The story of Defiance takes us to the not-too-distant future where a group of aliens, collectively known as the Votans, travel to Earth (thought to be uninhabited) to live here because of a stellar collision that has destroyed their home worlds. To their chagrin, they find us humans already happily ensconced in the loving arms of our our own home world.
At first, the Votans negotiate peacefully and earn some settlements on the planet, but these are simply not enough to house them all and many aliens are left in hypersleep in huge spaceships (called Arks) orbiting the planet.
Of course, as humans have a history of not really embracing that which is different, war ultimately breaks out which leads to a devastating battle that transforms Earth’s surface after terraforming agents that have been brought to the planet by the aliens ‘accidentally’ leak. The war rages on until the Arks orbiting in space are sabotaged and destroyed, causing a rain of alien technology to fall to the earth.
The main Arkfalls are centred on the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where your story in Defiance begins. You are an Ark Hunter, a tough mercenary guy or girl (and human or Irathient) employed by Karl von Bach (CEO of Von Bach Industries) who makes a living by hunting for Arkfalls – the alien technology falling to Earth, and where riches being earned. Whilst you are hanging around waiting for these Arkfalls (called dynamic events in the game) there are also side missions to complete to earn extra money and to increase your ‘EGO’ rating (more about this later).
There are four different ‘Origins’ (types) of Ark Hunter that you can choose from in Defiance, namely Veteran, Survivalist, Outlaw and Machinist, but this doesn’t really matter because they provide no special abilities, but they do give your character a basic backstory and also determine the starting weapons that you will play with. Once you have chosen your Origin, you can decide how your character looks and there is a huge array of choices and changes that are available to you. My guy looks like a cross between Mike Tyson (with the tattoo) and ‘The Rock’ with white hair.
Those side missions I mentioned can take the form of jobs taken on from a non-playing character (NPC), a random encounter whilst travelling around the open world environment, a ‘Hotshot’ mission (for the sniper lovers), ‘Time Triasl’ (for the racers), ‘Rampage’ missions (for the especially bloodthirsty) and others. All missions earn you EGO points and ‘scrip’ (the local currency) which you can use to trade with vendors.
All Ark Hunters are equipped with an EGO (Environment Guardian Online) device, which seems to be some sort of neural implant that helps you in the harsh environs of the new planet. This is a very helpful gadget as it accumulates EGO points for you after completing a mission which are used in the place of levelling up (as seen in other RPGs), allowing you certain abilities that help you perform your job – the higher your EGO level, the better the weapons available to you.
Weapons are always fun to use and the Ark Hunter is never without his trusty shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher, assault rifle or (one of my personal favourites) the ‘Infector. ‘The Infector causes alien bugs to gestate in your victim for a few seconds and then hatch and basically ‘eat’ their host. There are other types of weapons, but discovering the huge range on offer is great fun so I’ll let you explore them.
Your character has a primary and secondary weapon (I normally go for the sniper rifle and assault rifle), a grenade type and a shield, all of which are changeable throughout the game and you have the ability to add mods to your weapons, too, and I noticed that I only started getting weapons that I could mod once I had reached EGO level 120 (or there about).
All characters have passive ability slots as well, which also increase as your EGO rating ratchets up. Your skills also grow over time, and include the ability to cause more damage whilst crouching, when attacking from the back, whilst attacking an enemy not engaged in conflict, and so forth. All of these abilities determine what kind of Hunter you want to be and what sort of game you want to play.
Defiance is an online-only game and it is referred to as a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and, as such, there are always other players running around. There are a few ways of dealing with these other players, the first, of course, is to ignore them completely and to go about your game as a solo player (which is the way I play most of the time). The second is to limit your involvement with the other players to a few co-operative missions (which is a lot of fun) and occasionally fighting a mission together, which can be planned or happen by chance – you and your partner are completing the same mission at the same time and end up fighting together.
The third way is to immerse yourself in Defiance is with the online facilities available to you where you team up with friends or strangers, join a clan and go out searching for scrip. This is always fun and makes Defiance a bit easier. Regardless of what style you choose, you will always team up with other players (lots and lots of them) at the Arkfalls dynamic events. Arkfalls are magnets for players as you have a chance to earn alien technology, scrip and huge EGO points. You generally end up with at least 50 other players at an Arkfall event and it ends up being a very exciting free-for-all. Other players are always willing to revive you and generally help out so I’ve found it to be a very pleasant online experience.
It is at this point that I have to deal with the dreaded problem that faces all online games: Lag. To be honest, I did not notice any serious lag at all in Defiance except for at the Arkfalls events. There is just so much going on that the console battles to keep up but this didn’t detract from the game at all for me. It’s a massive bullet frenzy and as long as you keep your eye on the enemy that you are after, it all works out. Arkfalls are exceptionally exciting and a whole lot of fun and I normally cycle through three or four different weapons and unload about 2000 bullets, grenades, electrical pulses and other ordinance throughout the event.
Defiance is not without other flaws, but the developers have fortunately been keeping up with the needs of the players and have issued a few patches that have resolved most of the issues. The biggest problem I have is that an ‘encounter area’ is created when you are doing a mission, but stepping out of this area sometimes causes the enemies to disappear. Taking a few steps forward causes them to materialise again but it does get a bit annoying, especially when you are running away and want them to follow you. This doesn’t happen too often though.
I also found some of the random missions in Defiance to be a bit repetitive, but I solved this problem by simply avoiding them. You do have access to a vehicle and you can use this to quickly get around, which is also an excellent way of avoiding unwanted conflict. Some players may complain about the AI being unimaginative and predictable, and while I can agree with this to some extent I am very happy with the variety of opponents that you are confronted with. Most are easy to kill but others are very challenging and I am often forced to retreat to fight another day – I die quite a bit, you see, which forces me to respawn at a small scrip cost. Pro Tip: Try not fall into the sea, it’s a pain in the butt finding a point to get back onto land.
Defiance is to tie in to a TV series of the same name (brought to us by Syfy) and I am very much looking forward to seeing that. According to reports, there will also be missions tie-ins between the game and the TV series, too, and this sort of cross entertainment platform is very exciting to say the least. I am very interested to see how the show will be affected by the game – I wait in breathless anticipation.
I can highly recommend Defiance to all gamers over 18. I am enjoying the story and I find the action very exciting and satisfying, and I love the fact that I can decide what level of interaction I can have with the other players in the gaming world.
I also believe that Defiance is great value for money, especially for the number of hours that you will put into it. The main story can take as long or as quick as you like and the other missions and encounters ensure that you will spend many more hours playing. I know I have already put about 25 hours into the game and I have a long way to go … and I can’t wait to get shooting! I hope to see you online.