Note: This is our follow-up to an earlier Defiance impressions piece, which you can read here. You probably should, as we've just assumed you have, and as such the following might make as much sense as professional wrestling to aliens from Mars if you don't. If you're wondering why this is a bit late, it's because we decided – this being an MMO and all –we'd hold off the review until after it had been out in the wild for a reasonable amount of time.
In the initial impressions bit a few weeks ago, I said Defiance, for all its jank, had something. It had problems, too, but the game has grown on me during the weeks I've been playing it. Trion Worlds have been humble enough about all the problems too, sending out lovely personable emails saying they’re very sorry, giving out free XP boosts and all that. Everyone likes an XP boost.
To be fair to them too, they’ve smoothed a few things out, although sometimes missions will still glitch out midway meaning you can’t complete them, so you end up having to sigh, quit out and start again in the hope it doesn’t balls up next time. I’m sure they’ll sort it in time, so I’m not going to penalise it too harshly for that, because I’m a nice man.
The fact is, I’ve grown to quite like Defiance. In spite of its faults, it gets the shoot and loot stuff dead right. Guns feel punchy (I’ve been using a controller as my hands are too frail and gnarled for mouse and keyboard, so I’m getting some good rumble feedback too. Which is nice if you like that sort of thing and aren’t a dullard PC purist that simply has to play everything on mouse and keyboard), and once you start upgrading your arsenal and stop dying all the time there’s something oddly relaxing about bounding into enemy territory chucking overpowered grenades at dumb mutants.
Traversing the map doesn’t feel as ponderous as it does in other MMOs (helped by a mostly nice, though sometimes rubbish, soundtrack), and there are far worse environments to find yourself getting absorbed in. It helps if you’ve been getting into the TV show too. I have been doing exactly that (in the absence of Spartacus, a show that made The Wire look like The Bill) and it's OK! It certainly helps if you’ve found yourself becoming invested in it, and there are promises there’ll be crossover between show and game. I’ve not seen much of that yet, save for an early fracas with the show’s main characters. As an aside, one of these guys looks like Nathan Drake, because every cocky, likeable rogue hero looks like Nathan Drake nowadays. I hate him. Naturally to overcompensate for how boring he looks, I gave my guy a mutton chop moustache, so he looks a bit like an evil CM Punk. For a game based on a TV show though, you’d think they’d pull their fingers out as far as writing’s concerned. The phrase ‘saucy little vixen’ is used. Unironically. Boak.
One of the plus points for me though is that no one really seems to talk to each other in Defiance, as the social implementation isn’t exactly very good. This’ll doubtless be a negative for some, but for a nobby no friends like me, it’s perfect. The last thing I want to have to put up with when minding my own business with explosive futuristic weaponry on a terraformed earth is having some idiot follow me along, waving and hassling me to join their clan. People leave you to your own devices in Defiance, and that suits me fine. It’s not like you’re ever really alone, as you can join other people's missions halfway through and help them out. There’s also the Arkfall events, which involve you and others fighting off all manner of beasties and hellbugs, or attempting to blow up massive crystals. It gets awfully hectic, in a good way, and then when all’s done everyone goes their own separate way, a job well done and not a word said. It’s like poetry, with alien hellbeasts.
It’s a good thing the fundamental gameplay is addictive, because the missions are tedious. They’re either escort nonsense, area clearouts, or control panel hunts. That’s it. Fair enough, it’s a good excuse to shoot people, but a little variation never hurt anyone. You’ll end up ignoring all the side and random quests after a while and rattle on with the story missions and PvP stuff. Shadow Wars is easily the best, a giant warzone where you fight other people over Arkfalls and loot.
Despite the tedium of the missions, Defiance has a ‘one more go’ thing going for it that other shoot and loot games (COUGHRiptideSPLUTER) don’t. It’s a grindfest, but one that becomes pretty immersive, should you be willing to give it a go – particularly if you’re of a derivative sci-fi bent. Although we still advocate the systematic punishment of the person that wrote ‘saucy little vixen’.
Version Tested: PC
Got to EGO level 248, spent around 25-30 hours going through story missions, partaking in Arkfall events and engaging in Shadow Wars.