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A New Look at the SyFy MMO Shooter

Beau H Posted:
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If you were like me, you were always very excited for the Defiance MMO and TV show companion. It initially appeared that we would have an MMO that fed into a real-world TV show on SyFy, and in turn the TV show would influence the game. In my mind, I pictured players conquering vast areas and then becoming immortalized on the small screen somehow; perhaps high-quality players would even have their characters recreated on the show as a tribute?

We were told “Battles in the game might change the outcome of the TV show. Big events in the TV show are immediately reflected in the game.”

Things didn’t quite work out that way, at least not to the extent that I thought they would. Still, I have not been disappointed in either the show or game. I will get to the game in a moment, but first I would like to cover some points about the series.

The Series

The series is at its best when it is simply a cool science-fiction show that introduces a wide variety of characters and relationships. It features a unique setting, familiar tropes that are twisted just enough to stick out, sometimes fantastic dialog and several storylines. I also love how many strong female leads there are in the show, and how the series explores relationships other than those of straight human bros.

Where the show falters is in using an almost softcore-porn approach to some of the love scenes. It’s a bit painful to watch as the show struggles with being stuck between the rigidness of network and the freedom of cable. If only the show was on HBO, we wouldn’t have to grimace at some of the steamier stuff. It seems to do well with many other viewers, however, and doesn’t break the immersion for me.

Overall, I like the show and am jubilant that it will be returning for a third season. I like the dynamic of the two main characters who are father and adopted, kick-ass alien daughter. That’s not a relationship we have seen before. (Alf doesn’t count, right?)

The Game

Defiance is always a go-to title when I only want to have some fun. I also turn to it when I want to dive into the lore of a world or to experience some exciting story-based content. Indeed, I can count on the game to give me almost anything I want, and to give it to me in the often bite-sized chunks in order to fit into the life of a freelancer who covers many titles.

Let’s go over some of the game’s highlights since its beginning.

Shadow War/PvP: Shadow Wars are open-world PvP matches that can be joined instantly from anywhere on the map. I am not a fan of PvP, and my feelings do not change inside Defiance. The PvP usually consists of a handful of people who can aim much better than I can, and me dead on the ground. It’s fun for those who enjoy that sort of thing, however. The good news is that the winning team gets the prize: fallen Arktech that contains phat lewt.

Raiders, mutants, hell bugs, 99ers, Volge… aliens galore: There are enemies everywhere in this game. Sure, some of them look very familiar (how many times do we need to see bug-like aliens with bone-like armor?) and some are almost comically huge, but there is enough variety to keep a player excited. When you see a particular enemy, you know what it’s about to do.

The plague sieges: This addition to the game introduced zombie-like enemies to the world and asked players to cooperate in large, open-world battlegrounds where waves of enemies attack spots on the map. It’s usually chaotic and a lot of fun.

The DLCs

Castithan Charge Pack – I am mostly unfamiliar with this one, only because it seemed like nothing more than a chance to get a cool dagger. I have just started burning through its content, though, and I am eager to become part of the Thorn Liro!

Arkbreaker – This update was great. Essentially players gained the ability to call down massive pieces of alien technology that were orbiting the planet. Once they land, you battle your way through waves of enemies and then into the arkfall itself. Inside you will find some very tough enemies and sometimes very awesome loot. I love the fact that player’s loot is unique to their individual experience, which encourages players to help each other out and does not allow for ninja-looting.

The 7th Legion – In this DLC, you’ll come across a group of soldiers of the 7th Legion who follow the Code of Bushido. With their arrival comes some serious business, so get ready.

Gunslinger trials – This DLC introduces three new mission lines, featuring different members of Von Bach Industries: Azumi Yoshida – Former COO of Von Bach Industries, and acting CEO; Uvan Johaar – Senior Technician at Von Bach Industries; and Raizar Zandijur – VBI Consultant to the Earth Republic. Don’t worry, it will all makes sense in the game. Sort of.

Arktech Revolution – Ah, who doesn’t love brand new ego perks and weapons? I know I love them for sure… so this DLC was a great thing indeed.

The introduction of Alcatraz – We recently covered this brand new DLC, and boy was it a doozy! Players are sent to Alcatraz island – which is actually built to the same specs and size as the real-life island – where they can take part in expeditions. Expeditions are instanced “dungeons” that feature waves and waves of enemies that eventually result in some kickin’ loot. I’ve been enjoying the expeditions, but have mainly been interested in the addition of Cyber Rigs… think of them as customizable implants that increase a player’s effectiveness.

Show crossover/episode missions – These are missions that crossover with locations, storylines, and characters from the show. I really enjoy these because the voiceovers are accurate, and the stories are usually a blast to play through.

Mission running in Defiance can be occasionally confusing as you unlock different ones, skip ahead or cross over. Just keep an eye on the mission tracker.


Defiance features a free-to-play model that, in my opinion, works pretty well. Free players normally gain access to daily and weekly login goodies that allow them to access most content, but those same unlocks (like Hunter Requisitions that are used to play expeditions) can be paid for with real money. The game also features lockboxes that many players seem to hate (but apparently love to buy) that result in random goodies. Think of gambling, but without the smoke.

One of the most fantastic aspects of Defiance is that loot is easy to get, comes in a large variety and can be given away. The fact that a brand new player can access most of the content in the game (especially considering overworld fun like arkfalls, sieges, incursions, expansions and other side missions, challenges and time trials), makes the game open and awesome without having to wait for a boring level grind.

Yes, players with a higher EGO rating (think of it as a level number) can perform better, cause more damage and access certain parts of the world, but even expeditions will step high-EGO players down in levels to match lower-EGO players. I have never felt left out in Defiance. This older video shows just how newb I was, and yet I was still able to take part in an arkfall! (I didn’t know to hold down Q to switch loadouts…)

What it comes down to is that Defiance is one of the most underrated games out there. If the title was wrapped with a fantasy tint and if the guns were actually wands that cast spells, I have a feeling more players would feel the same as I do. Sci-fi, for some reason, doesn’t seem to capture MMO gamer’s imaginations as readily as dragons and orcs.

The fact that the show is connected to the game, even though it is not as connected as I would like, gives the game instant lore heft and makes your unique character seem to live inside an actual world. Customizing weapon loadouts and perks (abilities) means that you can have one character that can switch jobs on the fly. Again, if this were fantasy, more people would probably flock to it.

It does appear that some of the initial steam for the development of the game has tapered off, seemingly to make way for the attention given the series. The truth is that nothing like Defiance and on this scale has been tried before, so as MMO players fall off during the year as they do in any MMO, they will likely pick up when the series comes back each year.

Long-time players accuse Trion Worlds of selling power and encouraging players to rush into instanced content (as we saw with the Alcatraz update) but I asked the developer team about that particular issue. They told me that, no, overworld content was far from being done with; another reason Defiance is one of my staple MMOs. I love the game, and I enjoy the show. I love the fact that the game doesn’t bother me by forcing me to quest or level so I can enjoy myself, goof off, roleplay, PvP or whatever I want and I do not feel left out.

The game still needs some work. The chat is still iffy, social systems like Clans seem lacking, NPCs can bug out and just stand there while you kill them, and players need more options for the camera. But, these are not game-breaking by any means.  Here’s to several more seasons and DLCs.

GAMEPLAY - 8: Defiance is an open-world that allows players to do it all on one character. Sure, it might take some time and possibly some grinding, but there are so many options for play that players should not become bored. The developers continue to add new ways to detail characters, and additional, free content means there’s always a new place to visit. The TV show tie-in is just icing on the cake.

VISUALS AND SOUND – 7: I like the look of Defiance, but it does become a little bland once you have taken a trip around the landmass. The creatures and NPCs are scary enough, but the developers use many of the same models for multiple jobs. The sound is great and features some stout gunfire sound effects, but you soon see repeats there as well.

LONGEVITY – 9: I love the fact that one character can do it all, given enough time. When this sort of choice happens to gamers, it extends the life of the character and the game. Players can also look forward to the television series for more in which to immerse themselves.

POLISH: - 7: I would love to give a higher score to this one, but let’s be honest: 7 isn’t bad at all (this is a scale that goes to 10, after all.) Still, the game could use a few tweaks to take care of some nagging bugs and needs a bit more work on communication systems and grouping.

SOCIAL: - 7: The open-world nature of Defiance means that players do tend to play together, but once the content is over, they then tend to go their way. Joining a group of players called a clan will help, but not if you do not find the right one. Adding open seating to vehicles (like the kind you’ll find in Planetside 2) would go a long way in promoting team play that continues between engagements.

VALUE – 9: The game is free. Yes, players who pay get “more”… but the game is free. Heck, you also get a TV show and a way to connect and play with potentially thousands of strangers from around the world. With guns. No better deal than that.

7.8 Good
  • Drop-in content that doesn't divide players
  • Immersive world that ties into a TV show
  • MMO shooter gameplay not found anywhere else
  • Chat needs love, drops out occasionally
  • NPC AI & behavior can be odd
  • Some content encourages players to seclude themselves


Beau H

Beau is a writer, artist, PR/CM, game designer and pro moderator, and he's been blogging since 2002. He lives it up in Austin, Texas with his community manager wife. He's also the author of Anna the Powerful, a sci-fi book about the world's only superhero. Buy it here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/anna-the-powerful