‘Defiance’ shows promise despite speedbumps

by Cody Franklin

04_17_13_Entertainment_Defiance1_cred_TrionWorldsIf you think the world is a scary place now, wait until it’s nearly been destroyed by alien technology and terraformed to suit new hosts. Trion Worlds’ latest game, “Defiance,” breaks from the fantasy realm and injects a much-needed dose of science fiction into the massively multiplayer online genre.

With Monday’s premiere of the television tie-in on SyFy, “Defiance” isn’t limited to the gaming world either. It’s an ambitious project. Maybe a bit too ambitious, as the game seems to have been pushed out before all that alien goodness could really sink in.

 

At its core, “Defiance” is about shooting bad guys with a variety of weaponry; it’s not that different from any other third-person shooter. Whether you’re shooting rockets at renegade robots or rocking raiders with a sniper rifle, the shooting in “Defiance” is solid and satisfying. To get around town, you can sport a variety of different vehicles, from ATVs to sports cars. Racing around San Francisco in a Dodge Challenger—with the occasional hit-and-run on some mutant scum—is a blast.

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However, “Defiance” has a few issues—mainly depth, variety and stability. As you stumble about the ruins of San Francisco searching for lost, yet powerful alien technology, you’ll realize the storyline isn’t anything particularly special. The only time the plot seems to shine is on the “episode missions” that coincide with the TV show. (At times, it feels all the promising writing talent was thrown at the show, leaving the game to lag behind.)

With only four abilities in the game, it’s hard to distinguish yourself from another player. Shooting guns is fun, but having more special powers would have significantly added to the experience. After all, the player is reminded time and time again how much crazy alien technology is around, yet we don’t really get to see it in use.

Variety is a major issue. While there are plenty of side quests to complete, they all follow fairly similar fetch-quest patterns of “scan these three points” or “kill the raiders at these three points.” Weaponry is in no short supply, from rockets and sniper rifles to shot guns and more with multiple variants, such as burst rifles and automatic rifles. Yet, after the first few hours, you’ve essentially unlocked all the skills you’re going to use and seen almost all of the weapons you’re going to encounter, leaving the rest of the game a bit dry and boring. Finding a new weapon isn’t exciting when it’s just a more powerful version of something you’ve seen 20 times before.

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Perhaps my greatest concern at the moment is stability. Although I can’t speak for the console versions, the PC version is riddled with bugs. I’ve died from too much thin air magically damaging me. I’ve lost connection to the servers many times. Explosions seem to penetrate through covers, even brick walls, making it very hard to fight anything that has rockets or grenades. Playing with other gamers can be difficult, as they phase in and out of your view. I’ve had a shotgunner appear randomly behind me more times than I can count.

Yet, despite these flaws, I’ve still enjoyed playing “Defiance.” Running around with other players at the plethora of events that pop up has given me the first real “massive” feeling I’ve had in an MMO game in quite some time. It’s entirely too exciting marauding about in a giant caravan of dirt bikes and sports cars from one world event to another. The gaming industry is positively inundated with player-versus-player first-person shooters these days, and “Defiance” creates alternatives for those wanting to shoot things with their friends, rather than at their friends.

Overall, “Defiance” is a decent game. It could be a great game, if it had been launched with more polish and content. I’d caution potential buyers to wait a little while until more of the bugs have been ironed out, which the developers have spoken a lot about. Once it has stabilized, “Defiance” will definitely be a game worth looking into for any shooter fan.