Review

T

rion Worlds is making video game history.  Their recently released MMO Shooter, Defiance, isn’t just a game, it’s also a TV Show produced by the SyFy Channel.  Both the game and the TV show are designed to go hand in hand with each other as they share the same future terraformed Earth and promise to have cross-over content.  For this endeavour to truly succeed, however, Trion Worlds needs to deliver a game that people will want to play and continue to play for a long time.  In that regard, save for some decidedly missing elements, Defiance has succeeded.  It is an amazingly fun game to play.

Defiance is a shooter first, and an MMO second.  Players who love games such as Borderlands will find similar aspects in Defiance with intense gun battles, scores of weapons to choose from and customize, loads of loot, and plenty of quests to go around.  Players who love a good MMO, however, will find themselves questioning some of the design elements in this supposed “Massively Multiplayer” game.  It may be an MMO, but it feels more like a single player campaign with lots of people simply sharing the world around you.  Part of the fun of an MMO is the socialization but there isn’t much of that going on in Defiance.  The chat of players in the area or the quick chat of people in your party to help organize events just isn’t readily available.  While this certainly exists in Defiance, it’s not easy to get to nor is it even on the screen unless you choose to view the chat window from the menu.  When you do view the chat window, it covers the screen so there is no way to play the game while watching the chat.  This makes communication, even when grouped with someone, nearly non-existent (unless you use the spotty voice chat) defeating the purpose of an MMO.  Sure, people can help each other out in any quest, save the main story line (which is also an odd design choice), without grouping, but there is no way to easily thank said people for the help.  As such, players in Defiance tend to go about their own business and simply appreciate when they come across someone else working the same quest, at which point they tend to form a temporary alliance.

Defiance Screen 1

From a design perspective, Defiance feels like it was created for the consoles first and the PC version simply followed suit, which would explain the inherent drive towards voice chat. The menus are not intuitive at all and many things about the game are simply not explained.  Save for a very quick tutorial at the beginning to explain your choice of one of four powers, everything else is left for the player to figure out on their own. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are staple MMO elements that have been drastically altered and players are left wondering what they mean.  For example, the player’s “level” is called their EGO Rating (EGO is a holographic companion that gives the player information, much like Cortana in Halo).  This EGO Rating seems to be some arbitrary number as there is very little evidence of what it means. At one point in the game, I watched my EGO Rating move from 44 to 54 with nothing in between.  Although this level seems to climb fairly steadily, and into very high numbers (current limit is 5000), there are no character stats that also increase as the player’s level does; the player doesn’t seem to become more powerful with this level.  Where level advantages do come in, however, is through usage of specific types of weapons.  The more a player uses Light Machine Guns, for example, the higher their LMG level will climb giving them bonuses for using that weapon type.

Despite these issues, and the inherent bugs associated with any newly launched MMO (which the developers have been working tirelessly to fix), Defiance is a hell of a lot of fun to play.  Trion Worlds has tapped into the magic of games like Borderlands and delivered something truly wonderful with a game for any player skill level.  Players need not be masters of the genre to truly enjoy this game.  The map is simply littered with quests of different types: there’s the main story quest and the obligatory side quests that will flesh out the world players find themselves in as well as mini-game style quests such as racing time trials (yes, players even receive vehicles early in the game to drive around the world in!), a points oriented “shooting gallery” style mini-game, and others.  Each of these quests rate players with either Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals with the top players listed for everyone to see (and try to best).  Additionally, players can opt to join the multiplayer side of the arena with both Co-op and Competitive maps, as well as the PvP zone called the Shadow War.  Quests are not the only activity players can engage in either. All over the Defiance map, players will find big red markers known as Arkfalls.  Arkfalls are massive battles designed for numerous players to join in order to take down an army of Hellbugs or the Mother of all Hellbugs.  At the completion of a series of Arkfalls, players can recieve uncommon loot and are ranked based on how much they contributed to the event.  These are similar in nature to taking down the Dragons on Guild Wars 2.

Defiance Screen 2

The TV Show Tie-in

In addition to all the regular quests mentioned above, each week players will be given the opportunity to participate in “Episode Quests”. Each of these quests will join the player with characters from the Defiance TV show in a sort of ‘background’ story for the next episode.  These quests could find players assisting with recovering an item which will then be used in the next episode of the show.  How this tie-in will evolve in the future is unknown, but it does make the player feel like they’re actually part of the whole world and can feel some sort of geek pride in knowing they helped the characters in the show.

The success of both the TV Show and the game will depend on how involved players remain over time and how the interaction between both the show and game evolve. For a newly launched MMO, Defiance is brilliantly fun to play, despite the missing elements one would expect to see in an MMO.  Defiance may not be a perfect game, but who needs perfect when you’ve got fun, right?



About the Author

Sean
Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.