When I went to E3 in 2012, I came away instantly wanting more Defiance.
The MMO nature of the game was a blast to play, even if it was over a LAN, and I got hooked on the Arkfalls and taking on quests with players on Xbox 360.
However, I had my reservations about the game at the same time. Movie tie-in titles never work well, and developing a game that not only ties in with a TV series but is MMO in nature sounded like a lofty goal indeed.
After playing the game through its ups and downs, it’s safe to say the game has solid fundamentals, but may have set some bars too high for itself.
Before talking about the story, I do want to talk about the game’s rocky start. Being an MMO, it should be no surprise that there have been server issues. They have been worked out for the most part, but glitches can still happen and have happened to me. However, it hasn’t been bad enough in recent weeks to be a game-breaking experience.
The game happens around the San Francisco Bay area after the world was changed due to terraforming and war between humans and aliens. You play an Ark Hunter that tries to help Karl Von Bach find alien technology in the area.
Besides the main storyline to follow that will introduce you to various enemy factions and eventually lead you into San Fran itself, there are dozens of side missions to take on, with some having three or four parts to them. In addition, there are races to do in various parts of the land and various challenges to try and survive as long as possible or the farthest amount of rounds you can.
The game itself is a fairly standard third person shooter. There’s no cover system like other shooters of this nature, although you do get a skill that can make you faster, shoot stronger, make a decoy or cloak you for a short amount of time before it has to recharge. These areas also make up the skill tree you can put points into as you level up your Ego.
The game features quite a bit of guns, but they often fail to distinguish from other guns of the same type. Once I had a gun leveled up by killing bugs or other enemies, it would sometimes take over a dozen levels before I found a new gun to replace what I had to level up. In an MMO where gear is a big draw, it can really make you lose interest when the only good gear is for is to sell. You can also buy random gear in lockboxes that you can open with keys you get from doing Arkfalls or quests, with gear ranging from rare to legendary.
Most weapons can also have enhancements put into four different slots if you add mod slots to the gun with resources. These can help power guns up even farther, but also helps make loot even more pointless when you find it.
The other parts of the gameplay are fairly standard too. There’s a shield that recharges that you can find different versions of, along with various grenades. Thankfully, unlike guns, grenades don’t have an ammo count, instead just using a cooldown timer. You can also get a vehicle to drive around the map, which is definitely needed given how expansive it is. As you progress, you can also buy new vehicles that are faster and more durable as well.
Outside of the missions mentioned above, there are also the Arkfalls to deal with in the world also. Arkfalls are randomly generating quests that either have one part or multiple parts, depending on if it’s a minor or major one. Normally, they require you to either destroy waves of enemies or a crystal before finishing with a big boss at the end. A score is given for the damage you deal at the end and you see how you rank compared to everyone else.
The interesting thing about Arkfalls are how players will rush together to complete the Arkfall without saying a word to anyone. They’ll disband just as suddenly once it’s complete and the prizes and experience has been given out.
Unfortunately, the Arkfalls suffer from the same problem many of the quests have: they get too repetitive. This is probably the biggest downfall of the game. Ninety percent of the quests are go here, kill things, collect something and move on before going to the next quest. There is not a lot of originality on quests and it can really help kill the game’s fun at times when you’re doing the same thing over and over.
There are a few other things to do in the game as well. There are a limited number of co-op maps to beat with up to three other people, and are some competitive multiplayer maps to go in and see who has the best weaponry. There are also Shadow Wars to compete in, which is another multiplayer mode where you grab and hold control points as long as you can.
The other thing I liked doing in the game are the challenges in each area and the weekly and daily contracts which gets you fame with different groups, allowing you to buy rare weapons, vehicles and titles. Challenges range from exploring certain areas to finding recordings to more, and reward you with XP, titles or sometimes even new outfits to equip.
As I mentioned early on, the game tries to tie in with the TV series. It’s a prelude to events that made the series take place in Missouri, and the game has even featured a few missions that tie in with TV characters. Occasionally, contests may be held to put a character from the game in the show, but that really doesn’t help tie the universes together as much as it just rewards dedicated players.
Considering this is a free MMO besides the purchase of the game itself, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear the game has microtransactions. These range from buying lock boxes with random weapons to extra inventory slots, outfits and vehicles. You can also buy XP, money and loot boosts that can last for a few hours or a few days. The boosts can be bought for yourself, your guild or your group.
Graphically, the game looks good. There’s quite a bit of land to see, but when you get a lot of players or things going on at once you can definitely see a dip in the frame rate.
Overall, Defiance is a good foundation for a console MMO. It’s a decent experience, but doesn’t break the mold in any new ways and actually doesn’t capture the full charm a PC MMO has. That being said, it is enjoyable to run around with a friend in to see the war-torn world of San Francisco. If you’ve seen the series it’s also worth a look to get more of a look into what happened before the show started.