So far, Defiance has proved itself to be a worthwhile series. It will never reach the heights of, say, Game of Thrones, The Wire, or Breaking Bad, but it’s still one of the best sci-fi programmes knocking about.
Whilst episode three felt like a bit of a tangent, four returns to the main story arc and riffs on previous events and collisions between characters. Straight from the get go Mayor Amanda Rosewater is once again tested after learning of secret weapon dealings between outsiders and resident troublemaker, Datak Tarr.
Her resolve is pushed even further after being confronted by a Defiance local about Amanda’s sister, Kenya (Mia Kirshner), triggering one of many flashbacks to the mayor’s past and how the two coped during the Pale War.
Elsewhere, Defiance returns to its first major mystery, as Quentin McCawley confronts his father about Luke’s death. We’re not going to spoil the cliffhanger surprise, but let’s just say that Luke dug perhaps a little too far into his father’s mines, uncovering something that could flip the series on its head.
Returning to Amanda, things take a turn for the worse as Kenya and one of her escorts is kidnapped by a crazed Adreno peddler and his Bioman sidekick. This tangent, like last week’s Hellbug encounter, will strike a chord with Defiance gamers as the production of Adreno is subtly explained to the viewers as events are set in motion.
Again, this is another solid episode for the up-and-coming sci-fi series. Though the focus on Amanda may have dragged in places, the character development was much needed in order to balance the surrounding action.
For many, the traditional MMORPG experience is built upon hours of grinding punctuated by the occasional quest and a dungeon here and there. This same template can be applied to Defiance, though the game’s player progression system creates a few noticeable, albeit minor, barriers.
Diverging from the systems in other MMOs, characters in the game are defined by the gear they carry and their accompanying perks. There are no stats or specifications; even the loot system is stripped down to a level aimed specifically at shooter players.
This may not seem like a problem at first but after spending hours with Defiance it can feel as though the grind hasn’t been completely worthwhile. Instead of developing naturally, players are instead running a gauntlet which ramps in difficulty the further you progress. In Defiance there isn’t such a thing as being “well equipped”, you either have the skills (and steady internet connection) to win a gunfight or you don’t.
MMO fans may also feel let down by two omissions that are common throughout the genre. The first of these is an auction house. Selling unwanted crafting supplies and saving up for better weapons and armour is a keystone in any MMO experience but Defiance’s rudimentary loot system renders auction houses fairly useless.
Another system that is also missing in action is guilds. Despite being a mostly transparent virtual bond between players, guilds have been used cunningly in games such as City of Heroes and Guild Wars 2 to change the ways players interact.
Those who have been exploring the Bay Area will also have taken issue with Defiance’s EGO progression system at some point. As explained in a previous instalment, Trions’ hybrid MMO eschews conventional experience bars for something a little more comprehensive. The best way to think of EGO is as a shopping list, or a collection of trophies/achievements. It’s a unique approach and one that feels refreshing at first.
However, when the grind starts to sink in, EGO tasks can feel slightly mundane, especially when you consider that some of the challenges are still glitched. Many of the location-based segments can also become a drag with online walkthroughs being the only solution.
With all that said, there is still something strangely alluring about Defiance. It’s imperfect, tampered and occasionally plodding but there’s nothing else like it, at least for gaming consoles.