Massively Multiplayer Online games haven’t traditionally had an easy ride with console players. Regular patches, destabilised servers and a myriad of other teething problems send would-be social gamers into the gloomy clutches of the standard shooter experience, leaving many unaware of the excitement an MMO can typically offer. Thankfully, developer Trion Worlds is aware of the prejudices and has created a relentlessly fun shooter engineered to tap into the best elements of third-person shooters, RPGs and MMO culture.
Defiance certainly isn’t the first MMO to attempt to bring console shooter sensibilities to the online space, but it might be the first to get it right. Ditching the standard class-based structure that inhabits other games of the same ilk; Defiance simply asks you to pick a perk (granting you a special ability in combat) and then unleashes you upon the world to grind for the thousands of upgradeable weapons, and kill some bad guys.
There is no learning curve to speak of, in fact anyone familiar with the structure of Borderlands will quickly get to grips with the mechanics; as NPCs direct you to kill X amount of enemies, tag medical supplies, fight off waves of mutant bugs or just generally tear around post-apocalyptic San Francisco on your ATV. It’s certainly not groundbreaking, but in the context of a massively multiplayer game, the quest structure makes perfect sense.
Defiance quietly subverts expectation for an MMO title. In the traditional release you’d be forced to either convince your friends to purchase said game, spam random adventurers with invites or, defeated, quest in the comfort of isolation. While Defiance sports a gigantic open world, the hundreds of other players around you are happy to simply coexist in the space. Any players in the vicinity of an active quest will automatically begin fighting towards the same goal, it effortlessly removes the hostility of waiting for respawns, fighting over loot and stealing XP while instilling a strong sense of community. Levelling up is a fairly simple process which grants you more perks and upgrades, though with no gear or talent trees to worry about, the game simply asks that you enjoy blasting and racing across its landscape.
Mechanically, it’s a by-the-numbers third-person shooter, but with a neverending stream of quests, side missions and exploring to occupy your time with, it’s easy to waste away the hours. Any resistance found comes, surprisingly, from the writing. The characters that inhabit Defiance are routinely frustrating, with the cheesy sci-fi dialogue and painful characterisations often forcing you to reach for the mute button – it certainly doesn’t make us excited for the upcoming TV series. Still, it’s easy enough to ignore the terrible story and get on with what Defiance does best: letting you bask in the glory of marauding through a vast open world with an army of players sitting (silently) by your side.