by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
Defiance uses engaging episode missions to advance the story. These feature characters from the show with full voice acting and cinematic storytelling. You will infiltrate bunkers, take over cell towers, plant tracking devices to find lost citizens or wipe out Hellbugs that have infested farmer's fields. The missions are varied, entertaining, and make the game worth playing. Side missions are a different story. They are plainly excuses to get you into combat. Often located on the side of the road, you kill mutants or bugs or tag dead bodies. They are disappointingly repetitive and if the shooting model were any worse, I would have called them boring.
Challenges, however, are unique. These missions are instanced, objective-based, and repeatable with the goal of earning a high score on the leaderboard. Playing well rewards you with experience and money but the real allure is asynchronous competition. Tasks generally require killing enemies against a timer, surviving waves with a special weapon, or racing vehicles through checkpoints. Although fun, challenges seem more like a diversion than a core gameplay feature.
Competitive multiplayer works well, even if it is disappointingly sparse. As with many MMOs, there are some balance issues that players have to deal with. Leveling players will naturally be at a disadvantage to those with higher EGO ratings but the differences aren't game-breaking. A skilled beginner could trounce an unawares veteran but at the most basic level, a more experienced player simply has more perks and better gear.
Thankfully, learning map layouts is easy since there aren't many of them. For PvP, the game comes packed with two maps. You read that right. Players can choose to fight on the docks of Waterfront or the ruins of Observatory in either 6v6 or 8v8, respectively. The maps are well designed and playing them is a hoot, but their limited number puts a strain on the replay value.
In the Shadow Wars mode, up to 100 players can duke it out in conquest-style capture-and-hold gameplay, but Defiance struggles to fill teams. During my review period, I often waited for forty-five minutes before being able to join a match. When I did get to play, it was big, bombastic, and a lot of fun.
All That Glitters is Not Ark Tech
While Defiance nails its most important qualities, it misses others entirely. Trion earns the record of being the first MMO launch to launch simultaneously on three platforms, but in order to accomplish that feat there is an unmistakable feeling that the PC version is an afterthought. There are bugs, missing features, and a user interface that feels cut and pasted from its console edition. To put it in perspective, Trion Worlds is the same company that sold RIFT by trumpeting their vast MMO experience. Even though the development teams are different, this paltry port job is inexcusable from a publisher who has told us, literally, that they know better.
The client crashed multiple times and obviously lacked development. A crippling bug using the ESC key to open the main menu actually closes the game for some players. The game can be unresponsive or even minimize itself. Core features are missing, such as the ability to take a screenshot or open an actual mission log. Even something as basic as chat is far from functional. Quests glitch, often with NPCs getting stuck on terrain or refusing to move. Enemies spawn in odd, out of the way places. Trion has taken steps to correct some of these issues but many still remain.
PC players can turn off shadows, bloom, and motion blur but have to access these settings through a controller-centric radial menu that is pulled up by holding the space bar of all keys, and you will have to open the character sheet first. To put insult to injury, the space bar is also used to log out. I might be able to forgive some of these things, if the game would play well with a controller. It doesn’t, it is inconsistent and cumbersome. Shooting is aggravatingly inaccurate and aim assist is so loose that it becomes nearly pointless.
When I sat down to write this review, I struggled to capture my feelings. At its core, Defiance is an exceptionally fun game but its shortcomings can be craterous. Yet, every night I find myself logging in, even to the exclusion of other games that I should be playing for work.
Defiance lacks the humor of Borderlands but retains all of the gun-hunting and combat that made that game great but the bugs and interface issues are a problem. Patches will surely address these but that does not take away from the fact that the game suffers for its week-one presentation. Even with the solid core to pick it back up, it may be difficult to convince people to come back. If you can get through its shortcomings, Defiance is well worth a look.
Excellent gun play with lots of variety, fun co-op play and PvP.
Obviously ported UI, quite a few bugs.