Defiance came out a little over a year ago, as someone who had never seen the show this title did little to peak my attention. As a buy to play product Defiance didn’t interest me enough to pay a box fee. In the beginning of June Trion decided to change its business model, transitioning from a “buy to play” product in to a “free to play” game. I was intrigued enough to take the plunge. As I ran through the title I attempted to get a feel for how it felt to be a free to play player in the post apocalyptic setting of California.
TV and movie tie-ins tend to be pretty abysmal. There are exceptions, but often times tie-ins end up in the category of “shovelware”. In more cases than not, we find that these titles feel rushed. They lack the polish in almost every area of development. In general you get the sense the product team isn’t trying to make a great game, but simply trying to sell something on namesake. fortunately, Defiance is a deviation from the norm.
Right out the gate I was impressed by how smooth the game looked and felt. An over the shoulder third person perspective is used, and it works pretty well. Several well employed graphical effects add to the visual appeal of the game. The Vibrant explosions and motion blur help give the player a white knuckle sensation.
Aesthetically Defiance is gritty and weather-worn. Despite its drab color palette, the world doesn’t feel washed out. The areas all carry a “destroyed” post apocalyptic feel but are varied and interesting to explore. Strange flora and fauna make the earth almost feel like an alien planet. The enemies, which range from cyber punk inspired criminals to frightening space bugs, serve to give the world a bit of its own unique flavor.
When you get in to the client customization options it becomes incredibly apparent that the PC version is a console port. There are hardly any graphics customization features. Besides a low, medium and high buttons there are no additional tweaking options. You can turn the motion blur off, and adjust anti aliasing but that’s really about it. Sure, it’s nice to have USB controller options but, the lack of graphics scaling is a bit of a minor setback.
Almost everything in Defiance features full voice acting. There are loads of cut scenes, but beyond that even the NPCs in the open world have full voice work. There is a slew of voice acting here, and the best part is its very well produced. Most of the dialogue feels believable and the production values are of top quality. The mouth movement is decent and the actors rarely feel still. The high quality voice acting goes a long way to helping your immersion in to the storyline.
Progression is handled very well; it was one of my favorite aspects of Defiance. There is a “level” system in Defiance called an “Ego Rating”. The current cap is 5900. Leveling up your ego will give you access to higher level Ego Weapons. For every weapon type you also separately rank up a professioncy in that weapon type. Every so often you are given Ego points to spend; these can be used on a variety of different perks to help customize your role.
The Combat strays away from the traditional “Tab targeting” system and uses something more akin to something you would find in a single player action shooter. There is an aim assist mode for players who are used to MMOs with a slower combat pace. This might be a turn off for some, but it was nice to engage in combat that felt more active.
At times Defiance can be incredibly challenging. While the difficulty is pretty high, it’s rarely frustrating and the death penalty is practically nil. If you are doing a mission and you die once, you can self revive, the self revive can be used once per check point. If you are playing with other players you can be revived by anyone in the area. If another player happens to be in the same mission area as you, both of you can complete the mission and work together without being in a separate “party”. The lack of restrictions on PVE help make Defiance an enjoyable experience.
At first glance it may not seem apparent, but Defiance puts a lot of emphasis on playing with others. There is no level restriction. Every player can run missions or other content with another player regardless of EGO rating. If you are playing with someone significantly higher level then yourself you will scale up towards their EGO rating. This level scaling also applies to PVP and large scale open world based content.
One of the more exciting aspects of Defiance is the large scale open world events. There are two major types of open world events. Neither of which has a player cap, sometimes you can see upwards of 100 players involved at the same time. The first of these are known as Arkfalls, they are large open world events that spawn randomly across the map. The objective is quite simple, clear the area and defeat the boss. Siege events,have players working together to capture and defend objective points. The world events are an efficient and entertaining method to progressing and acquiring gear.
Defiance runs on a “DLC”model. Some of the content is locked unless you purchase the corresponding DLC. At first this might seem off-putting,but it turns out it’s not as detrimental to the free player as your instinct might imagine. My knee jerk reaction was that without the DLC I would not be able to be competitive or relevant, this is far from the case.
The content provided in the DLC is pretty limited. The DLCs themselves do not unlock any additional areas of the map. All areas can be accessed by all players. The first DLC “Castithan Charge” adds an additional playable race, but this is a purely cosmetic addition. All of the DLCs add a small handful of additional missions, but these are not required to progress to end game.
Some of the DLCs add new Co-op missions, which are Defiance’s version of Instanced dungeons. These add more variety to the game but not having the DLCs doesn’t necessarily take away from your overall enjoyment. New DLCs offer new weapon types, there is debate among the community if these are “better” or simply different. After reviewing the stats on DLC weapons vs base weapons, it does not appear there is a huge difference in the overall stat formation of the weapons themselves.
While the DLCs add a lot of new interesting content, such as missions, Co-Op instances, and new outfits they do not skew the balance. Even with the content the DLCs do add the majority of the content still remains free. All major important updates like raised level caps and new open world zones are released to all players for no charge.
The Cash shop is set up to be pretty fair. There are a variety of boosts available. These include XP and inventory boosts, but for the most part the options available are cosmetic. Experience boosters are not a huge balance issue due to the games scalability. The current cash shop system does present one minor problem though. Defiance features a “crate unlock” system similar to ones seen in other online games. In Defiance players can unlock purchase and unlock those crates with “keycodes”. Unlike systems seen in other titles those keys can be purchased and earned without spending real money. The issue comes in the “key limit”. Just like with the inventory, a player is limited to how many keycodes they can have. The highest Tier of unlock box costs more keys than a free player can have in their inventory, requiring the player to purchase an upgrade before they can effectively get the highest tier of lockbox.
Compared to a lot of titles on the market, Defiance is quite reasonable in its business model. Players who do not wish to pay real money will have no issues progressing through the game, players who wish for additional perks and missions can easily do so at an affordable price. As an added bonus, every week during new episodes of the show, they release a code that can be redeemed for some awesome bonuses. Sometimes this is gear, other times it’s great perks like 15 days EXP bonus’s.
Defiance might not hold your attention forever, but it’s a great way to pass some time. It’s a well presented world with a gritty aesthetic that isn’t hard on the eye. The action oriented combat will please a lot of players who crave a more “twitch” experience in their MMOs. The lack of restrictions on playing with others keeps the game from turning in to a “grind to get to end game” scenario. Overall the DLCs and Cash Shop implementation don’t hinder the overall enjoyment. Defiance is a real pick up and go title that