Before we begin I really should highlight that Defiance was, and is, billed as a cross media experience with a strong connection to the Television show, unsurprisingly called Defiance which airs on SyFy. To cut a long story short, eight alien races have arrived on Earth seeking sanctuary, Earth becomes a war zone for decades until a brave few soldiers from all races defy orders – and are historically known as “The Defiant Few” – which ushers in the current period of uneasy peace between all parties.
The possible strength of the connection is seen in the opening cut scene as it features the two main characters from the TV series – Nolan and Irisa – it is at this point you have a chance to create a character from the very limited options; male, female, Human, Irathient and if you have bought the DLC; Castithan, before your airship crash lands and you are thrown into the opening tutorial missions.
When the game was first released, the strength of the links between TV show and game was unclear and now seven months later it has to be said that this aspect, as admitted by the games devs themselves, has been somewhat lacking. The first TV mission chain ended with you bidding fair well to Nolan and Irisa as they leave the area after “reclaiming” a highly sought after and valuable alien device. Within the first 15 minutes of episode one of the TV show, Nolan and Irisa had used said device to unlock an Arkfall. Since then, the links have been cool little extras and nothing more, ranging from a TV character appearing in the game to a game players likeness appearing on a wanted poster within the show (see below). This is due to be ramped up to the next level during Season 2 of the TV show.
As someone who tends to enjoy gaming alone in the main, Defiance was immediately comfortable and could easily pass as a non-MMO title. That’s not to say the MMO aspects are invisible though. Every purple dot on your mini-map is a real life player going about their general bug killing business. Whilst nothing is stopping you from pushing through missions on your own, you very often find yourself joined by a player or two that wants a piece of the action. As there is no friendly fire in Defiance it also means that you are both focussed on the same enemy rather than someone coming along to head shot you just because they can.
On the flip side the amount of times I was distracted by an Arkfall or a shootout going on by the side of the road which I promptly decided to join is easily over a thousand. In fact, somewhat surprisingly, this has been my biggest enjoyment of the game and is also the single reason why seven months later I still haven’t finished the main campaign. The next major game update – scheduled for December 10th-12th will open this up more and will allow you to officially co-op on every single mission within the game as well.
The biggest issue that a lot of people have is the lack of clarity when first starting out, the tutorial covers the bare basics but a fair few google searches and tweets were flying around as well. How do pursuits work? How long does a TV mission stay available for? Am I going to get a chance to play any missions that I missed? Finally, how the hell do I survive for longer than five seconds against Jackleg Joe? Are all questions I found myself answering again and again on twitter. Whilst this does create a sense of “team” for your clan out with the game, Trion Worlds really should have taken a little bit more time to explain the wealth of content, systems and weapons you have at your disposal.
Apart from the general lack of clarity, I don’t think I am being unkind when I say that, graphically, Defiance is on par with an end of generation PlayStation 2 title. This almost adds to its charm as both myself and our very own Uncle Fista both likened it to a guilty pleasure B Movie rather than the latest summer blockbuster. When you consider how big the world is and how much is going on at any given time – 100+players in a single Arkfall – lower resolution graphics and a little bit of lag is expected.
Personally for me, lag has never been a problem. I have heard many tales of it almost being game breaking but as I have experienced little more than a slight slow down – akin to bullet time – it makes it very hard for me to comment on this aspect. I did however come across a game breaking bug in the first week of release; an NPC would get stuck when trying to revive another NPC which resulted in the final wave of enemies not spawning. My experience of this was also smooth and in this respect, Trion Worlds have to be commended. A ticket was reported on their site and within 10 minutes a response was back from the customer services saying they had progressed my character to the other side of the mission and dropped the respective loot onto my character as well.
I may not know what other MMO’s offer but as far as I’m concerned one that feels like a single player game, that you can easily play on your console, without further subscription fees and where people just turn up to lend a hand certainly makes it worthy of the number eight slot in our top 10.