Trion Worlds is no newcomer to the MMO market. They have earned a rapport with gamers with their traditional fantasy MMORPG Rift holding strong as one of the few subscription based games still around, but Defiance is another thing entirely. When I first read about the concept for Defiance I couldn’t help but be even the slightest bit skeptical. Designed to run in conjunction with an original TV series of the same name airing on the SyFy Network and set within the same larger world, changes in either the game or the show will be reflected across both mediums. Join me and the Ark Hunters to see if the game portion of this ambitious undertaking stands up.
Published By: Trion Worlds
Developed By: Trion Worlds
Review Sample Provided By: Trion Worlds
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC (Review Sample)
Genre: Third Person Shooter, Massive Multiplayer Online
Release Date: April 2nd, 2013
Written By: Debo
Screenshots By: Debo
Welcome to San Francisco circa 33 years in the future after an alien ship has crash landed on Earth and resulted in the terraforming of our planet in to something equal parts home and alien jungle. Defiance takes place in the resulting aftermath of a global war that broke out between humanity and the alien refugees known as the Votan. Alliances are still fragile but both sides have come to an uneasy truce for the sake of survival.
The adventure begins aboard the EMS New Freedom where you learn that you are an Ark Hunter, a mercenary for hire that works for Von Bach Industries and more specifically the company’s owner Karl Von Bach. VBI, being a large technology and weapons company, is working with the military in order to seek out and find pieces of powerful Votan technology lost during the crash.
Unfortunately all is not perfect as after a bit of world acclimation a hull breach brings your massive floating ship crashing down to Earth leaving you stranded in a hostile new environment filled with mutants and vicious creatures. It’s up to you (and any friends or players you find along the way) to rescue the other survivors, find out what brought down the New Freedom and most importantly find Von Bach.
Gameplay is everything you would expect in a third person shooter; nothing incredibly new or innovative here and that is really for the best and has proven to be Trion’s style. What you are left with are intuitive controls anyone can pick up and jump right into playing which is understandable with the game being released on Playstation 3 and Xbox360 as well as PC. That being said, the opening tutorials are very useful and give you a feel for the fast pace the game tries to keep.
For all the simplicity of diving right in with the basics, there is still a skill curve that will let you advance not only through exp points but as a player. Dodging while running for cover, sprinting at the right times and twitch reflexes will all give you an edge as you advance. Headshots do matter and ammo is limited.
During character creation you are asked to choose an origin but this does nothing beyond determining your initial starting outfit and adding a bit of flavor to your adventure. In no way does it limit you to a play style other than the one you choose. Defiance doesn’t have a class system. Instead you are introduced to the EGO system during the tutorial and allowed to test drive each of the 4 basic abilities it grants: Cloak for stealth, Decoy for a mirror image, Overcharge for a weapon damage increase and Blur for a speed boost. After trying them all out you are asked to choose which one you want and in that unlock your place on the EGO Grid.
Every time you level up you will be given an EGO point which will allow you to level up your main ability or a Perk. To unlock new perks you simply have to own an adjacent perk and each can be upgraded two more times after your initial purpose. With the sheer size of the EGO Grid and the variety of abilities available your perks are limited to your imagination and suited to your play style.
The crafting and itemization available in Defiance is a world unto itself. Each dropped and vendor sold weapon is randomly generated with their own little special abilities and anywhere from zero to four different modification slots available for, you guessed it, randomly generated weapon mods of varying types that you can add to tailor even your guns to how you want to play. This is all done in the Salvage Matrix.
Being an MMO, multiplayer is the heart of the game in Defiance. From the drop you can see you aren’t alone and are free to chat it up with anyone and everyone in your area. Quests, even the main story variety, are delivered in an open world way where others that may just be in the area can take down objectives and get some experience for their efforts while you complete them. Be warned though, the more people in an area increases the difficulty of the spawning mobs and getting overrun is a distinct possibility.
Quests aren’t the only things that appear randomly throughout the Bay Area in your travels. Large dynamic zone events known as ArkFalls randomly occur from time to time drawing all nearby people together to defeat invasions and massive bosses. Rewards, experience and money are given at the end based on how much you participate in the event.
If the open world isn’t your style, there are also co-op dungeons to be had. With a single key press you can join matchmaking for dungeons in your EGO range and complete them with three other people. These dungeons are a departure from the MMO standard in that they are fast paced, action packed and once the final boss is downed, everyone gets rewarded. The game also boasts support for larger groups and even raids though I personally can’t say I have participated in any being new to the game as a whole.
Defiance has you covered if you don’t like playing nice either. 6v6 and 8v8 competitive multiplayer is available at any time in much the same way as co-op dungeons are. As you level you unlock access to more loadouts that allow you to switch your perks and weapons on the fly or between spawn ins on competitive maps.
As I said earlier there isn’t much in the way of wacky controls. Left and right click shoot and aim respectively, the space bar jumps and you move with WSAD. For most people the default control scheme will be more than adequate and easy to adjust to but if default isn’t your thing the entire key mapping is able to be edited to fit your style.
Being a fresh release, the UI does take some getting used to. I had to search for a way to even log out of the game the first time and the party UI still seems a little awkward right now. The main screens though are full of all the information you would ever want and logs of previous missions and even in game videos on enemies are at your disposal whenever your desire.
Seeing as how the game is an Xbox360 release as well, if you would like to use a Microsoft gamepad, full support is available with all key mapping fully customizable to your liking there also.
Graphics and Audio
Being an MMO title with an intended release on home consoles as well as PC, I went into Defiance with a certain expectation that the graphics would not be bleeding edge. That being said, that game does look great. Using HAVOK Physics and Animation engines, Trion has used every bit of expertise to deliver something I would call good looking even for a single player experience.
I personally played the game at the highest possible graphics settings but if your computer cannot handle that do not fret, lower settings look just as well with most of the extra power put into things like lighting, foliage and less blur.
It isn’t all just about the beauty though. Anyone who has sampled Trion’s other MMO Rift can tell you they surely get the fact that while beauty may pull you in, sound and score are what complete a great immersive experience. Defiance pulls this off almost flawlessly. There is rarely a moment where some ambient noise can’t be heard and when combat kicks off the music enhances the suspense and action and the rolling thunder and cracks of lightning that announce an ArkFall are unmistakable.
Overall and Final Verdict
I will start off by saying I enjoyed Defiance very much. The seemingly infinite amount of random loot and fast paced bullet slinging action had me hooked from the jump (the rocket-powered ATV that acts as your mount helped with that) and the near endless customization kept me playing well into the night. Picking up a dungeon group and simply laying into mobs for 15 minutes or running across a zone to join in on an ArkFall is addicting in that way all MMO players love. The community at release is vibrant and enjoyable and there is always another side quest marker appearing on your map. Defiance, as it is, is a very solid offering.
The flaws are there, sure but they exist mostly within the UI and can be patched or learned with time. The game runs well, sounds great and controls intuitively. With a one-time purchase fee and no further financial obligations beyond what you may want to spend on cosmetic things in the in-game store, Defiance is well worth the price. Trion Worlds has delivered a solid MMO experience and hopefully I’ll see you in and around the Bay Area soon.