- Excellent mix of RPG and shooter mechanics
- Customizable character progression
- Massive open world gameplay
- Large variety of weapons
- Short story
- Unbalanced PvP
- Slow customer support
- Questionable drop rates to encourage cash shop gambling
Defiance is a third person shooter MMO developed by Trion Worlds as a tie-in to the TV series of the same name from SyFy. It was first released as a commercial game on April 2, 2013, but went free-to-play on June 4, 2014.
I was pretty excited to review Defiance. There’s not a lot of third person shooters on the MMO market so the opportunity to write a review for such a game felt refreshing. Like most PC shooters, characters move using the WASD keys and and aim with the mouse. Most of the game is played on a persistent overworld map where you complete missions for various rewards.
At the start of the game, you pick from one of the three playable races. You have the standard Humans, along with two alien races, the Irathients, and the elf-like Castithan. The choice is merely cosmetic and doesn’t affect anything gameplay-wise.
After picking your race and gender, you then pick your origin story. There are four origin stories available: Outlaw, Machinist, Survivalist, and Veteran. No matter what you chose, your origin only changes your starting weapons. An outlaw, for example, starts with a shotgun while a machinist starts with an LMG. Don’t expect anything like the depth of gameplay additions Origins stories add in Dragon Age: Origins.
Defiance is an online shooter with a lot of RPG mechanics, but surprisingly, the game doesn’t have levels. Instead, characters progress with EGO points. By killing enemies and finishing missions, you gain EGO points. In turn, these points can then be assigned to various EGO powers and perks to increase your combat ability.
EGO powers are the game’s class/skill system. There are four EGO powers available: Blur gives you enhanced speed, Cloak makes you invisible, Decoy creates an illusion copy of your character, and Overcharge gives a bonus to your damage. You can have all four powers, but it’s recommended only to focus on one.
That sounds underwhelming, but you can further customize these EGO powers by selecting perks. Each EGO power has around 20 perks available. All perks are passive and give an additional effect to their respective EGO powers. For example, the Sonic Strike perk increases your melee damage while the Blur EGO power is active. Thanks to this, players with the same EGO powers can have entirely different playstyles. It all depends on perk selection.
There are multiple weapon types in this game and you gain proficiency the more you use them and mastering a weapon unlocks a new effect. You can also customize your weapons with various additional effects by inserting weapon mods. Every weapon has 1-4 slots each, and you can add new slots. Adding a weapon mod is semi-permanent. You can remove a weapon mod, but you have to choose between keeping the weapon or keeping the mod.
Defiance is primarily a PvE game, but given that it’s an FPS-RPG there is still a sizable amount of PvP content. The three PvP types include competitive multiplayer, shadow war, and co-op. Competitive multiplayer is just like the name says: you fight against other players in an arena. Shadow war is the game’s CTF mode, while Co-op is a game mode where four players cooperate to finish a scenario. Competitive Multiplayer and Co-op are played on an instanced map while Shadow War is played on the game’s overworld map.
Defiance’s best feature is its excellent mix of RPG and shooter mechanics. The developers managed to mix the skill-based gameplay of shooters with the stats/growth mechanics of RPGs and made it work. A good example is the weapons in Defiance which, like most RPGs, have tiers and rarity.
But the higher tiers don’t give massive damage; they give additional effects instead. As a result, the game manages to stay competitive between players of different EGO point levels. Of course, if you have a good weapon you will have an advantage. But it’s just that: an advantage, there’s no one 1-shotting everyone with an OP weapon. In addition, gaining new effects is a more enjoyable improvement than just seeing numbers go up.
The game is also unique in that it is played on a persistent open world map. Now that’s pretty standard for an MMORPG, but for a shooter? It’s pretty rare. Pretty much only Planetside 2 can compare of what we’ve reviewed. And it is an actual open world too; you can hop into your vehicle and travel along the game world. It’s certainly a different experience than most other free to play MMOs out there.
Defiance also has a significant amount of gear variety. Just for weapons alone, you have the standard Assault Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Light Machine Guns, Sub-Machine Guns, Shotguns, Pistols, Rocket Launchers, along with SF weapon types like the Detonators, Infectors, and the Bio-Magnetic Guns.
Each of these weapon types has a different profile, and even the various arms in the same weapon type can play differently. For example, in the combat shotgun group most of the weapons fire slugs in different patterns, but then you also have stuff like the Desperado which fires an explosive grenade instead of slugs, or the Gluttony which spawns an angry turkey that attacks your target.
The game’s story-based missions are short. There’s only 5-10 hours worth of story content. For the rest of the game, you will be stuck grinding the repetitive missions which are pretty tiring and tedious.
Defiance also has a lot of DLC, and some of them have essential quality of life items like extra inventory space and the like. Do you really need them? No. But without the DLCs, you’re going to have a hard time. For example, as a free player, you only have 35 inventory slots. If you buy all the DLCs, you will have 400. And that’s not counting all the bonuses the DLCs give you. On the bright side, selling quality of life is way preferably than selling overpowered DLC. It’s a fair system overall with one major exception: gambling for legendary weapons. You see, legendary weapons in Defiance have notoriously low drop rates. They can be purchased via gambling in the cash shop. They aren’t any extra powerful, but it feels rather seedy.
PvP is also unbalanced and dying. The queue times to start a game are long. And there are a lot of players that use cheats or abuse bugs to win. As a result, PvP is only worth it as a diversion, not the primary play.
For how poorly Defiance was reviewed on launch, it’s actually a pretty good game now. The RPG-shooter hybrid mechanics are refreshing, and there’s a large variety of weapons to choose from. Unfortunately, the PvP scene is weak and missions will eventually get to be repetitive.
In the end I recommend this game. Most of the game’s flaws only rear their head during mid to late game. During early game, you don’t notice or care about the short story or the disappointing PvP. So give it a try, and you might enjoy it. For players seeking a shooter centric PvE experience, Defiance is the top MMO available.