Review: Defiance is an ambitious MMO, that was clearly designed for consoles
Defiance is an ambitious experiment, a crazy cross-media promotion that brings together a television series and a massively multiplayer video game. Still, regardless of the two mediums sharing the same timeline, they are, for the most part, separate experiences. So what can Defiance bring to the MMO table that will entice those looking to trade in their broadswords and plate mail for high tech ATVs and electric pulse rifles?
Being an MMO that's tied to a TV show, you'd expect the game to try to jam a whole lot of lore down your throat. While that's not initially the case, you do learn more and more of what exactly happened to Earth all those years ago, and what Defiance actually is. Sadly, the 2-hour pilot for the television series did a much better job at explaining the backstory of Defiance than the game has so far.
The game starts by letting you pick a certain "class" or "archetype," though it really makes no difference what you choose aside from the starting weapon. This was rather confusing when I first hopped into the game, since I had no idea whether there were certain bonuses associated with each "class," or if one class was better at a certain weapon over another. Turns out, it's all aesthetic, and an hour into the game, players will all be looking very similar regardless.
The game is broken up into two main parts: Main quests, which progress the story of your character and the others you meet, and Episode quests, which allow you to directly interact with characters from the show, and slightly interact with upcoming episodes. The latter is certainly Defiance's hook, for those that want to experience both the game and the show, but don't expect huge impacts. Everyone in the world could have easily skipped over the Episode quests, which help the main characters Nolan and Irisa gather a crystal artifact, and they would have still ended up with the artifact in the show. Essentially, these connections, or at least what I assume they will be, won't really impact the show on any grand level.
However, let's pretend that there is no show, and that Defiance is its own entity. Does it still work? Absolutely! Defiance is a clever blend of Borderlands and Guild Wars 2 with some elements of Halo sprinkled in, all wrapped up into a third-person shooter. When people hear the term MMO, they probably think of hotkey combat, slashing swords, and other longtime genre staples. The truth is, Defiance doesn't play like one. If someone would have put a controller in my hand and asked me to start playing, without already knowing what Defiance was, I would have thought it was a really expansive third-person shooter. That definitely works to Defiance's credit.
World events like Arkfalls bring players together for major battles. Arkfalls are essentially fallen debris that Ark Hunters scavenge for artifacts, but they also attract local wildlife like Hellbugs or bandits. The minor Arkfalls can be completed solo or with a small group, but major Arkfalls are multi-staged events, culminating in giant boss battles. The main problem is that so far, there has only been a single major Arkfall that keeps repeating, and after a few times, it gets boring. This just encourages players to ignore it. Obviously there will be more content as time goes on, but it would have been nice to have a few diverse major battles be available right from the start.
Combat is fast and frantic, where taking cover, using your EGO ability and unloading a hail of bullets into your enemies is the standard. Much like Borderlands and its sequel, you'll be going through guns on the regular. Just when you think you found the perfect Sniper Rifle, you'll come across a new one with slightly better damage and a poison attribute. The guns you find won't always be upgrades, and you'll find yourself selling more of them than you're using, but the fact that there is constant loot to look out for is a plus.
Your character's loadout consists of two guns, a grenade mod, a shield mod, a vehicle, your main EGO ability and EGO traits, which are essentially perks. The gear you wear is purely aesthetic, which means you can make your character look however you want, without resorting to a single look that's attached to stats. It's actually quite an accessible approach to gear, as it doesn't require a whole lot of calculation, and each item can clearly be compared to any other similar item.