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Hands On: Defiance

Defying expectations.

When it comes to ambition, Defiance is never short in supply. Developed by Trion Worlds, the same team behind End of Nations and RIFT, Defiance will be the first game to launch alongside its very own, interconnected TV series.

The world of Defiance is based around human and alien characters on a futuristic depiction of Earth racked by years of interstellar warfare. While the TV show’s hardly brimming with A-list actors or saturated with over-the-top CGI effects, it does have promise.

Vehicles play a significant role in Defiance and handle surprisingly well.

It’s not just the game’s links to a TV show that makes it ambitious though. When Defiance goes live next week it will be the first true massively multiplayer online first person shooter to grace current-gen hardware.

Though CCP’s DUST 514 has flown the MMOFPS banner for some time now, its instanced matchmaking is a distilled form of what most hardcore gamers would define as a “massively multiplayer” experience. Defiance, on the other hand, embraces these cherished conventions with a vast open world and quest system, much like Hi-Rez Studios’ Global Agenda.

Starting out with a few basic weapons and supplies, Defiance immediately has players fending for themselves in this harsh new world. Unlike most MMOs, this initial stage of character development is free from the traditional class-based system, though users do have the option to enlist as either a human or Votan avatar.

The first episode of Defiance will air on April 15th, exclusive to Syfy.

defiancetv

Defining your character’s playstyle comes a little later in the game, once players have performed tasks to gain experience. With each passing level comes EGO points which can then be exchanged to unlock various abilities and perks. Weapon types and vehicles can also be upgraded if used frequently enough, creating an organic experience system that rewards players continuously.

It may sound a little bewildering but at its core Defiance is similar to most third person shooters on the market, at least in terms of gameplay. The only difference is that you are situated within an open world inhabited by hundreds of other players.

The result is a sense of seamless connectivity. For instance, you may be speeding along on your ATV only to find a fellow player bogged down by mutants which could then lead to a full-blown adventure. It’s special moments like these that have defined the MMO genre for more than a decade and separate Defiance from games such as DUST 514 and Blacklight: Retribution.

Sadly, gameplay is also where Defiance starts to show one of its weaknesses. Though tight and responsive at first, the shooting just feels a little… off. Headshots don’t always seem to register, with enemies rarely flinching or showing any signs of feedback when struck by a barrage of gunfire. However, as an MMO and not a cinematic third person shooter this is something players will have to accept.

Something much harder to overlook is how Defiance’s array of perks and abilities fail to enhance gameplay. Available in four different variations, these powers allow players to spawn decoys, sprint towards enemies, overcharge their weapons or turn invisible. They sound fun on paper but just don’t translate well into actual gameplay.

As the only means to distinguish between two different character archetypes, they just aren’t up to scratch and the game’s perks (passive abilities) do little to help. Just imagine playing Mass Effect with the option to select one power and one power only. The verdict; it wouldn’t be half as fun.

With that said, Defiance still exhibits a cohesive structure and one packed with plenty of content. Quests are in ample supply and can take the form of racing/shooting challenges as well as on-the-fly instances. Even more abundant is the amount of loot found whilst adventuring in the game’s torn landscapes, giving Defiance a slight Borderlands vibe. Not all of it will be useful however, and this is where the game’s salvaging system and vendors come into play.

Tuffcub’s Verdict

A few battles on Dust 514 are the limit of my MMO experience but I was intrigued by the premise of Defiance, so I signed up for the PC and PS3 betas. My first encounter with the PC beta was less than pleasant; it looked awful and I quickly discovered you need to be an octopus to manage all the keys required to play, so I was not expecting much from the PS3 test.

It came as quite as a surprise that I rather enjoyed the little play time I have racked up. Half the time I have no idea what I’m doing but it’s fun just to summon a quad bike and ride my Growler across the impressively large map. That’s what the quad bikes are called, Growlers – obviously no one in the Defiance team knows what a growler is in British slang.

I have completed a couple of the main missions which were challenging but not impossible, and plenty of side quests that you can encounter whilst roaming the map. Most of the time I was joined by other players and there is a real sense of achievement working together to complete the goals.

The combat takes a little while to get used to; the closest comparison I can make is Mass Effect, as it’s not heavy and clunky like Killzone, nor floaty-light like COD.

I did dip my toe in to the multiplayer PvP matches but I found these to be rather dull and unbalanced. The maps seemed far too large and the players I was fighting against were obviously a lot more powerful than me, although this may be just because of the limited amount of beta participants rather than dodgy match making.

As I said I have little experience of this type of game but I am genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed Defiance. It’s certainly a lot more accessible than Dust 514 and, despite the myriad menus and options, rather less complicated.

Well worth checking out.

title

Gunplay feels a little undercooked.

Other MMO-like features are also evident, especially after wandering from the game’s starting area. Accessible via the game’s quick and innovative menu system, group instances make an appearance. Limited to four players during the beta, these narrative-driven missions pit teams against swarms of deadly enemies and bosses as they try to beat certain objectives.

More unique to Defiance is the game’s Arkfall events. Spread throughout the game world, these hotzones appear randomly and bear similarities to the Rifts found in RIFT. Though not quite as fleshed out, they allow huge swathes of players to band together to tackle incoming enemies, usually culminating in a huge boss battle.

Sporting a cocktail of interesting ideas, Trion’s genre-bending console debut is far from perfect yet shows glimmers of hope. With an accompanying TV series to colour in the narrative and a strong cluster of multiplayer mechanics it could prove revolutionary for those who yet to an experience an MMO. However, if Trion isn’t able to amend the game’s small pack of fundamental flaws, Defiance could easily come tumbling down.

Article based on the PS3 Beta. Defiance launches for PS3, PC and Xbox 360 on April 2nd.

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9 Comments
  1. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Article broken with me arriving at the word “Growler”. I’ll come back later when I’ve stopped smirking at childish euphemisms.

    Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 15:02.
    • kjkg
      Member
      Since: Apr 2010

      Ditto. Sitting reading TCs opinion with a massive grin on my face.

      Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 16:19.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        My work is done :)

        Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 16:54.
    • rSp8
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      I love riding growlers! Seriously, that didn’t impress me when I first heard of it but recent things I’ve heard have piqued my interest. Might give the beta on PS+ a go.

      Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 17:05.
  2. Eldave0
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Thanks for this! I’ve had this game on my radar for a while now and was gutted to find out last night, after painstakingly downloading the 6gb beta, that the bloody thing has finished already! Really not enjoying God of War: A at the moment so am tempted to trade it towards this or Infinite (the latter of which I accidently read the ending to so I’ve sort of lost interest).

    Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 15:07.
  3. Starman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2011

    I’m quite interested in this but fear it won’t sell enough to have a well populated online.

    Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 15:22.
  4. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    BTW anyone know why they are using Sharon Osborne to advertise the game?

    Comment posted on 28/03/2013 at 17:23.
    • wonkey-willy
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      should imagine something to do with growlers mate!
      btw i think Jim was being a little conservative with his write up…from what i have played this need some serious attention..mmo’s are not for me but some of the anomaly’s in this game/beta were mind blowing!i had monsters just pop up out of nowhere and other onliners pop in and out of my game missions at some rather crucial points of the game..

      Comment posted on 03/04/2013 at 02:01.
  5. Dar-Kaus
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    If the game looks anything like the trailer for the show, then the production values should look as good as Mega Shark vs Dinocrock.

    Comment posted on 31/03/2013 at 20:28.

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