Defiance is a competent third-person shooter with action role-playing elements that, despite having some minor moments of brilliance, is lost in a sea of terrific free-to-play games.
Over the course of the seventh generation of consoles, several developers tried to create a massively multiplayer online game that would run on those machines. Some of these games include The Crew, DC Universe Online, World of Tanks and Final Fantasy XI, among others. Defiance is certainly one of those and the only thing that sets it apart is the fact that it came out at the same time as the TV series it is based on. Defiance is a competent third-person shooter with action role-playing elements that, despite having some minor moments of brilliance, is lost in a sea of terrific free-to-play games.
Unlike the television series it’s based on (which is set in Saint Louis,) Defiance the game takes place in the Bay Area, years after an infamous event known as the Pale War. The game is a prequel to the show and you even meet the protagonists in some of the cutscenes and missions. Unfortunately, the game does a poor job of explaining anything about this universe and while the adventure is punctuated by some cutscenes, the missions have problems conveying what’s happening and why.
In terms of gameplay, Defiance is a traditional and derivative MMO. There are main missions, sidequests, challenges and a simplistic version of the raids. Although the markers on the map suggest that there’s content for months, most of the missions are repetitive and formulaic: once you accept a quest, you travel to a specific location, defeat a group of enemies, collect an item or activate a switch and you go back to the quest-giver to receive a reward in the form of a weapon or currency. Collecting or activating three of something becomes old really quick, especially since this is a problem that MMO fans have been complaining about for years. Soon, you unlock the possibility of using vehicles, which makes moving around the vast land of the San Francisco area quicker, but the mission design is still flawed.
At times, the world was so populated, that the missions were devoid of challenge, so I just felt like a tiny cog instead of a decisive part of huge battle. When I was on my own, defeating dozens of enemies proved harder than it should have and the AI got stuck in the environments are moved in contrived ways. As I mentioned above, missions design is lackluster to say the least, since you find yourself doing the same things over and over and that includes escorting technicians, eliminating a horde of enemies or activate switches and you do it over and over.
As a companion piece to the TV series, Defiance the game is quite effective though. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was watching the SyFy show at the same time, I wouldn’t have played as many hours of the game as I did. So as someone who watched and liked the show, it was easy to lose myself in this familiar universe, even if both things don’t take place at the same time.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t without some issues. Technically, the Xbox 360 version of Defiance is rough around the edges: the framerate behaves erratically, there’s screen tearing and the graphics aren’t that special. Also, Defiance is all kinds of broken: enemies materialize out of nowhere and kill you instantly, a missions ends and you are in the middle of an ocean and die, accessing the map and menus take a few seconds to load, the final boss was caught in the geometry and I couldn’t deal any damage forcing me to restart and the list goes on and on.
Despite all its problems, Defiance is a has some engrossing action RPG elements. If anything, this is a competent MMO with a lot of wasted potential, but when it works as intended, Defiance is a good way to spend your free time and collecting colored loot and seeing the numbers on enemies is a blast. The problem is that it seldom works as it should.
Apart from the MMO campaign, there are also a few multiplayer modes where you can compete against other players. This game has been around for a while, but if you’re lucky enough to find players with a similar skill level, you can have some fun. Some of the modes resemble those usually found in popular shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty and while they don’t reinvent the wheel, they are fun to play.
In conclusion, Defiance is an acceptable third-person shooter MMO that’s marred by technical problems and formulaic design decisions. People who are willing to watch the science fiction series and play this game at the same time will get more out of the experience, but as a solo endeavor Defiance feels repetitive, simplistic and broken.