Defiance – PC
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Developer: Trion Worlds
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Genre: Action, RPG, MMO
Reviewed by Jason Flick

Review Score: 4 of 5

MMOs have always been a passion of mine over the years and I’ve seen many a franchise come and go including several that I’ve invested a lot of time in. Months ago, I heard about this MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) project that almost sounded unreal and too good to be true. The project is called Defiance and it is both a free-to-play MMO beyond the initial purchase and a TV show that was that just premiered recently on the SyFy network. That’s right a game and a show that are designed to compliment, affect and coexist simultaneously.

Now an undertaking like Defiance is a big deal and one that the SyFy network and game developer Trion Worlds (Rift) are taking seriously. As most starting MMOs go, Defiance hasn’t been without its fair shake of problems but in the last month Trion has released several updated to fix and tweak the game to give players the experience that the developers sought out to deliver. During my time with Defiance so far I’ve seen broken co-op missions, loading issues and glitches when trying to select key items in a few mission areas but a lot of those have been fixed with the patches.

Defiance is a unique MMO both in its gameplay and story. This isn’t your traditional bow and arrow, sword swinging adventure and it isn’t set on some distant planet or fictional world. No Defiance takes place right here on Earth or rather a terraformed version of it after aliens come to earth seeking a new home. The game starts after the events of what is known as the Pale War where both humans and Votan (the alien races) must co-exist on Earth to survive and start anew. As most MMOs go you get to choose to either Human or the feisty alien race known as the Irathient not unlike the two main stars of the show Nolan and Irisa before you get started. You even get to meet these two characters in the game’s San Franciscan locale before they head off to the former St. Louis area in the show.

As an avid MMO player, I have to say that Defiance will strike a chord with other MMO vets as well as those that have never played one in their life. This statement comes from the fact that while I was playing Defiance, despite my every knowledge to the contrary, I felt like I was playing a traditional futuristic third person shooter with RPG elements. I love a good fantasy MMO, but Defiance is easily a breath of hot lead that the industry needed. Defiance is all about experiencing its story while fighting mutants, raiders, hellbugs and other enemy factions with powerful modern and alien weapons including shotguns, pistols, rocket launchers, grenades and my personal favorite the sniper rifle.

While the means of combat defines the energetic nature of Defiance, it is still very much an MMO. That means that that there is plenty of questing to do both in the main story and the available side missions as they appear. Players also get to choose a starting archetype such as veteran and survivalist though in the end it only affects your starting duds and weaponry such as the survivalist’s sniper rifle and pistol as well as the quickness of some of Defiance’s built in pursuits (challenges). It’s important to note however that you can use every weapon in the game regardless of your chosen archetype.

What are a bit more limited are the powers that the players have at their disposal based upon their chosen EGO path. The EGO system revolves around having an advanced alien AI implanted into your body that gives your prompt situational updates as well as unlocked potential that exceeds both human and Votan potential. Think of it like having your own little Cortana in your head which I can only imagine cost a shtako-ton of script, in-game currency, to acquire. This unlocked potential comes in the form of the four main EGO (Environmental Guardian Online) Powers, Blur, Overcharge, Decoy and Cloak. As I chose Survivalist as my archetype play style, I went with Cloak as my EGO skill grid option which is great for getting a drop on enemies before they even see you or vanish quickly to hide if shtako hits the fan. Did I mention I like that word?

You’re base EGO Powers aren’t the only ones you have access to either as you rise up in the Ark Hunter ranks. In true MMO fashion you gain experience for defeating enemies, completing mission quests and fulfilling any of Defiance’s vast listing of Pursuits. Every time you level up you gain an EGO point to spend to advance your main ability or purchase and/or upgrade any of the unlocked abilities. These powers are not extra attacks like most MMOs but are used as an extension of your normal and main EGO abilities. For instance, as I’m a player that likes sniping/ranged attacks I chose to purchase a perk that allows me to do more damage to enemies that are positioned lower than my character. Purchasing perks alone doesn’t make them immediately active though. You have to equip it in one of the unlocked perk slots for it to take effect. It’s up to you to find the best combination of perks that works for you.

Though your EGO Powers and perks will help you in the long run it boils down to your own skill as a player to get through Defiance’s world. I actually really like this growing trend in MMOs. It’s not a simple matter of clicking an enemy and cycling through your attacks here. Defiance requires you to actually aim at your enemy like a traditional shooter. Most humanoid targets take critical damage if you shoot them in the head or their weak points. Some enemy require tactic to take down like enemies with shields and bosses.

Defiance does have a nice loadouts feature allowing players to have a wide variety of weaponry to switch out to with the press of a few keystrokes or button presses for the Ark Hunter that wishes to remain versatile on the battlefield. For example my primary loadout features a sniper rifle and pistol/SMG combo with another loadout containing an Assault Rifle/Shotgun combo should I require some heavier mid to close range stopping power. One of Trion’s better touches with Defiance is the ability to modify your weapons at anytime assuming you have the desired modification parts and salvage/script to pay for it. These mods can be anything from sights that improve critical damage to bigger magazine sizes that could reduce the reload time on weapons. The options are limitless and completely at the players own choice on how they want to better their gear.

On the controls front, Defiance offers both the traditional keyboard and mouse and controller support as a means to play. Now I’m traditionally old school when it comes to MMOs but Defiance has kind of changed that for me at least in this game. Playing with a controller does have two drawbacks that I saw when playing though. One you can’t text chat with a controller and second aiming isn’t as refined as it is with a mouse. On the other hand moving your character with an analog stick is a smoother experience and adds to that whole fast paced third-person shooter experience. Defiance also has a built in voice chat system so grab a headset regardless of your preferred control option.

One of Defiance’s major appeals to me is its world design and characters. Unlike most MMO worlds, Defiance blends fantastic alien flora and creatures with familiar earth elements like architecture, roads, weaponry and vehicles. Trion Worlds did an amazing creating this world featuring gorgeous landscapes filled with destroyed earth structures, pristine alien houses, pieced together structures from salvage and even a mechanic’s towering home complete with a sweet driveway. One of the things I really like is the day/ night cycle that gave me the sense that I was interacting and exploring a real world. Players can see some futuristic vehicles including a few by Dodge. Players get the option to tweak how their character will look with a decent character creation setup. On the subject of characters, Defiance is full of some interesting designed friendly and not so friendly characters. As I’ve mentioned Grant Bowler and Stephanie Leonidas’ characters Nolan and Irisa make an appearance and their likeness to the real actors is awesome.

They also lend their voice to their respected characters in the show further solidifying the convergence of these two media fronts. The voice acting from the rest of the game’s cast is actually quiet good and there are even hidden logs hidden throughout the game’s world that are completely voiced that reveal plenty of back-story. Every bit of weapons fire and sounds effects sounded amazing coming from my 5.1 setup. One of the best things about Defiance is actually its score which is composed entirely by Bear McCreary who did BSG’s music. The score features wonderfully charged pieces reinforcing Defiance’s combat charged environments. There’s one piece during the first co-op instance that is this whole fast paced dubstep-ish Perfect Dark vibe that is off the charts as you and three other players are going through a dark bunker facility guns blazing as you mow down every mutant on the way down.

Co-op instances like I just mentioned are only one of the many things you can experience in Defiance. It has a little something from both the MMO genre and the third-person shooter to give everyone a different but familiar experience for all. You can compete head to head in 6vs6 and 8vs8 Deathmatch multiplayer combat via specially created maps or you can kick things up a notch in the random spawned Shadow Wars that are large scale territory skirmishes not unlike those seen in the like of Battlefield. Of course I can’t forget to mention the dynamic Arkfall events that rain down on the San Francisco Bay area not unlike the rifts in Trion’s first MMO. It’s really fun to ride into an Arkfall event seeing other real players doing the same in unison to battle a greater threat than mere bandits. There is also the slew of racing events and skill challenges littered throughout the game world to keep you busy and help boost your EGO ranking upon a successful completion.

Defiance is definitely a unique experience and really the first of its kind that is trying something new and probably only dreamt of by others. Sure there are MMOs based on popular franchises like Lord of the Rings and everything with the word “Star” in front of it. But for a company like Trion and SyFy to create a world both digitally and in the real world for a TV audience simultaneously with each sharing lore and characters is something else entirely. Through the ups and downs that I’ve experienced so far, I wish the folks at Trion and SyFy the best of luck as their story unfolds. I know I’ll be along for the ride every step of the way. If you want to try something that dares to defy the norm look no farther than Defiance for PC.