Trion’s next MMO is here. Defiance is a post-apocalyptic, third-person shooter MMO set in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, genetically-enhanced guns for hire known as Ark Hunters (which come in Votan and Human flavors at the moment) are sent out across the ravaged and deadly lands in search of the coveted alien technology known as arktech. Following under the orders of Karl Von Bach, of Von Bach Inudstries, players set out to aid him and the Earth Republic in obtaining arktech while dealing with the ever-evolving issues that constantly present themselves. So is the life of an Ark Hunter.
Trion is hoping to take the world by storm through tight shooting controls and transmedia storytelling — SyFy hosts the TV series counterpart also titled Defiance. The question is: Have they successfully crafted and combined the elements of their ambitious MMO? Let’s find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Defiance.
A Highly Customizable Shooter
Don’t be confused by Defiance’s MMO label; it’s a third-person shooter at heart. It rivals that of other top-notch, AAA shooters on the market, although you won’t find a cover system here (at least, not beyond crouching behind objects). This is where Defiance separates itself from the competition. Hotbars, skill rotations and character classes have all been removed in favor of a much more free-form setup. Sure, you start the game picking one of four Origins — Veteran, Survivalist, Outlaw and Machinist — which dictates your starting weapon. However, this soon means nothing as you’re free to pick up any other weapon type you come across. Even missions rewards do not adhere to your starting weapon type. Regardless of if you’re a Survivalist or a Machinist, you’ll no doubt be receiving the Deadbolt bolt-action sniper rifle in the opening missions.
While the lack of classes may not sit well with some, it actually lays the foundation for a highly customizable experience. One minute you’re sniping from afar to clear out the most formidable foes and the next minute you’re rushing the stragglers with a sawed-off shotgun. Whether you want to fire explosive projectiles, fire fully automatic weapons or maintain your distance, Defiance allows you to change your loadout as often as your tastes/mood change. All of this comes together in a very tight and impactful shooting system.
This is further proven through the Environmental Guardian Online (EGO) implant which gives access to one of four powers: Blur, Cloak, Decoy and Overcharge. Blur boosts speed; Cloak grants invisibility; Decoy spawns a hologram; Overcharge boosts weapon damage. Much like the weapons, these can be switched between by using the respec option. It is better to stick with one power and slowly fill out the grid until you reach into the passive skills stemming out of the other three EGO powers, but the option to change it up is still there. The ability to play how you want, when you want makes Defiance one of the most accommodating experiences, especially for those of us that find ourselves bored with our chosen play styles after countless hours of play.
Always Something to Do
There is a TON of equipment awaiting players (almost feels like Borderlands Online) and what good would all that new equipment do if you weren’t given a reason to use it? The Bay Area is littered with story-related objectives, side missions and random encounters. Ark Hunters are sure to come across several of these side jobs, which appear as yellow markers, as they ride toward their next objective. These range from skillful annihilation (Rampage) to speedy, point-to-point racing (Time Trial). The scattered missions are a nice diversion from the story, although it is engaging, and help mix things up. Taking a break from firing endless rounds into Raiders to go for the Gold ranking on a Time Trial (maybe using your new quad or Dodge Challenger) is as intense as it is thrilling. If you find yourself feeling generous, you might even pull over to the side of the road to free a few tied up prisoners. None of them are forced down your throat. They’re simply added fun for anyone looking for something new to do and the random events help breathe some life into the rolling hills of the Bay Area. Given the game’s tight shooting controls, you’ll take any excuse to light up a few more baddies.
And chances are you won’t even have to do it alone. This is a MMO, remember? People can decide to lend a hand or stroll on by your currently active mission. Even if you’ve finished three out of four of the objectives in a side mission, anyone who jumps in will still receive credit for completion. You won’t see people standing on the sidelines waiting for you to finish up so they can have a go at it. This idea creates a much more connected and social community.
Co-Op In An Instance
Cooperative play can be found outside of randomly running into fellow Ark Hunters on side missions. 4-player cooperative instances called Co-Op Missions unlock as you progress. After you join one of these co-op missions, you’ll be whisked away to an area with the rest of your team to partake in a multi-section mission, with a little story wrapped around it, that ends with a boss fight. Typically, you’ll find yourself fighting in the dark caverns underground and it makes for some hectic, close quarters firefights.
The Almighty Arkfalls
Taking things in the opposite direction of Co-Op Missions, Arkfalls are massive battles that any number of people can get in on and are similar to the Rifts found in Trion’s other MMO… errr… Rift. They appear as large red circles on the map that cover a fair amount of ground. Driving/walking into one of these marked areas sees the skies shift from a bright blue to a dark and overcast scene with flaming space debris plummeting to Earth. Ark Hunters will usually be tasked with destroying fallen crystals before taking on a final boss. The battles on show here can be massive and lengthy, depending on the number of responding Ark Hunters. It’s extremely satisfying to blow up a crystal and then ride as one huge mass to the next objective. The best part is that the loot dropped is instanced. So you don’t have to worry about missing out on the spoils. If you ever want to see this loot, however, you’ll have to be quick since there is a constantly diminishing timer on these large events.