Defiance Review: Ark Hunting is fun!

Published: May 10, 2013 9:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Defiance MMO Key Art

This review was originally published on 05-10-2013. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context. 

I've been keeping my eye on Defiance for a while now. I am a huge Science Fiction fan, and Syfy has always been my home for some of my favorite shows. That said, I watched two episodes of the show, and got hooked. Naturally, the next step was to check out the game. If my goal was to find a game to put down, I failed pretty hard, because I haven't put down Defiance in over a week. Normally, I'm not a fan of MMOFPSs, but the thought of an MMO made by Trion in combination with a Syfy show was incredibly intriguing.

A lot of people have reviewed this game, and I mean, a lot. The sad part is, everyone seems to have rated Defiance really poorly, which is not something that Defiance deserves. You can't compare a game of this magnitude to something like World of Warcraft or various other MMOs. Not to mention, if the reviewer is not watching the show itself, you won't get the same level of enjoyment out of Defiance. There are a lot of reasons to like Defiance, the primary one being the ingenuity and originality of the game, on top of allowing you to continue learning about Defiance after stepping away from your TV.

Defiance - Getting Things Under Control

Defiance Image 1

From the start, Defiance thrusts you into the game world, forcing you to learn all of your abilities, as most MMOs do. Once you get the hang of the controls, the game is simple, intuitive, and incredibly easy to learn. The controls of the game are almost identical to those of Borderlands, with simple controls that can easily be played on both PC and Console, allowing for a few abilities to be used. If you like Borderlands, you will be crazy about Defiance. The best part about the game is that like many FPS games, you don't have to put a huge time sink into it to get anything out. Sure, your "typical" MMO requires you to spend hundreds of hours grinding to get any further into the game, but Defiance aims to be different than most MMOs.

Let's start with the EGO system. Your EGO, like in real life, becomes a part of you at the start of the game. Your EGO, or Environmental Guardian Online, is what gives you your abilities. With a choice of Cloak (self-explanatory), Blur (run super fast, do things quicker), Overcharge (more damage for a brief period), and Decoy (create a decoy of yourself), you have the ability to take down your enemies. The best part about the "leveling" system in Defiance is that it's not even a true leveling system. Your "level" is technically your EGO points, which are accrued by filling the EXP bar, completing quests and Arkfalls, and completing the list of pursuits given to you.

Pursuits are like achievements, they give you goals to complete on your journey as an Ark Hunter. With pursuits for regions, combat, PvP, Enemies, Vehicles, and more, there's always something for you to do. The reason that EGO isn't overly important, like "levels" in a typical MMO, is because they really only show what you've accomplished. One person may have more levels accrued, while another may have a higher EGO thanks to completing pursuits. The key is, the game doesn't require a huge chunk of your time every day to stay up to date.

Defiance has Plenty of Content

Defiance Pursuits

Then comes the content. The great thing about having a game that is intertwined with a TV Show is that the content will keep on coming as long as the show lasts, and based on the ratings, Defiance will be around for a while. The game content already gives you hundreds of hours for $60 and no subscription, and with each week's episode, you get a few more pursuits and a few more things to do. Instead of a subscription, you will pay (what seems to be yearly) for more content with a Season Pass, which gives you more vehicles, weapons, missions, and more.

Not having to pay a monthly fee is a great plus for an MMO with a massive amount of content. We've seen a few tie-ins to the show so far, and have been promised more. One of the most fun, and sometimes the most challenging, parts of the game is the Time Trials (Race through checkpoints on your vehicles), Hotshot (use skill to complete shooting challenges), and Rampages (Kill as many as you can without dying). Getting the gold in these makes for a good release from the normal missions and killing, adding a fun twist to the game. For those who watch the show, the game will fill you in on a lot of details and adds on lore and story that expands greatly onto the Defiance universe.

The story itself (played out through the main missions), is pretty phenomenal as well. As you make your way through the Bay area (which is where most of the game is at this point), you will be helping Karl Von Bach, a weapons developer who has a special piece of Ark technology that you are assisting him in gathering more parts of.

Defiance - Multiplayer Gameplay

Defiance Ego Grid

Like all MMOs, there is also the multiplayer aspect of the gameplay. This comes into play in a few different ways, such as; completing missions, side missions, and various "helping" missions scattered around the world, as well as cooperative group scenarios (like dungeons in WoW), competitive multiplayer (PvP), and Shadow Wars (open world PvP). There are also the normal MMO social features, such as groups, chat (both text and voice), and clans.

The key to the multiplayer, though, is the Ark falls. Ark falls, like rifts in Trion's Rift, are open-world events that occur around the map. They are events that players work together to complete, whether they are destroying the Arks, or killing the enemies around them, followed by a final confrontation depending on the type of Ark fall.

Finally, the gameplay. With tons of unique perks that can be chosen from to use in combination with your chosen main skills (see above), you have a large number of options for character skill customization. The game, like any game should, has hundreds or thousands of weapons that you can buy or get from drops. With up to 6 load-outs (more unlocked as you level), you can customize your weapons, abilities, perks, grenades, shields, and even your vehicles.

You can customize your load-outs for any situation; a load-out for run and gun, a load-out for a stealthy sniper, or one that just maximizes your damage! There are also a variety of outfits and hats to choose from, some for normal play, some specifically for multiplayer. Earn more customization options as you complete your missions and pursuits, and you can customize your character however you like.

Defiance Does Have Some Issues

Defiance Loadouts

Even with all of its great features, Defiance (currently), has a few issues. In recent weeks, server crashes and bugs have been minor issues that the game has run into. Outside of that, Defiance only has small issues like normal collision, balance, and quest issues. A lot of people have also been mildly upset that there is no cross-play between all of the game platforms, but that is a pretty hard issue to fix, with such differing specs between PC, PS3, and Xbox, so there is really no reason to count that as a negative.

This game, even though it doesn't cost anything extra to play outside of the base game and season passes, does still have an in-game store. But the game is NOT pay-to-win. All of the items that are available in the Defiance store are purely cosmetic or boosting, such as extra vehicles, outfits, or EXP boosts. You don't need to pay to be on par with players who do pay, and you don't have to devote crazy amounts of time to keep up, either. It's a very balanced system.

Defiance, like its TV Show counter-part, offers a vast and diverse world for you to explore. With great-looking visuals that don't always company an MMO and a continuous plot line throughout your journeys, Defiance gives you a great look deeper into terraformed Earth. From time to time you'll bump into characters from the show itself as you seek to complete your missions in the Bay Area, bringing continuity between the show and the game itself. In all honesty, don't listen to the low reviews that have been given to Defiance. Just because it is outside of the normal "cookie cutter" clone of an MMOG, doesn't make it a bad game. I found Defiance to be an incredibly refreshing style of gameplay for an online game. As long as the show is running, I will keep playing, and highly recommend that you do too!

This review was originally published on 05-10-2013. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context.

Review Summary

Defiance, like its TV Show counter-part, offers a vast and diverse world for you to explore. (Review Policy)


  • Loads of content
  • Breaks the MMO Mold a BIt


  • Poor Server Stability


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