I’m a sci-fi junkie, so when the Defiance TV show was announced by SyFy in 2011, I was quite excited for a new endeavor from the channel that had brought me some of my favorite shows. The announcement of the original Defiance MMO that would run right alongside the show was an intriguing concept: could a game and a TV show co-exist and affect each others’ worlds and stories over time?
For a time they seemed to do so in minor ways, and while it was nothing earth-shattering, it was neat to see different events pop up and change alongside each other. At least until the show was canceled, to my dismay.
I wrote my review for Defiance not long after the show and game debuted, and while my writing hasn’t weathered the years well, the MMO has remained operational and maintained a steady stream of players throughout them. However, as I was told by Matt Pettit, “The current Defiance has grown to a point where real content and itemization is impossible to implement without increasing the power curve.”
Which is where Defiance 2050 comes into the picture.
As described to me by the developers, Defiance 2050 “makes major updates to the original game’s systems, streamlining and modernizing them for today’s shooter audience. Environments are bigger and better than ever, enemies are even more ruthless, and weaponry can be further customized to cater a player’s particular playstyle.”
I had the opportunity to play the first two weeks of the Closed Beta for Defiance 2050, and while I enjoyed my time in Defiance’s world much like before, I had questions about how different this new iteration would be.
Continue reading to learn more about my experience, and the developer’s plans, directly from Defiance 2050 Producer Matt Pettit.
Defiance 2050 is very much identical by way of story, missions, and setting to the original but with gameplay changes that add some more variety to how players can make their way through the game. The beta allowed me to play through the Assault Class, which will be one of three additional classes to be playable (in succession) after launch, as well as story content that will accompany them.
This class system adds some more nuance to the game, giving players a skill tree that didn’t exist before alongside combat-boosting perks that you can upgrade as your EGO level increases. The Assault class the Beta gave players was a pretty standard class, giving buffs to reload, a healing ability, and more. After launch, players will get access to the Assault, Assassin, Guardian, and Combat Medic classes; although, the additional 3 are only available through gameplay or a “Class Pack” purchase, and a premium Demolitionist class is planned as well.
In addition to class, players can choose between three races to play as, just like the original game: Human, Irathient, and Castithan. When I asked Matt about plans for expansion into other Votan races, he said:
“We currently have some big content plans for the future. The Omec is one avenue that we really want to explore, and with this project, we now have more resources than ever before to push out what players really want to see. I don’t want to spoil anything right now, but I will say that we have big plans for new content and features after launch.”
Speaking of content, the content that was exhibited in the Beta was pretty much identical in form to the original game. This could be a point of frustration for some players, since they’ll be replaying content they’ve already completed in Defiance in order to get back to “End Game” in Defiance 2050. There will be no ability to transfer characters, either, because “due to substantial gameplay and progression differences between the original Defiance and Defiance 2050, transferring characters from the original to the new game is not possible at this point,” noting that “the decision not to transfer characters was in no way financial, but rather a gameplay one."
Although there won’t be any character transfers, there will be some things that DO move over. “For players moving over from the original game to Defiance 2050, we are implementing the Valor system, which allows players to transfer purchases made and pursuits completed in the original Defiance, to a currency that can be used in Defiance 2050.” That currency, Matt explained, "can be used to purchase many items that would not otherwise be sold in the store, including exclusive items that will never be obtainable anywhere else. In addition, we will be transferring over many of the vanity items that were obtained from bundles purchased in the past for the original Defiance, as well as hard-earned titles."
For players that have made purchases in the original Defiance MMO, there won't be any migration of those items, as due to the currency conversion mentioned before, "purchased items will not be able to move over to Defiance 2050. However, they will continue to be accessible in the original Defiance."
Many players (and myself) have been asking why the change to Defiance 2050, especially since the new game doesn’t really look or feel astronomically different from the original when it comes to graphics or how guns work on a basic level. Now, it’s worth noting that I’m playing on PC, and based on what many players on console are saying, there is a graphical upgrade on those platforms due to the difference in how the new architecture works with PS4/XBO vs PS3/X360.
The big reason for the switch to Defiance 2050 is a complete overhaul to the game’s underlying architecture, which was originally 32-bit. This upgrade should allow the developers to do more with the resources at their disposal without the limitations they had before. Having played the two games, it’s certainly possible that they could have allowed for character migrations. The biggest limitations came from the systems that existed in the original game and how they wouldn’t have meshed with the new vision for Defiance 2050’s classes and mods.
As it was explained to me, “The changes to the itemization system and character progression therefore have made it not possible to move progress and items over to Defiance 2050. This new itemization system removes much of what the player base has had issues with, such as RNG, and replaces it with an itemization system that can grow with future updates.”
This itemization system is interesting, too. Being a player that loves to snipe from a distance, I spent some time upgrading my sniper rifles with different mods and leveling them up with the different “scrap” pieces I looted off of enemies in order to add some extra damage to their shots. Every weapon has the ability to be leveled up via weapon scrap looted off enemies, and finding mod drops is always exciting to see how you’ll be able to upgrade your weapon to be even more powerful.
While the class system didn’t really resonate with me as anything ground-breaking, being similar in design to the systems you’d find in games like Borderlands or other MMOs like WoW or Star Wars: The Old Republic, the itemization system has potential for players to really get detailed with how they kit out their weaponry.
It would seem that Defiance 2050 resonates with this idea of player choice with the relaunch as well, and Matt highlighted the itemization changes as the most important for the game:
“The itemization system is the largest overhaul to the game, since it influences how players progress and play the game. Instead of the old formula of relying on RNG to find the best items in the game, players will now be able to find items frequently, and upgrade them in the ways that they see fit. Player agency is at the forefront of the design philosophy for this system, as it allows players to choose their bonuses, rank up the weapons that they enjoy, and push the envelope of their power level by simply playing the game. Nothing here is hidden behind a pay wall, and everything can be obtained in game.”
The question that comes into play, beyond the changes to Defiance’s gameplay systems is whether Defiance 2050 can bring consistent new content to keep players coming back for more. With the cancellation of the show, a void was certainly left when it came to new story content, a complaint that’s been shared by many players of the original game.
For games like Defiance, the end game is everything. In the original, the weak endgame at the time is a part of the reason I stopped playing. When it comes to MMOs many other players feel the same, as once you’ve completed the game’s story and reached max level, everything that’s offered beyond that is what keeps you playing.
Matt and his team felt the same way and explained the long-term plans for Defiance 2050: “Post launch, we will be implementing a very rapid update cycle, with new content and systems coming very soon. What the original Defiance has lacked in the past is real content updates for players to enjoy. There will a lot more to come after launch that really highlights what Defiance is great at, while also improving and growing with help from the community and its feedback.”
Defiance 2050 needs to learn from the mistakes of the original game, and take the concepts, story, and gameplay even further than before with the leverage of better technology. By using the base of the original game, which had solid gameplay mechanics, a great soundtrack that accompanied a wide world, and lore that could be leaned upon for any number of new adventures, Trion has the potential to make the game even better than before, if they’re able to coax players back into the world they’ve built.
Honestly, Defiance 2050 is still a fun world to explore, too. I will say I was a tad bit frustrated by having to replay the game from the beginning, but for me it’s been a long time since I’ve played, so the refresher was nice. Exploring the world was still a delight, with background music that fit the environment, and the upbeat tempo that came with gunfights upping the adrenaline factor in a good way. Defiance 2050 may not be perfect, but if Trion can keep to their promises, I’m excited to see what new content and adventures players can take part in.
Whether you’re a new or returning player, Defiance 2050 is worth another look at launch. The fact that it’s now Free-To-Play opens up the gates to give it a try without having to open up your wallet, and with the new itemization and class systems, there’s more customization to how you can play the game beyond the guns you can buy and find. The show may be gone, but Trion is planning to keep Defiance alive with this new release.
The Defiance 2050 Closed Beta was played using a code from the developer, Trion Worlds. Thanks to Matt from Trion for taking the time to clarify some of my questions, as well!