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By Kelevandos15-05-2013
Bobfish (editor)
BloodyFanGirl (editor)

The Defence

Trion Worlds
Trion Worlds
Shooter, MMO
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTS 250
AMD Radeon HD 4750
4 GB
15 GB

The Case


I had been hearing about Defiance for a long time before I got to actually play the game. My friend working in one of the online stores showered me with news about the number of purchases made on launch, another one praised the TV series idea and all sorts of internet sites poked at my eyes with banners. That should be enough for a game to catch my interest, but surprisingly, it did not. A few days later I received a review copy. And you know what? It turned out to be one of my more interesting review experiences. However it was not a completely perfect one.

The Trial


Defiance is a massive multiplayer online shooter developed by Trion Worlds, the people who brought us RIFT. The former is quite significant in context, as Defiance shares RIFT’s random event philosophy. But we will get to that in a minute. I was hoping for something huge from guys with such an impressive portfolio. Well, I got what I wanted.

This mutant is gonna witness the power of the aim-bot in 3...2...1...

This mutant is gonna witness the power of the aim-bot in 3...2...1...

If you want to get a picture of Defiance’s gameplay, think Borderlands, add far more players per server and a strong-as-hell auto-aim, while subtracting the fancy graphics and humorous setting. Here it is – a shooter with aliens, vehicles, randomly generated gear and an open world. Nothing new, but quite unique in terms of being one of the first MMOTPS’s developed on such a scale. The developers definitely had a few interesting ideas.

One of the most innovative is the parallel airing of a TV series “Defiance” on SyFy. It takes place in the game’s world, features common NPC’s and, wait for it, is affected by the game! How? Well, whilst I write this there is a contest going on, the reward being a chance for your character to appear in one of the future episodes! Neat, is it not? While not a SyFy fan myself, I can clearly see the scale of this relation, even if the series seems a bit low budget at times.

To tell you about the second biggest feature I will need to introduce you to the game’s lore - a few years ago an alien race called the Votan came to Earth, seeking refuge. A war quickly followed, leaving both humans and Votan with heavy casualties. At the peak of the conflict something happened, causing the orbital ships of the Votan, Arks, to start exploding. The planet was showered with debris, making the warring nations cease fire and strive for survival. As the world, changed by terraforming technology and inhabited by new, unknown creatures, was harder and harder to live in, groups of adventurers, Ark Hunters, started to form with one sole purpose – to salvage the remnants of the Arks in search of advanced technology.

The little red sign promises great rewards, but with lots of trouble included.

The little red sign promises great rewards, but with lots of trouble included.

This is who we are – an Ark Hunter, who accidentally ended up in the alien-infested wildlands. We are given mission after mission, can undertake side missions and challenges, or simply roam the land in our personal, summonable vehicle. Now, for the aforementioned innovative feature – the random events. At times, we will see a red mark on the screen, indicating a location of a so-called Arkfall. These random, multistage events resemble the portals from RIFT. There are several types of Arkfalls, but the main goal is always the same – destroy the big crystal. Usually we will have to withstand several waves of opponents before this happens and you better be active, as at the end every player is scored, based on the damage done and kill count, obtaining more rewards the closer they were to the top.

An MMO cannot be without a proper character development system and Defiance has dealt this in an interesting way. Instead of levelling up, we are given a perk grid, like the one from Final Fantasy XII. There are four points from which we may start developing, each resembling one of the active abilities. After filling the XP bar we get one point, with which we may unlock one of the multiple passive bonuses which in turn unlocks adjacent ones for future purchases. Each of the buffs have 3 stages, so we can get quite creative with developing our hero. The gear we get also helps in the quest to create the Ark Hunter of our dreams; random to some extent, it is moddable and always described by multiple characteristics. As for the variety, we have pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, LMGs, shotguns and much, much more. Although we choose the starting weaponry archetype of the character, nothing prevents us from experimenting with, say, shotgun/sniper set. Any character can use any weapon, earning points towards the proficiency skill, like in any other TPS.

Defiance is a shooter so quite obviously shooting forms the core of the gameplay. The developers did a good job, making it appear smooth and dynamic. The enemy models are shot-mapped, each having one or several weak spots, heads for humanoids, glowing areas for Hellbugs and so on. Different weapon types act differently, oftentimes requiring some getting used to. We are permitted to equip two thundersticks at a time, which we can change instantly, plus a grenade. All this seems great, but there is always a “but” (and I have many “buts” in this case). First of all, the game features an illogically strong auto-aim system. I could understand it on the consoles, where precise shooting is harder, but on the PC it is too much. Honestly, if you use a sniper rifle, you must try really hard NOT to get headshot after headshot. As a gamer, I found this lack of difficulty quite irritating, if not insulting at times. Also, grenades act weird on short distances, landing exactly where the cursor was pointing when we hit the button. And finally, the whole “shooter” thing is a little fake, with grenades having cooldown and ammo vaults scattered around.

So one day Letho overdosed his potions...

So one day Letho overdosed his potions...

Finally, the technical aspects. In terms of graphics it is hard to find anything to complain about; models are well-detailed, faces and expressions are believable and so is the gear. Gear is constructed with an MMOish dose of creativity, the higher tier ones sparkling and shining like beacons. No bad word may be said about the enemies, either. The art style is acceptable and some will surely find it beautiful, but the best I can say about it is that it does not annoy. However its miles away from the uniqueness of titles like Borderlands. And as a wannabe game music specialist, I judge the soundtrack as average – it does not make you shiver in excitement, but nor does it make you turn the volume down after 10 minutes.

The Verdict


Defiance is one of those games which is hard to judge. Excellent in some aspects and disappointing in others, it is worth a try, but will not leave you with lots of memories. The developers had some great ideas, like airing a TV series parallel to the game, but the core elements of the game are just...fine. It’s nothing special, and when I pay for an MMO game, I want something great. So, the verdict is if you are looking for an online shooter, try Defiance. In the best case you will love it, and in the worst you will end up with an average game to play when you have nothing better to do. But if you are looking for something unique, this is the wrong game for you.

Case Review

  • Let Us Shoot Together: One of the first full-scale MMOTPS’s.
  • It’s A Whole New World We Live In: Solid lore, interesting characters and story-driven gameplay.
  • See You On The Big Screen: The game and the parallel aired SyFy series intertwine and make the world constantly evolve.
  • Could Be Worse, Could Be Better: The game lacks little in terms of development, providing an average experience.
  • Shoot Me Like One Of Your French Aim-Bots: The shooter elements are a joke, the auto-aim taking away all the fun and the ‘fake’ shooter hallmarks being too obvious .
Score: 3/5
An interesting MMO experience, but with laughable shooter elements.


Defiance is an MMO/shooter hybrid that is based in the story universe of the Defiance TV show. Right off the bat, I should say I have never seen the TV show, however the entire promotional content is promoting the concept that the TV show and the video game are somehow interlinked and can influence each other. I imagine this will be something for the future and will be enacted through world events in the game, but I remain unconvinced so far. As for the game itself, the good news here for MMO fans is that it follows a one-time payment model, so no subscription fees.

The gameplay is reminiscent of a third person shooter, but do not expect to get the thrill you are used to from normal shooters, due to the developers feeling the need to dull down the shooting elements. While headshots do count as critical hits, the weapons are all bland and the mouse implementation is wonky at best. The game does boast an “EGO” mechanic, which is one of four abilities that your character has access to depending on the character type you choose. You can only have one equipped at a time and each time you use it, you will wonder why you even bothered using it in the first place. This is the main issue with the game, everything about it just screams dullness. The world is not particularly interesting, the graphics are okay but suffer from visual bugs (e.g. missing eyebrows on characters) and throughout the game, you learn very little about the story. Perhaps through updates this game has potential, but until then I’d recommend to wait and see if it can live up to the big promises.

Score: 3/5


Defiance is a strange game to sum up; one part third person shooter, one part MMO, this cross media game mixes sci-fi with action and social interaction, but does it work? In short, I'm honestly not sure. At times, Defiance's world, although graphically impressive, can feel empty and sterile. If this were solely a third person shooter, it would be average at best. When the MMO components are taken into account, I can't say that things improve drastically. This is one MMO where social interactions and multiplayer seem pretty far down the priority list, leading to a sinking feeling that you’re just playing a standard third person shooter, where occasionally other players roam around.

Funnily enough, despite those grievances, I still found myself enjoying Defiance. Getting new guns was addictive, the controls were simple and intuitive and combat, whilst basic, proved to be fun enough to entertain. This isn't a title I would play for the story however, which is strange considering Defiance ties in with a TV series of the same name premiering at the same time, something never seen done before. The trouble is the voice acting is sub-par, the writing is bad and the story is far too convoluted to force any amount of care for the events which take place. Take Defiance for what it is: an MMO shooter where you can level up, find more loot and play with friends, and there may be a lot of fun to be had here. But don't go expecting the next big MMO experience, or the next big shooter experience.

Score: 3/5
Comments (5)
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Posts: 127

@Neon - actually, it is totally this way :-( And while the era of MMO is coming to an end, the story seems to be repeating itself on the MOBA market :P

Posts: 596

Developers really need to take MMOs more seriously, sometimes I wonder if these companies don't just go: oh lets make an MMO because WoW was such a success.

Posts: 3290
Posts: 1548

The show has something that is pissing me off but it also has something that keeps me watching too.

Posts: 341

The show is cheesy and I cant believe the BSG writer is also behind it.