With a television show on Syfy and a MMO by Trion Worlds, Defiance boldly treads into the world of cross-media experiences. The goal is to get you to watch the show and play the game concurrently. It’s an ambitious undertaking that does a lot to hit its mark of making the player feel a part of the Defiance universe; if only the game did more to distinguish itself as a MMO.
In Defiance, you are an Ark Hunter – a person searching for alien technologies in order to make a quick buck. For an immediate crossover in the beginning of the game, you meet Nolan and Irisa, the main characters from the show, who were Ark Hunters themselves before arriving in the town of Defiance. While the town of Defiance is in present-day St. Louis, the game places you in the San Francisco bay area.
There is plenty to do in this world. Besides the main quest, there are side quests, three types of challenges, Arkfall events, small pop-up events and episode quests. I appreciated the wide variety of opportunities afforded to me. The large-scale Arkfall events give you the chance to partake in massive battles with other players without having to party-up with people. The only downside to these Arkfall events is that they quickly become so chaotic that you never really have any direction.
Of course, the episode quests are the big selling point. These quests focus on the crossover aspects of the universe. You meet characters from the show who perhaps have interacted with Nolan and the residents of Defiance and have migrated west to your area. Sequences of events in the show impact what you’re doing, providing new quests and quest givers. I will admit that while I appreciate the TV show impacting the game, I would be interested in seeing if Trion Worlds and the Syfy show-runners could utilize some event in the game to affect Defiance’s already-renewed second season.
Defiance will not wow you with revolutionary gameplay. In a way, feeling like a generic third person shooter might be one of its strong points. The learning curve for playing is short. The only thing you really have to incorporate into playing is your EGO skill. There are four main skills: decoy, blur, cloak and overcharge. These skills help you focus on deception, speed, stealth and strength, respectively.
There really is a lot to like in Defiance. Besides the interactivity and easy learning curve, there is a large area to explore, as well as many ways to occupy your time. The challenges vary from timed vehicle courses to sharpshooting ranges to rampage challenges that test you against many waves of enemies. On top of the challenges, there are very small, focused events that occur on the side of the road. Many times, I find myself stopping to help out a fellow Ark hunter who is taking on these small events.
That is not to say there aren’t opportunities to improve. There is too much going on in the heads-up display (HUD). Between the mini-map, weapon information, quest information and status bars at the bottom, even on a 50” television, I felt like it was way too cluttered. There’s also a serious lack of variety in enemies. Especially at the beginning, there are mutants and there are hellbugs. Sure, there are different types of mutants and hellbugs, but one of the differences in the mutants is some carry rifles and some carry shotguns.
Overall, Defiance is an ambitious game that has plenty of enjoyment within. The extras connected to the show indeed pulled me into fully experiencing the universe. While I enjoy that interactivity and the possible future cross-media events, there is really nothing else about the game that improves or furthers the MMO genre. If you are just looking for a decent, easy-to-pick-up shooter in an open world, Defiance is a good purchase for you.
Defiance is available on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For this review, I played on the Xbox 360.
Defiance Review & Gameplay Commentary