Defiance: The Ongoing Review – Week Five

Six episodes into SyFy’s ambitious new series and we’re starting to see a formula develop. Since the pilot’s debut just over a month ago, each week we’ve seen the town of Defiance and its inhabitants embroiled in a chain of self-contained scenarios.

For the most part its been an effective way of structuring the series, aided by the occasional recall and, of course, the deeper conspiracies and mysteries milling in the background. Episode six is no different and once again conveys just how consistent this show really is.

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Defiance may be a hub for commerce and inter-species settlement but, as we’ve witnessed before, it also harbours some of the world’s less savoury characters. One such character, an ingenious albeit sadistic weapons scientist named Pol Madis, is the main focus of episode six and soon finds himself on the run from an unknown bounty hunter.

After apprehending the Castithan fugitive, Defiance’s Lawkeeper, Jeb Nolan, discovers that the hunter is none other than his old friend and brother in arms, Eddie Braddock. This reunion is short-lived, however, as Eddie pleads with Nolan to hand over the prisoner so he can collect a hefty bounty.

Elsewhere, Mayor Amanda also receives an offer for the captive. If she agrees to extradite the scientist and give him to the pro-human Earth Republic, she’ll receive the backing she needs to improve Defiance’s infrastructure, delivering a much-needed boost in prosperity among its populace. Needless to say, there are tough decisions to be made, and when Pol somehow escapes from the town’s precincts Nolan and Braddock are once again called into action.

Meanwhile, Quentin McCawley – a somewhat untouched character until this episode – finally steps into the spotlight as the series’ main story arc continues to unspool. After receiving a visit from the town’s former mayor and her crony, Quentin realises that the artefact discovered in his father’s mines is undoubtedly linked to the murder of his brother. Wanting to know more, he continues his research, unaware what he must do in order to preserve not only this new-found secret, but his life as well.

Again, Defiance sticks to its well-worn formula and the results are noticeable. With pieces of the puzzle starting to slot into place and lesser characters crawling out of the woodwork, we’re slowly moving towards the series’ climax. Let’s just hope pay-off is worthwhile.

Unlike the growingly-popular television series, the game part of the Defiance franchise is starting to lose its flare. As mentioned in previous weeks, the MMO’s cocktail of rudimentary mission design and tepid gun play are one its biggest caveats, yielding a tumorous effect over much of the experience.

There are only so many raiders you can blast away with one of Defiance’s many weapons before the grind starts to kick in. Although the inclusion of Pursuits definitely help to diversify the ways in which players can progress, it never compensates for the lack of engagement demonstrated by the core game’s string of quests.

As players shift from one part of the Bay Area to the next, things are pretty much the same. Each major zone is dotted with a cluster of settlements which include shops, waypoints and a new network of missions. Enemies also change, each region introducing specific factions such as the Ninety-Niners, Scrappers, and Mutants. It’s your classic MMO affair but one with very little pay off.

With loot being mostly random and rarely cosmetic, player customisation is hugely reliant on the completion of quests and Pursuits. In fulfilling certain requirements, Ark Hunters will unlock hats and full-body costumes but that’s just about it. It’s a shame really as many of the genre’s modern day contenders (even action-MMOs) dish up bountiful scores of booty for players to amass.

Though a fairly minor point for some, to others this lack of symbolism may be another gripe on a growing list. Most MMO’s indicate how powerful a player is through not only their skills and stats but the gear they carry into battle. With Defiance’s unique, albeit flawed, EGO system, lacklustre loot and non-existent class system, there’s no way of telling two characters apart.

As we begin to wrap up our Defiance game coverage, it’s worth retracing some key points and issues raised in previous instalments. Though ambitious in premise and somewhat surprising in its execution, Trions’ latest delve into the MMO genre comes off as a little soulless.

Shunning many of the genre’s coveted traditions was a bold move by the developer, creating a hybrid that straddles between the likes of Global Agenda and Borderlands. Defiance has certainly established an identity for itself albeit one that is weighed down by prevalent technical issues, poor presentation values, and little incentive to play alone.

Nevertheless, it’s still a milestone for massively multiplayer gaming and will no doubt be looked back upon as the growing genre continues to expand onto home consoles.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m watching the series but I’m not impressed by it.
    Sometimes I wonder if I watch it because it’s actually interesting or if it’s the desperate search for a Sci-Fi fix that keeps me coming back…
    I miss Stargate Universe… :(

  2. Think I must be one of the “Defiant Few”, as I actually enjoy the game. Yes, it has bugs, and quite a few of them. But the game can still be good fun. I still haven’t done all the missions – ego 1750+, and I still can’t drive over the bridge to San Francisco… And I prefer the way you can inspect people nearby (fnor fnor!), to see not only their weapons, but the perks they have selected on that character slot; sometimes makes me wonder if I should change the perks I have enabled.

    Another important factor is probably having a good (chatty – they won’t shut up!) clan to work with. We spent nearly 90 minutes exploring the mystic art of “pow-slapping” one day, examining the ragdoll physics, and even how far we could make them fly. The entire group were in fits of laughter throughout, and it still comes up in discussion constantly nearly a month later.

    Graphically, it’s not the prettiest game – no MMO is likely to win that award. And other SF MMO games have looked better (Neocron is still the best, I think – http://www.neocron-game.com/), but it does the job.

    If it gets given enough time, I think the game can still be a success.

    I still wonder if the game was rushed to be out at the same time as the series though; most games have a deadline that has at least a little flexibility, but with the tv show being aired at about the same time, I think they had to hurry to finish it.

    • Final Fantasy XIV looks really, really good. :)

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