Review: Defiance


Not many TV show tied-in games have achieved great success, in fact you could say the only game to do so was Telltale’s The Walking Dead, whereas Survival Instinct showed us exactly how not to make a TV tied-in title. Well now it’s Defiance’s turn to show what it’s got, with the TV series set to premiere on Monday 15th April on the Syfy channel.

Set in the San Francisco Bay area, the world does not appear as we know it, with a terraformed environment and alien inhabitants known as Voltans, now sharing Earth with the human race. Defiance is an open-world third-person shooter MMO, a lot to say I know, but that’s exactly what it is. You are an Ark Hunter, not a Vault Hunter although there are a lot of similarities to Borderlands. Employed by the famous Karl Von Bach (CEO of Von Bach Industries), it’s your job to search for advanced and expensive alien technology.

Working together isn't always essential.
Working together isn’t always essential.

Starting with character creation, there are no specific classes on the game, which is nice to see, since it leaves no restrictions in place over your characters, unlike most MMOs. You can choose to play as a human or Voltan, which come in both male and female character models. Your weapon choice lies completely in your hands, but it’s recommended that you switch them up a lot to get your weapon proficiency level to maximum. It’s a neat little feature in fact because it means you have to change your playing style all the time, if you want to become the best of players. You’ll be sniping from buildings, running in with a shotgun or just simply spraying with an assault rifle.

The goal is pretty similar to Borderlands – level up and collect rare orange weapons. The rarity of weapons run in a similar fashion too, with white weapons being trash and orange being the rarest. Most of the pick-ups you’ll get at later levels will usually range from green (common), blue and purple. You won’t be sticking with the same starting weapon through till the end, even though the assault rifle rewarded in the episode mission is pretty over-powered.

Levelling in the game comes in the form of EGO Rating, which can be earned by completing a number of activities. You can play competitive multiplayer, co-op missions or just drive around and complete the things on offer on the map. There wasn’t a moment when I was scrambling around for something to do, since Arkfalls pop up all the time, which are dynamic events leading to a world boss, in return they reward gear in  for completing them. Several of the Arkfalls do a have a tendency to bug out and break completely, but as with all MMOs, this is likely to be fixed in the next patch released.

In addition, there are perks you can unlock, which grant a number of bonuses for your character. These range from kill bonuses, loot drop increase to driving damage and protection. Most of the perks I felt lacked real conviction in making your character better, but there were a few that caught the eye. There’s also a bug at the minute, where your fifth perk slot keeps removing itself, meaning you lose that perk and have to keep selecting it again. Once again, another job for the patch to solve.

One of the few world bosses.
One of the few world bosses.

Defiance uses a whole set of currencies to get you playing and completing a variety of activities. You have Scrip, which is basically money you use to buy things in the shops, then there’s Reputation points for the various faction shops, which sell many purple weapons worth buying if you get enough rep. There are also Keycodes, which is the most valuable currency in-game. You can use Keycodes on lock boxes to buy weapon crates, which contain a bunch of random weapons for your character to try out. Each weapon crate comes at a cost and they range in tiers, with tier 4 likely to offer you the most valuable loot.

You can earn Keycodes in a variety of ways, one comes from completing activities, which is probably the best way to earn them. The other comes from breaking down your weapon into resources, which gives you Resources to spend at the lock boxes, in return you can buy one Keycode for 1,000 Resources. There’s also a store where you can spend some real money on items such as outfits, headgear and boosts for your character. I was lucky enough to get a rare orange weapon in my first tier 4 weapon box, which left my group feeling jealous.

In order to get around San Francisco you’re going to be using vehicles such as quads and the Dodge Challenger. The terraforming of the world really lends itself for these vehicles to get some serious air, something I really love about the game. There’s nothing better than hitting a bump in the ground to go flying over a hill and land perfectly, so you’re ready to keep driving again.

I have a lot of criticisms with the game, starting with the bugs in the game, since there are a lot of broken side quests and dynamic events, which can be frustrating when you have to start all over again. There’s also the time taken to render in objects, which can cause you to crash into them if they don’t render in front of you in time. Graphically, it’s nowhere near the best looking MMO, which isn’t helped by the blurry graphics and frame rate issues, leading to disconnections from the server sometimes.

There are a lot of things to iron in the game, but for what it is, it’s not a bad game, considering the restrictions posed by a console for any MMO title.

Lots of pesky bugs!
Lots of pesky bugs!

On completion of the main story missions and side quests, you’ll likely to wonder: “What else is there to do?” In actual fact, there’s plenty at the moment, with different game modes, collectibles and that push for orange gear, making it an immersive game you can play for hours, if not days. It’s what an MMO is made for, to be played over and over again. Longevity won’t be an issue in Defiance, that’s for sure.

What’s important to note with Defiance is the fact that the game will run alongside the TV episode, which means there will be missions and new content based upon it. New content is crucial for an MMO to survive and stand on its own feet, so having that promise from Trion Worlds is a relief and likely to delight fans if the TV show kicks off with success.

My fingers are crossed for an exciting and thrilling TV show now, although I haven’t seen the pilot episode, so I’m going into this series blind. Having played the game, I guess a lot of it will make sense, since The Walking Dead titles helped build up my knowledge of several TV characters such as Merle and Daryl Dixon. I think it’s highly unlikely that it will match The Walking Dead’s views, but it’s been promoted so much and there’s a game out before the show has even started, so it’s only going to help boost them.