The Final Countdown: The last Defiance beta weekend

Trion Worlds is counting down the days until their latest MMO Defiance hits store shelves, ready to absorb players onto an Earth where humans and aliens live together (forcibly) and fight for what’s left of a once-vibrant planet—all for a one time $60 entrance fee and some microtransactions thrown in. In their preparation for launch day, Trion released the final part of their beta session, allowing Xbox 360, PS3, and PC players alike the ability to explore the regions of Mountain Tam and Madera, as well as giving players a go at the co-op and competitive modes.

We’ve already briefed you on the customization options and primary concept of the game. You play as an Ark Hunter, operatives with combat proficiency and unique abilities, seeking alien technology that may help humans in the alien war. It’s likely newcomers will have some trouble grasping the basic lore right away; this MMO directly ties in with the Syfy upcoming series of the same name, so many details and characters made little sense at first. It should all be clearer once the show begins (April 20th, two weeks after launch date).

As an Ark Hunter you have an EGO system, an implemented A.I. that helps the player better survive the unpredictable terrain. Thanks to the EGO system the player has an array of power options such as decoy, the ability to create a holographic duplicate, or overcharge, it gives your weapons more damage power and they automatically reload. EGO powers are upgradeable with EGO units, which are rewarded by completing various objectives, tying into a skill tree system fitted for a shooter. The game is less about leveling up and more about gaining experience in specific combat styles and weapons. The weapons themselves prove more interesting once you get past the generic guns; the VOT blast rifle in particular was a favorite given its rapid-fire light bullet action that demolished pesky mutants. When one of those weapons happens to have a nano effect, a subsidiary elemental power like incendiary, it becomes all the more deadly.

Defiance Hellbug

Exploring the environment was quite the adventure when other hunters populated the same terrain; often other players will take part in the same missions you’re completing. It was quite handy to have strangers helping keep the Hell Bugs and rioters at bay, though this was not occurring as often as I desired. Furthermore, the enemy A.I. wasn’t always attentive, which worked in my favor but not something you want in a game. But this is a beta; when the game goes live this will most likely be less of a complaint.

The areas of Tam and Madera were quite large and spacious, and these were just a small portion of the map (as the rest was blocked off). You’re able to call vehicles to get around, though the vehicles were sporadic and awkward to handle. That said, you won’t need to get far to preoccupy yourself, Trion made sure to have plenty of content available even in the beta. There are main missions, side missions, episode missions, time trials, arkfalls, shadow war, and much more. In shadow war, players opt to fight against other teams to conquer points of interest, which Trion claims can involve up to 128 players. Arkfalls are when pieces of debris fall from the ark belt, bringing players together against common enemies in a fight for extra rewards. These were the most chaotic and action-heavy events; for a fixed amount of time players just bombarded enormous Hell Bugs while explosions fired off in all directions.

The other parts of the beta involved the co-op missions on Angel Island and the Cronkhite Bunker, where up to four players complete missions together to provide some more backstory to the ongoing battle of defiance. On Angel Island in particular, you’re able to witness how mutations affect once decorated soldiers. As a team you’re tasked with objectives like disabling electronic gates while constantly facing swarms of Hell Bugs and soldiers, thanks to the close quarters co-op maps.

Defiance Competitive

In competitive multiplayer, up to 32 players (16v16) fight to capture and hold positions, gather resources and bring them back to base, or it’s just plain old deathmatch. These occurred on more spacious maps, maybe too spacious. More time was spent running to the capture points than actual combat, making competitive mode a less thrilling experience than Arkfalls.

Defiance will be the first massively multiplayer online game on the Xbox 360 since Final Fantasy XI, a game that came out in 2003. That’s already a victory in Trion’s court—there are some hungry console-MMO players out there. Sci-fi enthusiasts and MMO fans (whatever the platform) aching for a universe set in the not-so-distant future on a terraformed Earth should look into Defiance, as it’s set to release April 2nd. You may just get the best of both worlds.