Money rains the sky like molten gold. Fragments of highly advanced ships hurtling to the ground pepper San Francisco’s semi-alien landscape in bizarre, inexplicable alien tech. They’re fragments of the ark field that orbits the Earth. What the technology does is not important, that the technology sells well is.
“Minor arkfall detected,” the artificial intelligence in your mind says, “let’s go earn some scrip.”
Around the impact site, groups of burrowing aliens are climbing through the grass, scuttling around, as if drawn to the technology. You rumble through the mass of them in your ATV, diving off as brown-ish hide splashes against the armored grill of your vehicle. More come, you raise your rifle.
Welcome to Defiance 2050, arkhunter. Let’s earn some scrip.
Gameplay – 7 / 10
Originally released in 2013, Defiance was already a little bit awkward. A full seven years after Gears of War, third-person shooter had transitioned into being slightly more cover based, slower, more ponderous, and perhaps a bit heavier of a genre. Any game that did third-person after either had to dial up the weight of movement and gunfire or at least give the player enough kinetic energy that it still felt punchy and exciting. Defiance did not, and it felt like a game a little out of date.
In 2018, Defiance 2050 is an overhaul of the original Defiance. Improvements to the user interface and class system manage to strip away some of the clunk, but outside of improvements under-the-hood, there are relatively few differences between the older game and 2050 that follows it.
Players have the ability to equip two weapons at any given time, which provides a decent variety of fighting styles between them. Some may engage enemies with personnel-fired grenades, some with rockets, others with assault rifles and SMGs, or perhaps with long-range rifles. The variety of player weapon-types means that fighting styles are wide and robust; places where player density is high, players will mill at different distances and engage in different ways, so it often feels less crowded in combat than it actually is.
The loot that drops from enemies is randomized based on a general power level, so as a player equips more pieces of strong equipment their general level goes higher and stronger equipment begins to drop. In general, players gain power as a consequence of playing. There’s rarely a reason to farm new equipment rather than just playing the game and letting the upgrades come as they may. Any given weapon, of the right power level, feels about as good as other options, and there’s no reason to play a weapon type a player doesn’t enjoy just to keep up.
Innovation – 5 / 10
The elephant in the room for Defiance 2050, sadly, is that it does everything it tries to do okay enough. “Okay enough” is kind of the best it manages, though.
The netcode on the game doesn’t feel as immediate as other action games. In a world that exists alongside the highly kinetic and agile Warframe, or rubs elbows with Phantasy Star Online 2, the standard for third-person action is already fairly high, and stepping in with a game that feels like a new coat of paint on a still-early-2010 game seems like it’s a misstep. Defiance 2050 looks fine enough, the UI is mostly unobtrusive, combat is mostly functional, and the netcode only bobbles a little, but all of it is just enough.
In a world where its closest competitors already have their player bases, their up-to-the-minute updates and expansion systems, and the modern feel of sleeker modern games, Defiance 2050 doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart. It’s not a bad game, by any metric, but it certainly isn’t a new game. It’s a mostly competent third-person shooter.
Good enough? Maybe.
Community – 9 / 10
The side-effect of being Defiance again is that the community from the original is still around, most know what they’re doing, are happy to help answer questions, and know their way around the unchanged map, unchanged quests, and have a solid enough grip with the class dynamics to be able to instruct new players how to best apply their skills points.
In short, the folks milling around the world tend to know their way around and aren’t shy with offering help if it’s something folks are asking for.
As a consequence of the loot system, the errant arkfalls that appear on the map mean players will congregate there as often is possible, sometimes even pausing progress on story missions to complete an arkfall then returning to their missions. Players hoping to encounter others and have an excuse to chat can slay some hellbugs, route some miners, and fight some robots in merry chaos, and sit around talking about it after the arkfall has cleared away and had its content split up.
Further, closer to the hub towns, little side quests and story missions may also have other players in the area, who will typically help out if they see players fighting enemies. Although there’s no major party system to speak of, it’s very easy to form quick temporary alliances.
However, given such an enormous map, players can be spread a little thin sometimes, and there are places to go in which very few other players will be found. Traveling to the far reaches of San Francisco means that other players will probably remain pooled closer to the hubs, and it can quickly become an isolated play experience, which isn’t bad but not very communal.
Graphics and Sounds – 4 / 10
The place where Defiance 2050 really stands out over its predecessor is in the new graphical system. The animations and sound are still a bit clunky, but the textures and map detail has been dialed up to new extremes where it seems to fit right at home in 1080p and greater resolutions.
Higher resolution textures can only do so much, though, and the game doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other modern games with physics and lighting engines around to fill in the details and help the colors pop in ways that many players are accustomed to.
For those unfamiliar, Defiance 2050 and its predecessor are spin-offs from a Syfy original series, and the story missions do a lot to feel like they’re carrying on a bigger, wider story. However, as with many Syfy original series go, it feels a bit budget. The fully voice acted cutscenes and in-game calls from major characters are fine but feel a little wooden. Each of them seemingly isolated, with the cold sterility that comes from connecting to sound files together rather than feeling like two or more persons in a tense situation sharing ideas.
However, much like everyone else in the game, none of it is outright bad. Just good enough.
Value for Money – 6 / 10
Money sunk into Defiance 2050 will go toward cosmetics and consumable items that players can otherwise earn from gameplay. Most of these items are achievable in-game, excepting little quality-of-life upgrades like additional loadout slots and larger max inventories. Players who want to spend money to reduce the amount of busywork will find plenty from the cash shop.
Those who want to be fashionable will find relatively few cosmetic options available outside of those in the Defiance shop. However, those present aren’t terribly expensive, and none of the cosmetic options are class locked, so players can carry a look over even if they don’t stay the same class.
Overall, players who spend money on Defiance 2050 will find a few quality-of-life improvements, but most of the upgrades will be acquired through play.
Final Score – 6 / 10
Defiance 2050 is an inoffensive game. Aside from occasional netcode bobbles, nothing about it is outright bad. But nothing about it is really good either. So, it’s stuck in a kind of difficult place to pin down. It’s not a valuable part of the gaming ecosystem, but it doesn’t do enough wrong to feel like it shouldn’t be recommended.
If you want a game to scratch a third-person shooter itch and don’t mind one that looks and feels a little older and clunkier then there isn’t anything particularly wrong with looking here. In fact, you’ll even find a decently active and helpful community. If you want a game with modern flourishes and punchier action, Defiance 2050 probably isn't for you.
Defiance 2050 feels like a middle-of-the-road, luke-warm experience of a game. It’s good enough, but players rarely seek out new games hoping to find “good enough.”
Decent action online game that won’t feel too isolated
Wide map and good travel options means the player rarely feels stagnant
Deep lore well to drink from for players who want to engage in a bigger story
Only decent action, which pushes no envelopes
Feels old, a bit clunky, and has a lot of modern competition
Absence of modern graphics details leave the high-resolution textures out-of-place