Defiance Xbox 360 Review
With Defiance, one could argue that Trion Worlds has basically made every circle of Hell above the ninth freeze over – they fulfilled a promise that many other developers have made, and which they have broken. Although long promised, hopes of ever getting a massively multiplayer online game on a seventh-generation console (the XBox 360 or the PlayStation 3) have consistently been dashed. While the PlayStation 2 had a few such games – Final Fantaxy XI and Phantasy Star Online being the most well-known – since that time, MMOs of any type have basically been the provenance of PC users. As far back as 2002, the online capabilities and hard drives of the 360 and the PS3 have made people wonder just what kind of MMOs we might have. It turns out that the first (and, due to the release being so late in both consoles’ development cycles, probably the last) true MMO for the seventh generation is a third-person shooter set in a radically altered San Francisco Bay Area. But just because it’s practically one-of-a-kind for consoles doesn’t mean that players should just give it a pass.
As it’s based upon the TV series on SyFy (propriety means I can’t use the phrase that I really want to use for the network), there are some connections with the series. It is set in the same time period, roughly thirty years in the future. Aliens have come to Earth, thinking to colonize, only to discover that, following their five millenniums long journey, there happens to be sentient life present. After a sort of detente between the two cultures, the technologically advanced Votan people (technically seven humanoid races from a star system they call Votan) had begun to agree to settle certain spots. But the Votan ambassador was assassinated, and the Votans and humanity began to fight one another for seven years in the “Pale Wars”. Those battles ripped the planet apart, and only ended when the Votan ships, called Arks, all exploded in orbit. They rained down terraforming technology that warped the planet, introducing alien life forms and drastically changing the planetary geography. The Votans are forced to integrate in to Earth society, and for their part, humans have begun to deal with the repercussions of the war and the calamity.
With that kind of background, it would be easy to imagine that you’d be in a dystopian world full of merciless creatures that are out to eliminate you at every turn. And you would be right. There are in fact six different groups of enemies. The only non-humanoid enemy is a group called Hellbugs, which seem to be Earth insects mutated to gigantic size and which have developed symbiotic relationships between evolved insect species. The rest of the enemies in the game are technically humanoid, although one such enemy is actually robotic. They all exist due to the original Arkfall – or subsequent events – and each one’s purpose or presence is explained during play-through. Two groups are actually just crazed humans fighting for what they believe is theirs, another is a group of mutated military that can only be compared to zombies with intelligence (at least by appearances), and the fourth truly human group seems to be super-powered rival Ark hunters.
With all of these threats around, the character customization truly comes in to play. Players can either choose to be human or the sexually dimorphous humanoid votan Irathient race, and then choose a background. This does not seem to limit a player’s ability when using equipment or choosing powers, and so is just a little bit of flavor. Starting out with a pistol and a machine gun, players quickly gain other weaponry, including grenades, shotguns, sniper rifles, and explosive launchers. A player can level up their skill with each weapon type, resulting in certain bonuses. Players also eventually gain access to vehicles, starting off with four-wheel ATVs, but graduating to larger vehicles as the game progresses. One major point of the game is that your character has special technology that allows him or her to use what are called EGO powers. The four main ones are Cloak, Blur, Decoy, and Overcharge. Cloak is self-explanatory to anybody who’s watched any Star Trek series besides Voyager, or played any science fiction shooter – you disappear for a bit, right up until you attack. Blur allows a player to move at extreme speeds, upping the speed of practically anything the player does. Decoy basically sends out a holographic replica of the player, drawing enemy fire. Overcharge is the “kill everything you see” power, making any and all attacks more effective. Attached to each power are Perks, which improve certain aspects of combat dependent upon certain conditions. Taken together, this allows for quite a bit of game play variation and character customization.
As for the actual plot and mission, the first few missions are fairly linear, with tutorials and exposition taking up much of the time. However, after that, the player is relatively free to explore. While having a vehicle makes this task much easier (players might want to wait until they get one before going off and doing whatever they please), traveling on foot does not seem completely tedious. The main missions tend to last half an hour to forty-five minutes, allowing for plenty of development, as well as a few cut scenes. The episodic missions are similarly designed, but seem to be more of a side plot that ties in to the TV series. Beyond these assignments, there are side missions that take about ten to fifteen minutes. They can either be missions or time trials of some sort. Finally, there are open-instance missions, which happen at random throughout the game map. Most open-instance missions are localized combat engagements that take the same amount of time as a side mission, but Arkfall missions – stated as occurring because pieces of the detonated Arks still orbit the planet, and sometimes fall down to Earth. You wind up fighting enemies during these situations, explained as ark tech attracting quite a bit of attention. Arkfalls are also probably one of the major areas where one encounters other players in co-op mode, and because of that, they are ranked upon completion of an ark fall. Each mission rewards a player with experience and in-game currency of some sort.
As a third-person shooter, this seems to be a very well-developed game. The controls are fairly intuitive once they are explained, the enemies are never so over-powered that it’s impossible to defeat them, regardless of the tactics used, and the environment is well-planned. One of the better parts of the open-world environment is that a player can become familiar with certain locales, to the point where, if one wanted to take on a certain enemy type, one could find said enemy type. Finally, there is enough variation in enemies and how they fight compared to one another that the game doesn’t get tiresome unless a player encounters the same type of enemy repeatedly during a play session. The only issues present seem to be accuracy compared to the targeting sight and damage calculation consistency on certain enemies.
The MMO aspect also has quite a few positives. Because the game is an MMO, there is never a “Game Over” situation unless the player willingly allows one to happen. A player can either self-revive provided enough time has passed since the last time such a thing occurred, or a player can extract to a nearby point, regain all health and being placed near an ammunition cache. With the open world aspect, there are also fast travel points that the player unlocks as the game progresses, and special weapons and equipment which can be gained for playing certain side missions or special missions. Having played only co-op mode, the reviewer can’t say how the MMO aspect operates in the PvP competitive set-up, but one imagines that far more rankings are involved.
As has become somewhat standard for these reviews, with so many pros, there must be cons to go with it. First off, the game needs to be installed on a hard drive, and then it needs to be patched. This basically means that, in order to play, a gamer has to be willing to have hours available where their console is basically just sitting there. Next, because the world is persistent and in an MMO setting, it exists with all the players on the server (apparently it can reach up to 10000 if needed), which means that open instance missions can happen directly in the spot where you’re attempting to complete a regular mission; i.e. players can get roped in to open instance missions while in the middle of another mission. It can get rather annoying when you go to do something and it turns out that there’s an Ark Fall right next door that keeps you from technically completing your mission because you haven’t eliminated every enemy in the area. Also, in the open instance missions, even your combat-capable AI allies seem unable to damage enemies, so their attacks are purely for animation purposes. With open instance events, they can also appear on top of you out of nowhere. The regular missions sometimes seem like they do not properly scale to take account of the number of real players involved, so you may get the same amount of enemies as a solo player as you would with five people. Finally, because you do need to be logged on to a server to play, for a 360, XBox Live Gold is needed, and at times, game play is unavailable due to server outages.
Overall, though, the game provides an interesting experience, and although Defiance may not be considered a classic game in the future, Trion Worlds has still established itself as the creator of the first console-based MMO after a very long dry season. People that don’t necessarily like MMOs may not get in to this game, but it’s still worth getting if you want to have an experience where any gamer might just pop in in the nick of time and save you.
+ A developed story and game environment
+ Open-world game build
+ Variation of weapons and capabilities
+ Origins do not equate with class, allowing for wider customization
+ NPC characters are allowed to have developed story arcs
+ Both regular and side missions available, depending on time available to play
+ Massive open instance missions
+ Good incorporation of MMO elements in to the TPS environment
– Aiming and damage calculation inconsistencies
– Regular missions overlap with open instances during play
– Open instances sometimes interfere with regular missions
– The need to install the game and subsequent patches
– Periodic server outages
Overall Rating: 7.5/10