It has been almost two months since Defiance (the game) first hit digital shelves. In that time, it has amassed over one million registered players. The only real question, of course, is how long those players will stick around once the novelty of the "TV/game hybrid" thing wears off. In other words, beyond the concept and the experiment, is Defiance really a game worth playing? Telling the tale
If you've never seen Defiance-the-show or played Defiance-the-game, here's a primer on the overarching narrative: Once upon a time in the future of Earth, an alien race known as the Votans showed up on the planet in search of a new home. Humans, who generally consider Earth a "No Vacancy" type place, disagreed with the Votans' plan to take up residency on their shiny blue globe. War was declared and everything got super messed up.
That's where you come in. You're an elite "Ark Hunter," and your job to explore the bombed-out ruins of the San Francisco Bay Area in search of valuable alien tech (and scrip, the game's main form of currency). Along the way, you'll find mutants, monsters, and humans all bent on ending your trip with a well-placed bullet, rocket, or machete -- and it's up to you to keep yourself and your friends alive.
Flexibility of class
One of Defiance's strongest features is that it is designed explicitly with accessibility in mind. It's clear that Trion wanted to build something that offered casual and new MMO players (perhaps sent this way by the television show) with a rewarding, easy-to-learn experience. This accessibility does come with a certain lack of depth for hardcore players but serves the purpose it seems intended to serve.
As you kill monsters and complete missions, you earn EGO Points. Collect enough Ego Points and you'll earn a new perk on the EGO grid, a collection of abilities and enhancements to your existing skillset. My Survivalist character, for instance, has EGO perks that allow her to temporarily cloak herself from view and give her damage bonuses when attacking while crouched or from elevated ground. All character classes have access to all perks and skills on the EGO grid, allowing you to build your character however you see fit.
"The end result is a character that begins in a similar place as every other character in the game but ends up becoming a creature of your own design."
The end result is a character that begins in a similar place as every other character in the game but ends up becoming a creature of your own design. Your individual playstyle is what controls how the character grows and evolves. If you do the majority of your killing from afar and through a scope, your character will learn abilities that enhance his sniping. If you're in the middle of the fray brandishing an assault rifle, your skills will evolve to match. The game's entire arsenal is at your disposal.
Dynamic, fluid content
Defiance drops you into a rapidly moving world and immediately gives you the tools you need to participate in the struggles that define it. There are a few basic quests to help you learn your way around (and to give you your first vehicle for traveling the map and running over enemies), but after that you are free to go wherever you want and do whatever you please. You can do the main story quests or not. You can do side quests or not. You can participate in a PvP Shadow War or boost your ATV or Dodge Challenger (seriously) into one of the game's racing minigames. It's all up to you.
"In building a game that is so universally accessible, Trion has also created a title that has no lasting depth."
Overall, there's a lot to love about Defiance. It's a serviceable third-person shooter (with minor issues), a serviceable sci-fi MMO (with minor issues) and a serviceable provider of fast-paced combat (with minor issues) without a queue or the need to build a party. It looks nice for a game that was clearly built with consoles in mind, and everything it does is executed with enthusiasm by the steady hand of an experienced team. The only problem is that in building a game that is so universally accessible, Trion has also created a title that, for the moment, has no lasting depth.
Put simply, Defiance is as good as a game can be without any standout features or unique selling points. It provides simple, well-prepared fun on demand but nothing that really earns your everlasting affection and loyalty. This is especially true if you don't care about the television show that helps to give the game world its meaning. It's a solid game made by solid people, but maybe not quite solid enough to solicit a $59.99 entry fee from those who are not already sold on the core concept. (The game is on sale this weekend on Steam, but the promo might be over by the time you read this.)
Defiance is the MMO version of a popcorn movie: Mindless entertainment to fill a few vacant hours. And in this role it performs quite well.
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