Trion Worlds has the chance to be a pioneer in the uncharted waters of "connected media". For the first time in the history of entertainment, two different mediums are brought together in the form of a video game and a T.V. show that changes the game's world. Defiance brings two worlds together in a way that could present potentially infinite replayability, yet also has a number of potential pitfalls.
Just to give you an idea of what this concept means, when the story turns in the television show, that turn will be reflected in the game world in near real-time. Going into watching the show after playing the game for a few days, I honestly expected the concept to be a ploy to get people to watch the show or play the game, not be a genuine and entertaining tie-in. I was wrong, as both present a very entertaining and immersive experience that I wanted to continue.
Some would argue that the MMO market has become stagnant and repetitive. Creativity in this genre is not the easiest feat to achieve. Yet from the moment that you crash land in your jettisoned escape pod, you realize that Defiance is not your generic, run of the mill MMO. Generally, MMOs are controlled where the player presses a button and the character does the rest. In Defiance, the player controls all of the combat like any other third-person shooter. It actually feels very tight. I chose the sniper class and was able to hit headshots with ease after only a few minutes.
Rather than having lots of different powers to choose from, the player selects a single active power such as cloaking. Several passive perks are also available like a ten percent damage boost if you are above an enemy. Each separate tech tree really changes the way characters perform, keeping the game fresh should you choose to redo your choices and try something else. Unlike the frustrating restrictions of weapon classes for most MMO games, Defiance allows you to play with any weapon type your heart desires. This keeps the experience from getting stale and ensures your strategy is free to change whenever you feel the need.
While the story-driven missions that go hand-in-hand with the television show are very interesting, the actual progression in the game is fairly repetitive and not terribly interesting. The grindy style missions have never appealed to me, but they are a little more fun when you are able to control the action. The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly. Dying is pretty much guaranteed in some of the earliest missions in the game.
Aesthetically, Defiance is a little below par for current generation games. While this is generally the case for MMOs, this title is just not impressive in that regard. The environment does look pretty cool, but the dated rendering just fails to do the scope of the world any justice. Defiance's audio also sounds pretty generic. Besides the characters that star in the show, the voice acting is pretty dismal. Enemies have pretty lame and cheesy taunts and the creatures, known as hellbugs, make very shrill and annoying sounds.
One cool game mechanic is the Arkfalls. While riding around the map, a big red icon will pop up. If you head towards it, you and 15+ other players will be involved in either a major or minor raid on the hellbugs. Successful completion of these Arkfalls will result in points that you can spend at Lockboxes that will allow you to unlock some better weapons at a pretty steep discount if you're lucky enough.
Defiance would not be a MMO without a decent party system. Luckily, Defiance makes it very easy to meet up with your friends and start questing with them. The leveling system, which is quite different than most games of this style, allows for a pretty level playing field regardless of time put into the game amongst friends. While running around, all chat is done through text, but as soon as you party with somebody, a microphone channel opens up for easy and seamless communication. It's also as easy as a click of a button to relocate to your party members, rather than having to walk/drive around to find them.
Transportation in Defiance is a lot easier than any other MMO I've played. The player is given a four-wheeler to easily transverse the massive terrain by about the third mission. This makes the beginning of the game feel like it is moving at a faster pace with less of a grind. Later in the game, you can purchase Dodge Challengers and Chargers, which is a pretty fun goal to work towards even if it is obvious product placement.
Unfortunately, every new MMO has its initial server problems but Defiance's issues have extended quite a bit after release. The servers would be down for random and lengthy periods of time. It can get quite annoying when you really want to play or have a specific slot of time that you can jump into the world. Combined with lots of intermittent and random lag, it really detracts from the overall fun factor. Once they get these issues worked out, which hopefully will be sooner than later, the game should be able to hold down a steady audience. Until that happens, it's going to be a hit-or-miss affair.
Defiance is a cool addition to any PC gamer's library. While it can be difficult and a bit boring at times, the overall fast-paced combat with generally stupid AI can somewhat make up for the difficulty curve. Its ever-evolving world and story mean that the game has the potential to be around for a long time. This is also the only true MMO experience available on the Xbox console and only the second to be released on the PS3.
If you're looking for something different but not too time-consuming, Defiance could be worth a purchase. Luckily, the online is non-subscription based so on consoles at least you should try to rent the game before buying it. This isn't really an option for PC gamers so you should only purchase it if you are either very into MMO games or science fiction. I'm excited to see where the future of interconnected media goes, and if Defiance is the starting point, the end result should be amazing.