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Defiance: A Review
We meet again....
Trion and I have had a volatile and complicated history, going back to their very first game Rift. Hailing the company and the game the real WoW-killers and a true next generation title, I was deeply disappointed when I found the game was neither of those things, but perhaps that was best when I returned to World of Warcraft and made a multitude of brilliant friends. Upon hearing the news that they'd lost 80% of their staff (apparently these numbers are way off), I was overjoyed... up until now. I say this in addition to taking everything I've said about the company back because they have made one of the largest leaps forward in impressing me, and it takes a lot to astound me. I mean, Rift is still one of the worst RPG experiences I've ever had, but Trion themselves deserve better. Despite being a television tie-in game of the same name, Defiance has rocked my world and finally meets my expectations in an MMO; huge worlds to explore with dynamic combat and events; vehicle control that's fluent and fun; varied challenges and quests to undertake, and of course lots of depth in character development. For a newcomer to video game development, these guys have some how managed to make miracles.
The TV series takes place in the year 2046, where an alien species comes to Earth and try to immigrate, yet the armies of our planet see this more as an invasion. After years of warring and peace negotiations failing, the two species - the Humans and Votans - have agreed that war isn't doing them any good, and finally decide to allow each other to stay on this planet. I've not seen much of the show but if the game continues to impress me, I may be willing to see what it's tied with.
The game not only places you in the Defiance universe, where you can see the major landmarks of a destroyed St. Louis, Missouri, but also with its cast. You can meet, take quests from and converse with law man Joshua Nolan, his extra-terrestrial foster daughter Irisa amongst other characters in the bustling world of Defiance. This isn't Fallout by any means, but it's not Borderlands either (even though this game and the latter are often compared), as while you can appreciate the apocalyptic feel on PC with its stunning visuals, on console it's easy to dismiss it as another shooter-RPG.
The Dawn of an Era
Character customisation is quite expansive here, or at least far more than the average MMORPG. Much like the Elder Scrolls games you're given a lot of attention to your character's face but not so much to the body. You can pick between three races (so far, there's more to come apparently), each having males and females with different voices and Origins. Where Defiance really kicks archetypes in the backside is the Origins, which are similar to the way Dragon Age handles your character and people's reactions to them, only here they're not as fully developed. The Origins are Soldier, Survivor, Outlaw and Mechanic, each having different traits but not harming balance like the typical class system of other MMOs does. Your origins mean little but they can determine small things such as weapon damage, health, quest rewards, how much loot you find and so many other things. It's not enough to make my character feel wholly unique, but this is far better than many games Defiance must compete with.
The game does a very good job with its tutorial, and you get a feel of what the core of the gameplay is like. You'll learn how to move, aim, shoot and use a very clever mechanic called EGO. Your Ego abilities are special cooldowns which have various effects, though to begin with you can only choose one. The four are Stealth, increased weapon damage, blurring (running at long speeds before doing huge melee damage) and Decoy, all of which are used often in versus multiplayer and come in handy when you're in a bad situation. Ego powers aren't new, but they add a lot more depth to the combat which is already pretty fun.
Combat in this game is a refreshing change to most PC games I play which involve a rotation and spamming the same keys. In fact, it's easy to tell that this game was made for consoles (or at least controllers) in mind because there's no real need for keys, as buttons and triggers do everything for you. The game plays out like any other third person shooter where you aim and shoot with triggers, and activate certain abilities with your buttons. It's very easy to get into and even if you're not much of an expert at shooting games, Defiance is generous with its difficulty and learning curve. There's not much room for elitism at any level thanks to the run 'n' gun gameplay this offers, though you can expect to get hurt if you don't pay attention to certain enemy mechanics.
Dynamic events are Defiance's strong suit, which are best compared to Rift, AKA Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The only dynamic events players would see in that game were the Rift encounters, which were portals with monsters spewing out of them and ending with a mini boss battle. While these were fun at first they quickly became boring and were the only thing that held the game together at first. When variety was non-existent in these battles, there was almost no reason to play Rift over any other MMORPG.
But Trion Worlds has learnt greatly from their past mistakes and put to shame a lot of MMOs today. Defiance not only has an improved quest model similar to that of Guild Wars 2; it also gives some of the best boss battles you'll ever hope to see in a game of this genre. While yes, World of Warcraft's are aesthetically appealing, the use of keys and concentrating more on ability bars than the fight itself takes a lot of potential out of the fights. Here you can well and truly appreciate the artwork and the programming of these spectacles.
And it's not just boss encounters with Hellbugs and Vorger that make up the dynamic side of the game. Defiance boasts the public quest system where you don't need to party up to do quests together, as everyone's quest progress is the same as long as they're in the area. So if you're required to rescue some captured soldiers, you don't have to wait until the other person has cleared the area and rescued them, and then wait for everything to reappear. Instead you can help out and still get credit for quest requirements. If a quest has already started in an area and you didn't meet previous requirements for it, don't worry, because as soon as you enter the quest zone you'll be credited for them as well.
For once in a while I'm playing a game where other players aren't there for their just own gain and to cause you bother. Mob tagging rules, quest requirements and rewards for helping other players are so different to other generally online games that cooperation is everywhere and you don't need to ask for it. It's not like Borderlands where it's a race for the most loot and the least kills, because your loot dropped on the floor is invisible to everyone else, and nobody can take what's rightfully yours. Being able to solo play whilst giving and receiving help from anonymous players is a grand experience, and one I've not seen for years.
If you're wondering whether to get this game for console or PC, it's hard to recommend either. While on a computer you'll get much better visuals (provided it can handle the intense graphics) and sounds, you may not enjoy the control so much. On Xbox 360 and PS3 however, you'll be sacrificing visual and audio quality for much better control with a pad. The game's interface was clearly made with console in mind, making this quite hard to get used to with a computer, especially if you play PC-exclusive MMORPGs. You could combine the two and have a computer run the game with a controller, but whether you want to do that instead of get the title for console is purely up to you.
Speaking of which version to get, it's relatively cheap whichever way you choose. I managed to pick the game up for only £5 from Computer Exchange (CeX UK), and the other versions you can get cheaper. As I've not played the PC version yet I wouldn't recommend you get it pre-owned in case you can't download it or make an account, but you can head over to the official site to download and play it from there. And as far as I'm aware there's almost no differences in terms of glitches and bugs for either console, and patches/updates are on the same day as the PC version. So don't worry about being short-handed by Trion because they do care about what console gets what treatment.
The game's visuals are terrific and cringeworthy, depending on what machine you're playing this on. The images I've shown are on the PC version, whereas the PS3 cuts down on foliage, character model details and have some very shaggy outlines around them. That's not to say that the home consoles are terrible and you should be driven away from them, but take advantage of the PC version if you have an Xbox 360 controller with it instead. The environments are quite nice to look at but don't look anything as good as Call of Duty: Ghosts' apocalyptic cities nor the wastelands of Fallout 3, but you will still be able to tell that this planet has gone through a lot to uphold humanity's way of life.
Where the game's praise plummets is the sounds. They're not bad, they're just lacking. There's little voice work except for quests (which is clear and helpful), and the music is minimal. I expected a lot more from a company that realises the importance of control, dynamic combat and strategy, yet they seem to overlook the soundtrack like it's the colour of a character's fingernails. There's one or two tracks you'll hear on a constant loop during combat and dynamic events, and it gets very boring, very quickly. I'll say that it's fitting to some degree, but I expect more tracks to be added every few patches. Heck, I'll even give Trion Jeremy Soule's business number so they can get the embodiment of auditory epicness.
To tell you the truth a lot is missing from this review, and I will be returning occasionally to justify it. However I won't be giving it a score because of how early we are into the game, and there is more DLC coming up (approximately 4 patches up to April) in future. Also, it's unfair to score a game when we've not seen it all, and features such as more boss battles, raid groups, PvP and even endgame need to be covered.
In the meantime I'd recommend you give this game a try second hand on console. You won't have a tough time finding a cheap copy (mine was less than a tenner), so be sure to pick one up next time you're looking for a new MMO. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments below as well, as I love reader input! Until the next time I thank you for reading and wish you all a pleasant day!