MMOs are always tricky to review. On one hand it’s necessary to criticise the flaws, but on the other any one of those issues could be patched out a week later. Finding that balance is important.
Luckily Defiance isn’t quite as complex as most MMOs. Yes, there are problems, some inherent with its design and others easily fixed and patched out.
But as a shooter first and an MMO second, concerns over Defiance’s simplicity aren’t such a problem. Defiance is at its best when you have a gun and an enemy to point it at.
What that gun is comes down to you, but rather than worry too much about stats and numbers, Defiance dumbs down the RPG elements in favour of something more Borderlands-esque.
And the Borderlands references won’t stop there, either.
You’ll pick a class, you’ll level up and you unlock additional improvements – faster shield recharges, improved crit damage, that sort of stuff. It’s great to be given the option to improve, of course, but it all plays second fiddle to just existing in the world. And shooting things.
The World Of Defiance
Defiance is set on Earth after a battle left it scarred, abandoned and the majority of its survivors mutated. Think Fallout without the depth, Half-Life 2 without the subtlety.
You’re an Ark Hunter, a player character injected with fancy do-hickies that imbues him or her with stealth, speed, strength or the ability to create a decoy. Sounds simple enough? It is.
After picking your choice you’re left to your own devices. Where most MMOs direct you around a fairly particular route, Defiance feels a little more open than that.
The main missions will obviously guide you through the world at its own pace, but the environment is littered with a checklist of things to do whenever you feel like it.
You can only accept one quest at a time and though that might feel at odds with the typical MMO accept-‘em-all, complete-‘em-all, hand-‘em-all-in method it actually works quite well.
This is thanks to the directionless nature of Defiance, which sounds like a negative but is actually a compliment. Like some of the best single-player open world games, you’re free to pick and choose what you do and when.
There are enough quests in your vicinity at any one time that you’ll never be stuck for something to do.
Questing In Defiance
The quests themselves are fairly throwaway in their nature: collect data pads, access control panels, defend areas and the like. But that’s not such a problem, much like Borderlands the quests are little more than pointing you in the direction of somewhere to go to shoot things.
It really is as simple as that.
There’s a little more variety in the form of leaderboard quests, whether it’s time trial races or hotshot challenges that pit you against waves of enemies. They don’t mix up the gameplay too much, but add a couple of extras knobs on top of the main and side missions.
But don’t worry if you’re used to waiting for enemies to spawn in most MMOs, Defiance has cleverly blended grouping so you never have to worry too much about intruding on another player’s session.
Any quests being completed in the same area are automatically shared with any participating players, which means you needn’t worry too much about racing to pick up an item before any other Ark Hunters or get the killing blow on a particular enemy.
It’s a smart system, especially since interaction is rare in Defiance. As you follow a chain of quest objectives you’ll likely do so as an ad hoc group, silently jetting from point to point simply because your goals align.
And yet you’re not tied down. If you suddenly decide you no longer want to ride ATVs with the rest of your impromptu allies then you can – no need to leave a group, share loot or even say goodbye.
Raids, Groups And Loot
World events can appear from time to time, too, and are basically the equivalent of open world raids. As you arrive you’ll face a specific challenge of some kind.
Alone this would take a good hour of idle gunfire to finally succeed, but the beacon invariably summons numerous Ark Hunters to join you. As such one typical event could last five minutes instead.
Five minutes of hectic, seemingly uncontrollable bloodlust.
Though you don’t actually do much else during these events, the mass of players all shooting at a piece of rock becomes strangely entertaining.
You’re rewarded with a large chunk of experience and often decent weaponry, too. But no one cheers, no one emotes. Kill the beasts, grab the loot and they’re gone.
It’s perhaps the most impersonal MMO we’ve played in a long while, but it kind of works. Somehow.
Most of this is down to Defiance’s very accessible nature. It’s not a game you need to think about: simply boot up, pick a quest and kill. That’s really all there is to it.
At most you’ll need to consider where to spend EGO Points (class upgrades, basically) or whether one sniper rifle is better than another, but that’s about it.
If you were hoping for an in-depth MMO then don’t bother. Defiance won’t be for you. But if you’re happy just to boot up, grab a gun and unload one bullet after another then Defiance provides that itch to scratch by the caseload.
If this paints a pretty great image of Defiance then we’re glad. There’s plenty of content to tackle in Defiance, and it’s hugely enjoyable, albeit in a simplistic way. You should try it.
But it’s not perfect.
Bugs are a problem for every MMO launch, but even still some of these are worth pointing out. Quests that cannot be completed due to broken objectives, enemy glitches and awkward vehicle controls are but a few of the issues surrounding Defiance.
The quests themselves have no real weight to them either. It’s not a game that requires much depth to its missions, but should you play for too long and it can feel a little too grindy – more than most MMOs, anyway.
A large part of this is because of the variety. While the main missions will often lead to more interesting environments or challenges, the tasks never change.
Defiance is a short burst kind of game; an evening’s worth of playtime before a break becomes necessary.
The world itself doesn’t inspire much in the way of exploration either. Though the different locales do subtly shift in aesthetics, there’s never really any reason to explore the world outside of finding new quests to collect.
The world of Defiance is not quite as rewarding as discovering Azeroth, exploring the galaxy in SWTOR or delving through lore in The Secret World.
Its story is largely throwaway, and this isn’t helped much by the fairly awkward voice acting and dialogue. There are a suitable number of different NPCs, but they’re mostly there to piece together the bits that Defiance does well – aimless combat and bloody-minded gunfire.
Defiance is fairly rough around the edges, and there are a number of concessions you’ll need to make the most of it. As a free-to-play game it would make sense, but there is a one-off fee to get involved.
With that said, however, there’s no denying that there’s a lot of hours of enjoyment hidden within. As with any MMO this is only the beginning and if Trion Worlds can iron out some of the bugs and keep the content coming then there’s every reason to get involved.
Whether that’s now or in a couple of months time all comes down to the pleasure you get from shooting things. You monster.
Version tested: PC