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Defiance

Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Developer: Trion Worlds
Media: Download/1
Players: MMO
Genre: MMORPG/ Third Person Shooter


Graphics & Sound:

The Earth has been through a crippling war and, for all intents and purposes, lost. In the process of this war, the Earth was terraformed, leaving something that is an altered, alien version of the planet we knew, with strange fauna and flora thriving throughout the landscape...

In Defiance, you find yourself in a surreal, futuristic version of what was once San Francisco, with a good bit of hills and mountainous terrain, but filled with Hellbugs and other alien creatures and beautiful, strange plants. The environment looks really good, but you'll need to build some off-roading skills to traverse some of the hazardous terrain. Luckily, there are all-terrain vehicles called Runners that will help you out in that regard - as well as some modified Dodge Chargers that have been modified, all "Mad Max"-style, to provide a little extra protection.

The music is well-done, pleasing to the ear and generally fitting for the action. On occasion, I encountered an enemy and the melodramatic theme intended to indicate danger and heighten the tension lasted a bit longer than the actual threat, but generally, the music cues are well done. The only thing I found annoying is that one piece uses a firing sound effect as a percussion instrument. It was a while before I realized that I wasn't being shot at by an enemy every four measures.

That being said, the sound effects are believable, keeping you in the thick of the action and aware of your surroundings (well, when they're not also included in a song). The gun reports are, in some cases, futuristic and alien, but fit the visuals and reinforce the portrayal of the world around you. There are also little sound effects that the E.G.O. unit uses to let you know that a cool-down has expired and that you're able to use your selected E.G.O. power or a grenade or your vehicle again. Depending on how much you use those, these notifications can be crucial. When you manage to get out and away from harm (if you can manage that), you can even hear crickets and birds chirping, creating a surreal tranquility in the middle of such danger.

There is a good bit of voicework in Defiance, from the in-game cinematics that further the story to the taunts your enemies will hurl at you when they're trying to get a clear shot. Overall, the voicework is well done, but if you're like me and tend to find that place where you're just out of reach and can slowly whittle a lot of enemies away, you might find that they could do with some more varied things to say when taunting; it can get a little repetitive, at times.


Gameplay:

You're an Ark Hunter, scavenging arkfalls for useful and highly profitable alien tech. To that end, you'll need to work on your driving skills, as you'll have to rush across the map to get to new Arktech while there's still something to loot. Getting proficient at driving the various vehicles can be useful beyond simply getting you from here to there, however; I've dispatched several groups of enemies on the roads by simply running them down a few times. Yes, this can damage your ride, but you can always "summon" a new one when your cool-down expires and why waste your ammo when you still have tread on your tires?

While we're on the topic of weapons, Defiance has a deep weapon customization system that is fun to play around with (at least for tweakers, such as myself). You can obtain guns by looting them or buying them, but almost all guns can be modified by adding modules to up to four mod slots on the weapon. Additionally, you can add mod slots to certain weapons, so even if they weren't modifiable to begin with, you can upgrade them. Upgrading weapons can increase the weapon's damage capability, improve its accuracy or even change the weapon's firing dynamics (such as rate of fire and number of shots in a burst) as well as affecting other things outside of the weapon itself, such as shield regeneration. Some modifications you can do, such as breaking a weapon down to resources or adding a mod to an existing mod slot, occur instantaneously. Adding mod slots to a weapons, however, will take 10 minutes of real-world time. And, since you have a limit to how many modifications you can cue up at the same time, that means you can't modify anything else in that time. My first suggestion is that you break down to resources anything you want to before doing a lengthy modification, lest you find yourself waiting to break them down. Same goes for simply adding a mod to a slot. Also, the time limit doesn't require your presence, so always kick off a mod slot upgrade right before quitting the game and you won't notice those 10 minutes at all.

There's also your weapon experience; the more you use a type of weapon, the more your skill with that weapon will improve, giving you better accuracy and more power with that type of weapon. So, feel free to try all of the weapons out, but you may find that you want to specialize in a certain type of weapon, to improve your efficiency with them. Personally, I'm specializing in Sniper Rifles. And Infectors... cool, alien-tech weapons that infest your enemy with alien spore that not only feed on them, causing damage over time, but will abandon your target and try to find another enemy nearby to serve as a new host. How effective! Creepy - but effective.

The main gameplay is player vs. environment, with a focus on exploring the vast alien terrain. You can select from four backgrounds: Veteran, Machinist, Survivalist and Outlaw, from two races - Human or Irathient and, of course, male or female. You can customize your character a reasonable amount from there, but all players are, essentially, the same class: Ark Hunters. That's built into the storyline and is why you have the E.G.O. implant...

The E.G.O. is essentially a heads-up display for your body with its own built-in A.I. entity to assist you. The E.G.O. system will keep you informed of mission objectives and your status, when you get in a pinch. It also has the ability to increase your healing factor and give you enhanced speed, camouflage and other "super-powers." You start with a little bit of enhancement, but as you gain experience, you earn points that can be spent to unlock more powerful enhancements.

Most of the gameplay is versus the environment, but those searching for some multiplayer action can jump right into some cooperative gameplay with a matchmaking feature that will find a mission for you and then instantly teleport you into the action. I've played other games that promised the same, but I found that Defiance found a game for me and got me in almost immediately for a small cooperative ("Contract") game. A 16 on 16 match took a few minutes to start, but it wasn't that bad. There is also the "Shadow Wars" team-based fighting - a 64 on 64 fight, but I waited around for a half hour without getting into one. Of course, it depends on the number of people playing at the time, but it makes sense that it would be easier to fill a game that requires fewer people. At any rate, it's not like you're just sitting there waiting, as you continue to play missions and random encounters until everyone is ready.


Difficulty:

As with other MMO games, there is strength in numbers. It is awesome to be the first to make it to an arkfall and start wailing on it, earning points, but it can be really nice to have a lot of other players wailing on it at the same time, to provide a bit of distraction and prevent everything from attacking you. However, the penalty of failure is also fairly low, so it's not a huge deal when things don't go your way. When you haven't died in a while, your first death gives you the option to revive yourself. Do this, and you can continue right where you left off. (Mind you, that might mean under a pile of Hellbugs and being shot at by angry Miner 99ers.) If you've died recently, you still have the option to be Extracted, which brings you back a little distance from where you just died. In either case, if you've got other players around, they could revive you, so again, there's some safety in numbers.

One thing worthy of note is that with the interesting confluence of MMO gameplay and RPG elements, one thing that is less than optimal in Defiance is switching weapons and managing inventory. You can have two weapons readied and switch between them by simply using the scroll wheel to swap them out, but if they both run out of ammo, you have to go into the inventory screen to equip other weapons. When in the inventory screen, you can't see anything that's going on around you, but you can still hear Hellbugs skittering toward you and your cries of pain when you get hurt and the like. I make it a habit of refilling my ammo whenever I'm near an ammo box - even if I'm almost full, I'd rather top-off now than run out of ammo later.


Game Mechanics:

Defiance is all about getting in the game, discovering the world, completing some missions, killing some aliens and looting some arkfalls. As I mentioned above, it helps to have friends, but the game is designed to not be frustrating. Failures seem to be reasonably minimized, by the ease and low-cost of respawning and the ability to re-"summon" items, such as the Runners. Simply hitting "V" will materialize your currently selected (and unlocked) vehicle... as long as the cool-down timer has run out.

The glass wall I've run into most often is the inventory limit, which can be expanded by buying extensions to your inventory, but even without increasing the size of your inventory, you can manage things by selling items or breaking them down into arktech fragments. Also, while you can't loot items when your inventory is full, you can still receive items that are granted upon completing missions. When this happens, the quest items that don't fit into your inventory are, instead, routed to an item claim area that can be reached via the Store.

Compared to other MMOs, I find that Defiance is one of the easiest to get out of when you need to go do something else; "Random Encounters" on the road don't typically take long to complete and you can pretty much leave the game during a mission and return to it later without issues. The only thing that makes me hesitate to jump out of the game is multiplayer missions. These are longer than random encounters, but still not all that long and I'm pretty sure if you jump out, the game will replace you with another player, since I've never been in a party that was short a man. Being able to quickly leave may sound like a bad thing, but you can just as easily jump into the action as out of it, and if you've just got a few minutes before you have to do something, you can still jump into Defiance and do something worthwhile in just the few minutes you have. I find myself jumping into the game, starting a weapon mod action (that takes ten minutes) and then jumping back out, knowing that it will be done by the time I play again.

If you love science fiction and videogames, you should definitely check out Defiance - both the game and the television series. A television series that shares the same universe and interacts with a videogame is fairly revolutionary stuff and Sci-Fi gamers owe it to themselves to be part of the revolution. For more information on how the two play off of each other, check out Defiance: Across the Badlands on SyFy after each Defiance episode or watch past Across the Badlands episodes on YouTube (link below). Warning, though - there are serious spoilers, so only watch an Across the Badlands episode after watching the corresponding episode of the show.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP SP2, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz CPU or better, 2 GB System RAM, 512MB video card (NVIDIA GeForce 8600, ATI Radeon HD 2900, or Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics or better), DirectX 9.0c, 15 GB free hard drive space, DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card, Broadband internet connection

Recommended:

Windows 7, Intel Core i5 2.4 GHz CPU or better, 4 GB System RAM, 1024MB video card (NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 or ATI Radeon HD 4750 or better), DirectX 9.0c, 15 GB free hard drive space, DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card, Broadband internet connection
 

Test System:



[Alienware Aurora] Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3, Alienware Mainboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 500 GB Solid State Primary Hard Drive, 1000 GB Secondary Hard Drive, Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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