Review: SyFy's Defiance
By John T.
Defiance is a new sci-fi TV show on Syfy, and there is also Defiance the game by Trion (Makers of Rift and End of Nations). One of the main selling points of this first ever TV/Gaming enterprise is that they will each impact each other in some way. For instance, the game has 'Episode Missions' that will change with each episode of the show and will only be available before the airing of next week’s episode. The show is impacted by the game by supposedly offering actual players a chance at making an appearance in the show.
I would first like to begin with a list of some of the bad and good features of the game. Why start with bad you ask? I feel that ending on a bad note will leave a sour taste in your mouth; also if there is anything in “the bad” list that is a definite deal breaker, you won’t need to waste your time reading any further. If you can get over the game’s fair number of hiccups then all the good stuff is just bonus for you. I would also add that my review/critique is being written from the PC version of the game and the HD version of the show. Your playing/viewing experience may differ.
The Chat in Game is totally worthless. Yeah it's great for talking to a group of people around you, but at the time of this article’s composition there is NO “whisper,” “group” or “clan” chat option that I or my clan has discovered. In other words, you need a headset with a microphone and vent/team speak or some other service in order to organize anything in game.
There is no quick way to switch your Loadouts. Yes the game offers you various options for different loadouts (initially called 1,2,3 and so on), but there is no quick way to change between them in PvE yet. On PC you have to hit L-click a number-L again mean while anything can come up and hit you because hitting L brings up the loadout menu which blocks the whole screen. Sure, you can set up a macro (If your keyboard/mouse allows it) but with so many key options a quick change would have been nice.
Too many cheap ways to die. Often times in the game several enemies will spawn with weapons that explode and knock you down. This a problem especially for newer players because if you don't know the controls very well or if you stop dodging and get hit even once, you will pretty much be dead. Death in Defiance isn't too punishing, though there is a self-revive that’s on a timer (which I haven’t seen any kind of countdown for in game yet) or an extraction option which moves you back to a checkpoint and takes some of your money. Now nothing keeps these checkpoints safe so it is possible for enemies to camp out, you spawn right on them and die again.
All Characters start in the same area with no difference between starting class/race. At character creation you are offered the option to play either Human or Irathient, which I'm assuming is to fit with the main characters (Nolan and Irisa) being of those races. The show and game both feature more than that (8 if you count humans and more if you count the other subsections like the 99'ers as a separate race), but you can't actually play them in game. You also have a choice of four origins (Veteran, Outlaw, Machinist, and Survivalist), but they have no meaning in the game aside from starting weapons and outfit. This makes the game feel rushed. Even when WoW first came out, each race had its own area with separate starting quests and a lack of diversity at the start of Defiance kills the replay value of the game, which leads to my next point:
There is little or no reason to start a second character. Since neither race nor class actually matters and you can learn any perk and skill with every character, there is no reason for someone to have more than one character. Everyone starts the same and can learn anything, plus you can respec for in game money. I can only hope that new content will come quickly in the form of level cap increases or end game content, otherwise, there’s not much to do once you max out a character.
At this time, your inventory can't be separated out and there is no in game banking/auction system. The inventory system in this game is messy at best. My character’s inventory is over 50 pieces so when it's full, finding anything is a chore. Trion has said inventory fixes are coming, but when you have so many other MMO's out there to draw ideas from, it is just another aspect of the game that feels rushed. The game also lacks a separate place to hold items you might want to hang onto without being in your character’s pack and no auction system means everything you get has to be broken down, sold to vendors or deleted.
Alright that concludes the list of things I dislike in Defiance. Now, onto the things I am impressed with.
No more mob stealing! That's right, by making everyone in PvE essentially on the same team; everyone in the area gets credit for the kill. No more trolls or camping mobs keeping you from finishing your quests. Are you going to a quest area that someone already started? You get bumped up for what they finished and then can help them finish and you get full credit too! Sure, you could sit back and let them do it alone but all that does is waste your time because two of you can get it done quicker. Loot is also very randomized and each person gets some, so no loot stealing on rolls, this is possibly the best PvE loot and questing system I've experienced in an MMO.
The stores have special sales. Looking for a new gun or a cheap ride? Explore the city, find the vendors and check their sales. Special rides can be bought for 500 scrip (Some are normally 10K+ each) or various weapons and mods that aren’t normally available. One great reason for people to explore is to collect all the vehicles. Sales change every hour so you don't have to wait very long to see the next great deal.
Arkfalls. These come in two sizes: small and large. These events encourage community gathering and lead to many rewards including exp, scrip and items with “Large Arkfalls” giving more, of course. They are comparable to “world boss” in other games, however they don't get claimed when someone attacks them and anyone around can join in and at least get something. There’s no need to try and gather 40+ people as you can be sure that many ark hunters will gather for an Arkfall.
All weapons and vehicles can be leveled. Each class of weapon and vehicle can be leveled which gives your character new bonuses (for example +reload, or +Speed for cars.) Plus, each weapon can gain experience which will give it certain new bonus features which adds lots of possibilities for each player to feel like the weapon is more their own as it is very likely to have two assault rifles with the same skins and names, but could still be very different.
Promise of future content on a regular basis. If everything goes as planned, this game will see updates almost weekly as new episodes of the show come out with possibly bigger updates on the horizon as hinted at by the plot of the show or as Trion/Syfy see fit. If this works out (and it's a big undertaking!), it could make Defiance a really tough game to get sick of because you won’t have to wait a year or more to see new content. There are also the small changes that will be made to the show based on player actions within the game which could also be cool to see.
Ok, that concludes my information about the game and those lists are by no means complete, simply the ones that stood out for me. There are more aspects to dislike about the game (especially on Xbox) and more to like in general, but it was just meant to be a broad overview before going into the common aspects between the show and game. Since we only have the first episode to go on so far, there isn't much to draw from and some of the points discussed could end up changing later on so here goes.
Cars: Cars are a big feature in the game. There are several different types and colors with a clear deal having been struck with Dodge (the Challenger is at present the only normal car type in game.) However, in the show the cars seem poorly done. The CGI is poor and the view from the windows seemed in some spots to be done by a moving background rather than any actual driving. It reminded me of a movie I'd recently watched: North by Northwest. As a selling point, the cars let the show down.
The players actions are never mentioned or given any credit: In fact the only tie so far between the game and the show that I could see was a five second segment in which you see an item you helped Nolan acquire in the game. He rewards you with a nice gun and disappears, taking the much nicer item (One character offered you 90,000 scip for it). Had there been anything else like "I wonder how that Arkhunter is doing back in San Fan?" to tie the whole thing together I think that would've made it more complete and in my opinion this just boils down to either bad writing or a lack of communication between Syfy and Trion as they didn't fully know what the other was doing on release.
Defiance, the place, is not even in the game so far: I understand that it is the same 'World' between the game and the show, but the game could've been called "Aliens destroyed Earth," or something equally not associated with the show and it would've meant the same thing to me. The fact is after watching the first episode and putting over forty hours into the game, they could be two completely different entities with no connection. Sure, I enjoy them both, but I don't feel any synergy yet. I’m afraid that little five second long segments (with little or no vocal acknowledgement given to the game) will be the norm. Yes, they said some players might be included in some episodes, but how could they be seen, a person wearing makeup named 'Scribbles69' would break the show.
In closing, I would have to say that so far both titles have met my expectations in that there seems to be almost no connection yet and if you had been thinking about buying the game (hoping for a big impact) I would hold off. However, I find both at this point to be very enjoyable and I can really see potential for each to be really something great as long as they aren't abandoned too early and Trion/Syfy both live up to some of what they've been saying. We may have a while to wait as some predictions say the two won't reach the peak of integration until at least the second season, so here's hoping the show gets the numbers it needs to hold on at least that long.
End of Line.