Review in Progress: Defiance

Kevin VanOrd shares his thoughts on the PC version of the entertaining and problematic Defiance in advance of the full review.

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Defiance is an ambitious project: a multiplatform, massively-multiplayer shooter tied to an original television show soon to air on the SyFy network. I haven't seen the show yet--the premier episode doesn't air until April 15--but I've recently spent some time with series star Grant Bowler. Well, not really; I've hung out with the electronic version of his Defiance character, Joshua Nolan, and a week after I started playing, I thought I would share with you some early impressions in advance of the Defiance's full review. Please note that I have only played the PC version as of this writing, so these impressions only relate to that particular platform, and not to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 releases.

Defiance is Big

Defiance covers a lot of real estate, and it gives you a lot to do within it. You earn an ATV early on, and can spend the game's primary currency--scrip--to purchase more, though you need a license to operate the more interesting vehicles. And so you drive from mission, alone or with friends, shooting up the bizarre mutants, hellbugs, and raiders that populate the San Francisco Bay Area's post-apocalyptic landscape. I felt immediately at home, and not just because I live in San Francisco, but because Defiance takes on elements we're intimately familiar with from other games. The dusty landscape and mission-riddled map brought to mind Red Faction: Guerrilla. The large public events recall developer Trion Worlds' own Rift. And the setting might alternately remind you of Rage, Fallout, or even the now-defunct vehicular MMO Auto Assault.

You may also be reminded of Borderlands, and not just because you shoot a lot of wildlife and raiders in a hostile world. Rather, it's more because there are so many different kinds of guns, and so many different variants of them. As you progress, you earn more powerful weapons as quest rewards, and in turn, you can equip those weapons with attachments that affect their performance. I find myself experimenting with any number of combinations; currently, I'm sporting a light machine gun with a scope that lets me load up mutants from a good distance away, and a launcher that fires ordnance that, in turn, splits into multiple smaller rockets that rain down from above.

Defiance is Troubled

No massively multiplayer game is without its launch foibles, though a number of games, including Rift, have proven that we must no longer accept buggy launches as a matter of course. Defiance is hardly unplayable, though it has suffered more than enough downtime since its release in the name of server maintenance. I've experienced a few game-altering bugs here and there, such as weapons gone missing, and any number of lesser glitches: pop-ups reminding me over and over again that I have unlocked the same co-op map, that same co-op map bugging out and requiring a restart, my vehicle spawning on top of unreachable surfaces, and the such. The technical hitches are apparent right off the bat, but Defiance's flaws stretch beyond them. Defiance just isn't very good at any one thing, so each element has a "but" attached to it.

There are huge numbers of weapons--but haphazard AI (both of the friendly and unfriendly sort) and dinky sound effects keep the shooting from feeling anything more than functional. There are a lot of story scenes--but the awkward character models and unfocused storytelling keep them from drawing you in. There are four special abilities, called EGO Powers, and a number of passive perks to equip--but they don't make you feel particularly powerful or heroic; at least, not at this stage. The interface, in the meanwhile, is an unintuitive jumble that hides typical MMO features in places you would least suspect them. (It might take you a few minutes just to figure out how to log out.)

None of these elements are enormous hindrances in and of themselves, but there are enough of them to make Defiance feel clumsy. There's always something weird to stumble on. Maybe it's an annoying difficulty spike when you suddenly face a bunch of turrets and rocketmen, all while your moronic AI companions crawl about on the ground indefinitely, waiting to be revived. Maybe it's the sudden spawning of an obstacle in front of you, messing up an otherwise perfect vehicular speed run. Even compared to other massively multiplayer games, there are a lot of such foibles to get accustomed to.

Defiance is Fun

Games are more than their individual features, however, and in spite of how awkward many of Defiance's pieces are, they come together to create highly entertaining moments that keep me invested. Many of these moments come in the form of arkfalls. You see, in this version of near-future Earth, the remnants of an alien fleet orbit the planet in a belt of debris. Occasionally, an enormous chunk falls to the ground, and players in the vicinity converge, hoping to loot any valuables that it might contain. The problem is that the local wildlife and vicious humanoids also appear, so you must fight for your right to purloin. They function much like rifts in Rift, appearing in the landscape and drawing in nearby players looking for good treasure and a good fight.

And they are very good fights. The most dramatic arkfalls I have experienced have had me and my fellow ark hunters firing at menacing masses of bugs that swarm the ground and lob projectiles from the air. Such arkfalls might culminate with a battle against the grossest boss bug of all, which, when defeated, causes the remaining artifact to explode in a brilliant flash of light and leave behind its special secrets. Usually in the form of a cool gun and a load of scrip.

Even beyond arkfalls, however, there are moments of satisfaction. The combination of easily identified missions and unplanned excursions makes for a comforting flow. I might be following the map's breadcrumb trail of missions, only to stumble upon a group of hunters facing off against a giant deformed hulker. How can I resist the call of taking down such a beast? But if I prefer, I can focus on side missions, which are quickly accomplished, and keep the rewards coming even when I'd rather ignore a fallen NPC's call for help. The map pulls me forward, but the surprises keep me on my toes. It's a good mix of the unpredictable and the comfortable.

I am not ready yet to fully evaluate Defiance. I need some more time with it, and of course, in that time, many of the game's problems might be diminished, and many features might be improved. At this point, though, I recommend caution, for as much as I like this game, I like it more for what it clearly wants to be--and might one day be--than for what it currently is. Yet I can't deny its appeal, and by next week, I should be able to offer a more definitive dissection of Defiance's successes and failures. In the meanwhile, if you have any of your own thoughts on your time with Defiance in advance of our review, I invite you to share them in the comments below!

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Discussion

155 comments
MartialArtsSurf
MartialArtsSurf

this is the best action RPG shooter like Borderlands MMO --I haven't been into an MMO like this since Asheron's CAll --I was Rippednbuff  lvl 126 archmage --w/ Kira Argounova & Rothander as guildmates.. if fellow ACer's wanna join/team up, my Defiance name is Asherons Call & AsheronsCall

JBo796
JBo796

I love this game.

vallee05
vallee05

Defiance is addicting and amazing, because it's an MMO they can continiously add updates and content to the game. It massive, exciting and the loot and PvE and PvP...need I say more. I would like to see a review after the first two huge patches are installed in the game. need more co-op maps and scaled harder co-op options, more PvP maps/modes and better loot from boss battles, better reward from arkfalls. Since this is an MMO this can all be corrected

The interface is amazing for an MMO for a console, 3rd shooter controls spot on, some minor classes and weapon balancing but this game should be here to stay. I hope this stays succesful and it returns on the next gen console.

sadalix1
sadalix1

The biggest problem with defiance is that there are not enough different types of enemies to fight.  So far I've counted 6 or 7 different kinds of MUTANTS, BUGS, and ROBOTS.  And that is it.  There needs to be more variety in the things you kill.  

ALSO, this game needs some more co-op missions!

phrogg5
phrogg5

Defiance is my type of game. I love 3rd person open world action and I love MMo's but don't want to be bogged down with too many MMO features. I'm enjoying the game and can even look past the repetitiveness of it since the combat is pretty fun.

King_Wii
King_Wii

I got the game on PS3 and I've been enjoying it quite a bit. I agree with many of the points brought up in the article but I would highly recommend the game to anyone who likes the idea of an MMOFPS but doesn't like the competitive nature of many of them. If you want a co-op MMOFPS this is probably a game you'll want to check out. I personally loved the idea of Planetside but I couldn't get into it because far to many players on there were just way to good and killed me way to quickly. I didn't enjoy the competitive feel but Defiance gives me exactly what I've always wanted from an MMOFPS, shooter feel with co-op focus. For the first time since I was a teenager back in the late 90s I'm scoring 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places on a FPS leader board  which to me is awesome and makes me return for more every time I have game time.

oflow
oflow

Played in the last couple of betaa phases.  The game is fun it plays like a combination of borderlands, red faction armegeddon and thumping from firefall or rift bosses in rift.  My big issue was its kinda fun but also kind of repetitive and I couldnt really convince myself to fork over $60 for it.  Might be worth it if the show is actually a really good series, but right now it wasnt worth the price, especially since I can play Warframe for free and it has similar gameplay.

They might want to consider dropping the price to $29.99 I'd pick it up then but its not AAA price material as is for me.

rocketsatdawn
rocketsatdawn

I had some of the same thoughts whilst playing the beta. It doesn't do much particularly well but it does have its moments of joy. The Arkfalls are epic. For the last couple hours of the beta a mate and I were literally just driving from Arkfall to Arkfall with a  giant group of randoms. It was so much fun. However I just couldn't get my head around the UI. It confused the hell out of me. There were other issues as well such as the AI being incredibly stupid. At one point I was just running circles around a hulking enemy with a chain gun. I was dying for him to move away, change his attack or something. Urrrgghh I also found it hard to follow what was going on with the story, It seemed weak, but I suppose its an MMO and it is kinda difficult to stay focused when it is so easy to get distracted by side quests. I did enjoy playing Defiance but I just don't think that it's worth the high price tag. Theres a lot of very good cheaper and free to play MMO's right now. I figure I'll wait until they iron it out a little or reduce the price. I'll have to convince my mates to buy it too.

anigmha
anigmha

Well written and insightful. You clearly explained your likes and dislikes and how it may or may not hinder how much fun you ultimately end up experiencing. I do want to mention that the AI should probably be compared to other MMOs instead of shooters. The aggro AI works well in MMOs because it does not cost much bandwidth, something that is valuable when 100+ players must encounter the same enemies at the same time. Playing the game, I think the developers used a hybrid of aggro AI and shooter AI.

Punizher
Punizher

i dint wanted to get this game read about the beta and ppl say this is bad or its a failure bla bla bla i watched a few streamers and 90% of them said the game was worth it but i wasn't convinced so i let it go.


my friend then put defiance in my head saying he was going to play and wanted me to join, i told him i am mmo burn out and was tired of mmos and dint feel like paying the full price for a game that i may not enjoy, so he offer to buy for me and if i dint like it i would give my account access to him so he would use it or whatver let me jusy say i been playing for 4 days now and one the 2nd day i payed him in FULL, i am loving it :P

yes there are bugs and issues but tbh i played every MMORPG ( even tho this one is not rly a mmorpg) out there so i know all about bugs and issues and server problems ( haven't had any server issues like dc or queues ) and this game atm got problems but for me not game breaking ( not that i noticed at least ) i dont use the chat cos i play with friends but seems broken never see anyone typing on it needs to be re done .

i guess what makes me like it its beacuse its not the typical mmo with warrior wizard healer etc... ( even tho u have a gun or whatever is called that u can heal people ),

i played borderlands 1 ( not hardcore enough to buy borderlands 2 ) so i guess thats what appeals  me about this game kinda reminds me of borderlands, pew pew shot loot guns and guns and guns, so if you like borderlands u will like this game so much fun with a friend

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

that's some damn fine journalism right there. all these morons who say that gamespot is not an objective news source need to actually read the articles....instead of just reading the title of said article and skipping down to the "not very valuable but still better than youtube" comments XD

Bhemont
Bhemont

I like it when you guys don't sugarcoat or exaggerate the games you play to appease the fans.  The game did look promising though. :)

jjfddf
jjfddf

Just thought I would throw this out there also as I see complaints on the patcher. On the first PC zero issues, second PC patcher issues. Game would load from dvd onto the computer and apparently patch, the play button would come up  but the game would not launch, if you have this issue just redownload Directx, you are probably missing a needed .dll file or two

HHscxz
HHscxz

So disappointed this game has nothing new. I like Age of Wushu better.

jjfddf
jjfddf

Good game, has some bugs but what game (mmo or otherwise) doesn't. The MMO part only exists in "seeing" other players, people apparently do not read/respond to any chat whatsoever, for me it plays like Fallout (people do help each other though when they are in the same areas). The story is good, easy to follow, lots to do, cool guns. Character creation and equipment are definetly lacking, you have 2 equipped gun slots, a grenade slot, a shield slot, and a vehicle slot; thats it for meaningful gear. I bought the game for my son, played it the first night and I was not too impressed, but as I got to know it better I started to enjoy it more. Getting my own account today.

Sheik2
Sheik2

Please, try the console versions too. Don't give us just the PC review...

IrishCatGod
IrishCatGod

"I am not ready yet to fully evaluate Defiance. I need some more time with it, in that time, many of the game's problems might be diminished, and many features might be improved." ... Translated: The devs have another week to push the paypal donation through, or else I will give this game that I claim to want to like a shitty review.

JaxxRaxor
JaxxRaxor

I'm surprised Kevin didn't play the console versions. I've been hearing bad things about the Xbox 360 version in particular suffering from massive framerate issues.

midnight_trashh
midnight_trashh

Kevins is completely right on the last part. I like this game too, but I really don't think it's for everyone, please be cautious because the game isn't like a MMORPG, it's a Scifi style MMO so it doesn't have loads and loads of content like equipment you can mess around with on your character like in Everquest 2 or WoW, like armor, backpacks, cloths and things like that, The cloths in the game are appearance only, there is no armor. Just shield boosters and things like that, much like borderlands. The arkfalls also don't drop very much eather, they drop money, salvage, and maybe a gun, but thats about it. I was kind of dissapointed because I was expecting more, but it's still a descent game and worth checking out. The character creation is not that great as well, and doesn't have many options to play around with. I hope they make the skill tree bigger with more skills for healing or someone wanting to take a lot of damage, they need to inprove the character creation as well and make it more indepth. Defiance 7.5 imo

DARKKNIGHTPRABZ
DARKKNIGHTPRABZ

with injustics comming next week. its unlikely i will get this unless i see some solid reviews. which their are none

Attvck01
Attvck01

For some reason the games gears of war and borderlands keep popping up in my head when i watch the gameplay video. Looks pretty dull; drive, walk, shoot, upgrade. The multiplayer aspect is good, but what happens when people start playing next-gen games in 4 months time? Empty. 

Jestersmiles
Jestersmiles

(It might take you a few minutes just to figure out how to log out.) How the hell do you log out? O_O I was in beta and I just crashed the son bitch.

jubeio
jubeio

I'm still on the edge as to whether or not buy this game, I'm definitely going for PC if I do, Just might see if there's a load of bug fixes soon before I dive in

badkiely
badkiely

almost impossible to get a game of shadow war on the ps3.The only way is up for Defiance if people stick with it until the teething problems are sorted.Hopefully the TV show will bring new and exciting content.Overall I'd give it a hopefully 7/10.

Snowx1
Snowx1

I am one of those people that is also enjoying the heck out of this game:). Don't get me wrong, there are a few meh things and bugs about it, but it is really easy to overlook a lot of the bad things sense it does a lot of things right and is pretty addicting to boot. I disagree on the story not drawing you in. I find it quite interesting so far. To each there own though. The chat interface is for sure a joke and needs to be improved pronto. I hardly see anyone interacting in chat but do run into a lot out in the world willing to lend a helping hand when your in trouble.

bonander
bonander

I had no interest in this game when I first heard about it.  Shooters aren't really my thing and MMO's have gotten so dull.  But with my PS+ account I was able to try the game during a beta weekend and I figured "why not?"  I was pretty surprised by how much fun I was having with this game.  By the time the beta weekend was over, the only game I wanted to play was Defiance.  Being a shooter apparently changed things up enough in an MMO to make playing one fun again.  I'm curious to see how the game and the TV show will play off each other, but I'm betting we will have to wait to see if the show gets a second season for this to be fully realized.  I'm sure everything happening this season is pretty much set in stone.

Davhut
Davhut

Ah Auto Assault, please to the powers above and below, do not let this game go the same way as Auto Assault, which I loved, but which wasn't given the time to develop its brilliant ideas.  The fact that this game is on all the key platforms means as long as it gets the developer and publisher support it will sort out its bugs and improve.  It could be the sleeper of the year.

beechy1988
beechy1988

I'm really enjoying this game. it does have its problems but it doesn't ruin the game for me. Addicted already

RiDDler77
RiDDler77

Ive broken 1 controller playing this game because of the soooo many glitches.  In my oppinion; this game is far from the finished thing and has way to many things that goes wrong whwn u play it. So if u r having fun playing it, it dosent take long before u come  across a glitch or thousand whn ur doing somthing important, that destroys that fun feeling and sends the controller out the window. Again, this is just my opinion...

TheKitesNest
TheKitesNest

someon will enjoy it......no problem with that. me on the other hand.....skip

Tyroshubi
Tyroshubi

Honestly, one of the most addicting games i've played in awhile, in all this game is more a 3rd person shooter with mmo attributes than an mmo with 3rd person shooter attributes. This game is a great sci-fi shooter for me, and the vast amount of weapons makes the world of a shooter feel soooooo big for me, you can tell Trion worlds worked really hard on this game.

P.s. Advice for those looking to buy it, only go into it if your looking for a great shooter to play, if your looking for an outstanding mmo experience you might be dissappointed.

focuspuller
focuspuller

I have to agree with the review totally. Spot on. It's fun but that fact only frustrates me further with it's flaws. Like Kevin said I like it for what it could be, not what it is yet.

I hope the devs take to heart the fact that the have a jem, but a flawed one. And they need to close the gap sooner rather then later.

On a side note, the series it is linked to looks promising.

oflow
oflow

ah ya i forgot to mention that. the UI could be a lot better. Pretty sure it sucks because its made to be used with a controller. Not user friendly at all.

JBo796
JBo796

@JaxxRaxor The 1st week was rough on XBox.  The servers were constantly down and there were huge random lag issues.  It definitely is a LOT better this week though and I feel confident that there won't be any issues in a week or two.

ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

@JaxxRaxor Kevin's a native PC guy and it's probably the most likely platform for the game for any buyer. I'm sure he will end up playing the 360 version of the game though (or at least he seems to imply that this will happen in due time).

IrishCatGod
IrishCatGod

@Kaz32 Isolated problem. I think the launch went very smoothly, especially compared to a lot of other recent MMO launches.

Kaz32
Kaz32

@DARKKNIGHTPRABZ 

Check the video that I just posted. Don't buy it now because there is an issue with the patcher where the game will not even be allowed to download unless A GUY FROM TRION WORLD COME TO YOUR HOUSE AND FIX IT THEMSELVES. That is such a dumb problem.

dragoev
dragoev

@Jestersmiles Open any screen (be that inventory I,L. Social or the Goal's list) And press "Space" you will get radial menu, and on the top left hand of the screen you will see "Log Out" and on the right "Exit Game".

lance_7
lance_7

@badkiely Nah, I think some of us are holding out for reviews and/or a DCUO type thing where it goes free-to-play.  It looks interesting and the idea of it is something I want to support, but the execution seems to be lacking which is keeping me from spending money on it.

IrishCatGod
IrishCatGod

@Snowx1 Agreed. Chat interface is really bad, but the game is still enjoyable. I run with a guild so perhaps I have an unfair advantage over the "lone wolfs" 

oflow
oflow

its better than auto assault, but stll not that great. not bad but not great.

vallee05
vallee05

UI is done correctly for console players, if anything the PC players suffer from this and I would recommend they use a controller on the PC.

Kaz32
Kaz32

@IrishCatGod @Kaz32

Hell then Joe's girlfriend has some bad luck to have that problem. I dont want to risk getting patch error so I wont buy the game

IrishCatGod
IrishCatGod

@Kaz32 @DARKKNIGHTPRABZ I have the game and don't have the patcher issue. I am certain it's isolated. I haven't even seen much mention of it on the forums.

Kaz32
Kaz32

@IrishCatGod @Kaz32 @DARKKNIGHTPRABZ

Put in Patch error defiance in google. I saw a couple of these things.