Defiance Review: A world of trouble
- Posted April 21st, 2013 at 23:21 EDT by Will Robinson
- PSU Review Score
- Avg. user review score:
You must be logged in to rate a game
The successes of Defiance are quickly overshadowed by its flaws. Trion Worlds promises that Defiance will continue to evolve and improve. I hope so: beneath the muck is a game that deserves better.
- Solid gameplay
- One of the only MMOs on PS3
- Forgettable story and characters
- Extremely repetitive
- A lot of technical issues
In the world of video games, Defiance holds a unique position. Developed by Trion Worlds, it is the first game to be released in tandem with a television series of the same name. It is also one of the few MMO games available on PlayStation 3. To see an in-depth look at the Defiance television series on Syfy, check out PSU’s review of the pilot episode.
The world of Defiance is set 33 years into the future, when the world has been transformed into something unrecognizable and nearly uninhabitable. An alien incursion of ships from the Votanis system, located on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, brought about this change. The passengers of these ships were the survivors of various Votan races looking for a new place to call home. Earth was believed to be uninhabited and the most suitable planet to settle on. The Votans were quick to discover their folly: the Human race, which was clearly unsettled by the sight of alien invaders, took a defensive stance in preparation for the worst. The events of the landing and the years leading up to the present are shrouded in mystery (or, poorly explained), but it becomes apparent that horrific wars took place during the interim, now called “The Pale Wars.” These wars concluded as a result of “the defiant few,” the Human and Votan soldiers that refused to keep fighting. This became known as the “defiance,” the game’s namesake.
While set in the same story universe of a terraformed Earth, the game and show take place in two different locations. The central point of interest for the show is in future St. Louis, now known as the city of Defiance. The central point of interest for the game is in future San Francisco. All that remains of these historic cities are their respective iconic landmarks: the Gateway Arch and the Golden Gate Bridge. Your role in this remnant of an earthly world is that of an Ark Hunter. As the title implies, you make your living hunting for technology and mineral resources that have fallen from Arks, the various ships of the Votan fleet. As an Ark Hunter, you have been temporarily employed to do what you do best by the self-acclaimed genius and infamous smartass scientist Karl Von Bach. He believes that the Bay Area is home to some powerful alien technology that he can use to restore the Earth to its former glory, making him an undeniable hero.
Like Von Bach, all of the central figures are passably voiced and extremely one-dimensional. It felt as though I was playing a humorless Borderlands melodrama that took itself too seriously. If anything, your character’s role in the story seemed that of a spectator. Characters rarely seem to acknowledge your voiceless protagonists’ existence. Except for the occasional mention of “Ark Hunter,” they are too busy fighting amongst themselves or letting out cliché remarks. Your role in the story truly feels like nothing more than the time-honored tradition of the resource-gathering tool.
Beyond the narrative anchor of finding alien technology, the game's narrative does little to earn your interest. For much of my time playing, I kept asking myself, 'WHY am I playing?' Although there's a good amount of main story missions, I had no interest in them--every action felt meaningless, making me feel empty. Part of my disinterest in missions stems from the game having practically zero lore-building or any strong attempt at characterization. Even the world feels hollow and lifeless--there are no major settlements or small towns to explore, and no NPC interactions for missions. For an MMO, this is a crime. All that greets you in this world are holographic markers, unlimited enemies, and repetitive objectives.
The intellectually uninteresting setting falls flat visually as well. There are only two distinct areas in the game, and somewhat-compelling landscape design quickly feels like more of the same. I never felt the need to continue exploring areas and took every opportunity I could to fast travel between missions. Environmental and character visuals remind me of the original Mass Effect, with a low environmental draw distance to boot. By today’s standards, a game with this graphical quality falls well below the bar. Still, it's important to keep in mind that Defiance is an MMO on home ... (continued on next page)