOs, but I’ve always wanted to play them with the convenience of a console. It’s been done before, don’t get me wrong. But I do think that in terms console MMOs, Defiance is the best offering yet. At the same event a year ago that I first saw Defiance it was only vaguely mentioned that it would tie into a show that would air at the same time. All I cared about was the fact that it was a console MMO, so I just pushed that to the side and didn’t really care about it. Fast forward a year and the game and show are out and the only marketing the game is getting is the fact that it is tied to the show. I haven’t gotten a chance to really sit down and watch the show so I won’t judge that, but I just can’t understand why they haven’t pushed the “it’s an MMO on consoles!!!” thing more when marketing this game. Some people think it’s just a generic licensed game, but honestly it is anything but.

Presentationj

Defiance isn’t what you would call a pretty game. Don’t get me wrong, the game does have a good amount of detail all around the world, and some of the enemies (the Hellbugs especially) look really cool! But what plagues this game the most is the fact that the colors are incredibly dull, making everything sort of bleed together. The game has a day and night cycle, which helps it a bit because some of the vegetation around the world lights up at night and stands out, giving the game the color it so desperately needs. I understand that it is an MMO and high graphic fidelity can hinder an MMO’s bandwidth, but today we have great looking MMO’s like Planetside 2 and Guild Wars 2 that have plenty more players than this. Defiance is just the result of a developer who was forced to push the game out at a release date that coincided with the show. It’s the sad truth.

The game can handle a surprising amount of players on screen, that is if you don't mind not being able to hear and everyone looking the same.

The game can handle a surprising amount of players on screen, that is if you don’t mind not being able to hear and everyone looking the same.

One redeemable aspect of the presentation is the fact that the game handles huge amounts of players exceptionally well for a console MMO. Sometimes you will have upwards of thirty characters on screen at once, and the frame rate doesn’t miss a beat. To ensure this, it seems like Trion made it so the first thing to go was character models if things got a little crowded. If there are more than four players on screen at once, more often than not the game will give their character a generic skin, unless they stand within range long enough for the game to load it. Another failsafe Trion seemed to use was to knock out the sound. When you are in huge crowds of people, or doing the world event style Arkfall Events, the sound usually dips in and out. I feel like both of these things were sacrificed to make the game play smoothly, and the results are mixed. Sure the framerate doesn’t take a dive, but now the game just sounds like a jumbled mess.

The enemies in the game, especially the Hellbugs, look great!

The enemies in the game, especially the Hellbugs, look great!

The game has multiple bugs, the cutscene animations like like jagged cartoons from the nineties, and the voice acting is subpar at best. Seriously, why does character Jon Cooper sound so miss matched with his voice actor? What doesn’t help is the voice actors themselves seem to not care what is going on, which makes the quality plummet.

Story

One of the biggest selling points of Defiance is the fact that it ties in with the live-action show on SyFy Channel. With this in mind, you would think that the story would actually be pretty good. I mean, the writers are trying to garner viewers for the show, so they have to bring their A game right? Well unfortunately the story in this game is the worst part about it. Completely forgettable characters, cliched writing, and unsatisfying moments riddle the main quest and make the overall experience boring. Which is a shame too because the universe itself is very interesting. Defiance is set in a future where aliens came and forcefully immigrated and integrated themselves on Earth. This led to many wars over the years, but in the end soldiers from both sides stood together against their commanders and ended the wars once and for all. As a result of all of this, the Earth is pretty much destroyed, and civilization is non-existent save for a few colonies. This sets the stage for what could have been an incredibly interesting story about the world, but falls flat. In this day in age, a voiceless character in a video game is about as welcome as an incontinent dog. With great RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age with speaking protagonists, hell even Guild Wars 2 has speaking protagonists, the effect that spoken lines has on a story is unparalleled.

Karl Von Bach, the character you spend the most time with throughout the story, is the worst offender in terms of being dull and lifeless.

Karl Von Bach, the character you spend the most time with throughout the story, is the worst offender in terms of being dull and lifeless.

The story could have been one of the things that saves Defiance and help it stand apart from other licensed games, but all it does is reinforce the stereotype. The game could’ve at least had interesting characters, but the most interesting one is thrown out after just the first few missions, never to be replaced by anyone that is even half as interesting. If the writing is this bad in the show, then I don’t have high hopes that it will last beyond the first season.

Gameplay

It may sounds like I regret purchasing Defiance, but in all honesty I don’t. This is because when it comes to gameplay Defiance shines. The game has incredibly satisfying third-person combat, with multiple different powers and weapons to use and dispatch your foes with. The controls are tight and very streamlined. Even the vehicles, which are a little unwieldy at first, grow on you and become very natural to drive. The game encourages experimentation by throwing different types of weapons at you, and the sight of higher-level players with all of their sick gear makes you want to play even more. Add this to the incredibly addicting looting mechanic that the game constantly dangles in front of your face, you will easily lose track of time playing Defiance.

The driving in Defiance works surprisingly well. It does everything it can to prevent you from flipping over, which is a nice feature when you're just trying to get from point A to B.

The driving in Defiance works surprisingly well. It does everything it can to prevent you from flipping over, which is a nice feature when you’re just trying to get from point A to B.

The downside to all of this is the fact that the game borrows all of its elements heavily from other well known franchises. The most prominent borrowing is from the Borderlands series, which Defiance obviously copies on multiple levels in terms of gameplay and world structure. This game has multiple rarity levels of loot ranging from white to orange, orange being legendary. That just happens to be the exact same scale Borderlands uses. This game borrows so much from other games it can be distracting at times, but what saves it is the fact that nothing is really half-assed. Sure they used a lot from Borderland’s formula, but that’s because it worked. And it worked here too, really well actually. This game is seriously addicting at its best…

The game has a loot system, incredibly similar to Borderlands, that distinguishes rarity with color. Grab that loot!

The game has a loot system, incredibly similar to Borderlands, that distinguishes rarity with color. Grab that loot!

… but also really tedious at its worst. Once you have gone through the first fifteen missions or so, both side and main quest, you have probably seen all the game has to offer in terms of mission structure. This starts to put a huge damper on the fun later in the game and makes some sections like a grind for grind’s sake. No missions have any distinguishable save for a few with boss battles or cuscenes (or both).

Overall

Defiance is a game that was on the cusp of greatness, but then dropped the ball due to stupid oversights. If the game stayed within the oven a little longer, what would have resulted is a game that could have seriously been innovative for the industry and could have been a contender for game of the year. But alas, the typical tropes that come with show or movie licenses have taken hold here and dampened the experience. Still, what we have isn’t terrible, and for what it is it’s a fantastic console MMO. If you only have access to consoles and have an itch to play an MMO, this is a definite buy. There is tons of content here to keep fans happy. If you are looking for something new for the PC though, look elsewhere. There are plenty of other great MMOs out there like Guild Wars 2 that blow this game out of the water. The interesting thing about Defiance is the fact that I knew I shouldn’t like it, I knew it was ugly and stupid, but yet I still loved every second of it. Hell after writing about it so much I want to go play it right now. It’s because the gameplay is so deliciously fine tuned that it makes all of the other shortcomings of the game seemingly disappear. On the consoles at least.

Pros:
  • Nothing like it on consoles.
  • Interesting universe.
  • Addicting gameplay.
  • It has a dancing function, which makes it a certified MMO.
Cons:
  • Plenty like it (and better) on the PC.
  • Dull graphics.
  • Dull characters/story.
  • Borrowed gameplay from multiple games.
  • Overly Tedious quests.
Defiance
avatar

About the Reviewer: Cooper

I'm a college student who's passionate about video games.


Leave a Comment

Back to Top