The show finally appeared so now I’m ready to give my review of this one. This one barely got any publicity so more than likely you haven’t heard anything, but here’s the summary of it:
On a future Earth ruined by alien war, mercenaries battle to find leftover alien weapons and technology. It might be the only way to rebuild our civilization in this giant MMO shooter. Join the fight as an Ark Hunter, a warrior with nano-enhanced abilities and explore a ravaged San Francisco world. Team up with dozens of fellow Ark Hunters to survive Arkfalls. Turn the tables and battle against each other in massive 96-player Shadow Wars. Take on missions, form squads for co-op boss battles, and untangle an epic saga that’s tied to a Syfy TV series.
This is the first real MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game that is available on Xbox 360. In the past, MMO games have been limited to PC gamers primarily, because the worlds are typically huge and consist of many players around the world and I didn’t think consoles could handle it until now. I was surprised that the developers, Trion Worlds, pulled this off. There were issues with the launch, but everything has been squared away since then and this is actually a really good title, but only because of the gameplay and the support it has received. I will go into details in the review.
Since MMOs are new to Xbox gamers, I’ll give a brief of how the process works. The disc you receive when you purchase the game is just software that gets installed to your Xbox and it runs a client program. The game itself actually runs from the servers, and the client just interprets the server data and relays it into a playable game in a nutshell. Since clients always need to be updated (just like when you join regular multiplayer games), there are quite a few patches that get released.
The bonus side to this, if the developers want to add something to the game, fix it, or change something, the patch for the desired effect is typically changed on the server so you will rarely have to patch your client. It could even happen while you are playing as it did to me. If the developers feel like adding in free missions that we refer to as DLC typically, you don’t have to download anything – it just appears in the game when they add it to their servers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not favoring all of the next Xbox rumors, specifically the always online one, but if the next-gen system developers create all of their games similar to this client/server method, it would technically work, unless Xbox Live goes down for hours like it did this past weekend, and that won’t fly so we shouldn’t have to worry, but I just wanted to throw it out there as this could be their idea of an always online system, just in case.
There really isn’t a menu in this one, as you just join the servers and off you go. There is an in-game menu though if you hold the left trigger. Those options include Character, Goals, Map, Intel, Defiance Store, Settings, Matchmaking, Social and Log Out which is the only legit way to exit the game. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this review to be honest, so I think first I’ll TRY to do a quick back story because the Defiance creators (not the developers) did not do a good job of it and expect people to read their website for hours.
So from spending a couple of hours on the website trying to find out everything I can, since the show lacked a back story as well, I finally figured most of it out. I will talk more about the show later on, but just to throw it out there, if you watched the first episode, you are probably completely lost, almost as lost as the game, and this is what not to do when you are trying to generate a captive audience for new intellectual property. Anyhow, the story goes – as briefly as possible – there was another solar system many light years away and hundreds of years ago whose system is about to wiped out by a stellar collision, called the Votanis system. The system consisted of 5 planets with I believe, 8 alien races. We nickname them – The Votans.
The Votans collaborated with an idea to save their civilizations, so they researched and built these devices known as Arks – you know, just like Noah’s Ark and probably what us humans would do if we faced global extinction. Unfortunately they only built so many before time ran out so only a certain number of Votans made it aboard the Arks. They sent the Arks on a course to find a new home, while in a sleep for many years. According to the story, back in 2000, the arks were detected on the outer region, I’m going to guess the Kuiper belt or the Oort Cloud, although no one has stated. The earth’s top leaders decide to form the EMC (Earth Military Coalition) in secret from the public.
So in 2013, the Arks arrive to earth. When they arrive, the Votans are desperately asking for assistance as they thought Earth was uninhabited. The part that doesn’t make sense is why Earth, why not Mars – they had intentions on terraforming an uninhabited planet anyway. So anyway, us being humane, we help them out and give them some land in Brazil. They want to terraform it but we say no. So as millions of alien are in a cryogenic stasis in Earth’s orbit, tensions start to rise as obviously they need more space to live. Humans enlist a Votan leader and try to make some kind of peace agreement between the races. As more Votans colonize other parts of the world, chaos and riots emerge, and a human assassinates the Votan leader and basically starts a world war with all of the aliens. This war goes on for almost 10 years, and turns into what they call the “Pale Wars”. At the height of the Pale Wars, the rest of the Votan Arks still in orbit suddenly explode and fills the entire orbit with pieces of the Arks. These pieces rain down on earth for decades and are known as Arkfalls. Also due to the Arks exploding, their terraforming equipment went haywire and then terraformed the whole planet, filling it with human and alien characteristics.
In 2030, a huge battle takes place in the bay area in California, and this battle becomes known as the Battle of Defiance (where the game takes place) because the Votans and Humans decide to lay down arms and stop the fighting. In 2033, some new mineral that allows to be used as an energy source is found under where St. Louis used to be so it becomes populated by 2037 and is named Defiance (where the TV show takes place) at that time. The present year is 2046, and in the show, everything is about Defiance, while in the game, everything is about the Bay area, the game and show somewhat interact with each other, but nothing like I thought it would have been. That’s the jist of it in a nutshell, if you want all of the details and spend an hour or so reading, its all on their website but under the show section, not the game section. Anyhow, onto the review finally!
When you first start the game, you are an Ark hunter hired by some scientist that is looking for Ark pieces. You have to create your character and can choose either the human race or the Irathient, which are the aliens with the really big gap on their noses between their eyebrows. I played with both and noticed no difference between them, so I’m not sure why one would be better than the other but you can have multiple characters to play through. You first decide male or female, the only thing I noticed is females have a makeup customization option. Then you get to choose an origin. The origins consist of Veteran, Survivalist, Outlaw and Machinist. Again, I tried both Veteran and Outlaw and noticed no difference, unless I don’t know what I’m looking for.
Once you choose what you want, you then get to customize your character. First are the features such as bone structure, nose, mouth and skin color. Next are the eyes shape and color. Following that is the hair style, color and to add any facial hair if wanted. Lastly are blemishes and face paint, and if human, tattoos and makeup if female. ForIrathients, they get Irathient markings which are like tattoos, but from what I read, they are born with them, kind of like a birthmark on their face. After you are all done, name your character (your gamertags aren’t actually shown in the game) and off you go into story mode. Your first missions are kind of like tutorials, so pay attention.
As for the character screen itself, you will use this often. Here’s a screenshot of it and I’ll break it all down:
Starting from the top down, the first thing is your main class and actually your active loadout. I don’t think you can name them, but your primary is the Origin that you picked when you first created your character. As you progress, you can unlock the additional 4 other loadouts. This makes it easier to have certain weapon loadouts for certain enemies, it’s actually quite handy as I’ve used it more than occasionally. On the left, you have your primary weapon and then your secondary weapon. You can only carry 2 weapons and you press Y to switch between them. Weapons are plentiful and there’s so many different variations. The little number above what type of weapon it is signals what level the weapon is at. As you increase your character, more leveled up weapons are dropped or can be purchased providing more firepower. Under that you have grenades, which has quite a few different types. There are regular frag/explosive grenades, incendiary grenades catching enemies on fire, biological grenades and more. It’s quite crazy how many different types of weapons are in here. Next to that is your shield. There are again, many different variants of shields as well. Next to that are your vehicles. Vehicles can also be leveled up, but one gripe I have is that the vehicles don’t have weapons, only a turbo boost. Even though they have damage ratings, its only for running enemies over. It would have been so much better if the vehicles had weapons. Under that where it says Title, are in-game titles. It’s basically just bragging rights in my opinion. They don’t make your character any better.
Onto the middle section, you will see Power. You have this thing called an EGO, which is an artificial intelligent implant. It gives you super powers so to speak. There are 4 main EGO powers, Decoy, Overcharge, Cloak and Blur. Decoy sends out a halo style decoy to confuse enemies. Overcharge gives your weapons extra damage for 10 seconds to start. Cloak makes you invisible for so many seconds. Blur lets you move faster and causes more melee damage. It’s not surprising, but EGO units are upgradable as well, although they can only be upgraded 5 times, however you can unlock additional EGO powers later on and switch between multiple powers using your different loadouts. Under that you will notice Perks. These are little bonuses that you can add, such as crouching takes less damage or your stowed away weapon reloads automatically over time. As you can see, you have a total of 9 perks when you unlock the additional slots. As of right now, there are 80 perks, yeah it’s a lot but I have feeling more will be added as time goes on by the developers. Now, as I mentioned how powers can be upgraded, perks can be upgraded as well. Perks have 3 levels to upgrade. Each level you gain, you gain 1 EGO unit to use either on a power, perk or upgrade. To be technical, in order to max out everything you would need to get 260 EGO units. EGO units don’t come quickly either…but I’ll go more into that later.
Onto the right section, you have co-op or competitive. By default, the game is always in co-op mode. You can only go into competitive mode if you go into matchmaking, which I’ll also go into later. What this area is for is actually for your characters outfits. You can only change their headgear and their outfit which is everything else. You can mix and match the outfits and headgear as well. As you make it further in the game, you unlock additional gear. Your co-op character and competitive character do have different outfits though, as I’m guessing it’s so you don’t look like everyone else when playing competitive.
Lastly, on the bottom is your EGO rating. Honestly, I’m not sure what it’s for. I’m guessing it may be used to unlock additional missions as all side missions are not available right away, so you may have to a certain EGO rating. Do not get confused, your EGO rating is not your character level. I know its strange, but no where in the game will you ever know what real experience level your character is on. It is another little bell I would have to like to have added. Anyhow, next to that is how many EGO units you have and next to that is Scrip. Scrip is the currency the game uses for almost everything. Most enemies will leave scrip after you kill them so be sure to grab as much as you can. The last item is inventory. This is basically your in-game backup. You can only carry a certain number of items. The number on the left is current and the right number indicates your max. Once its maxed, you need to either sell or delete items in order to keep collecting. I believe you can unlock it to the max of 300 items which is quite a lot.
That’s pretty much it for the character screen. For the title of this section, I put pause menu as you mostly have to hit pause to get to this screen, but there are other options in the pause menu as well so I will cover those now. By pressing LB/RB, you can scroll the pause the menu. The character screen is always the default and left most selection. Moving right, our next screen is the Salvage Matrix. This is your weapon modification area. It’s actually quite in-depth as well. You can modify everything that can be collected, basically everything we’ve covered already, except vehicles. You first choose an item to modify. Once you choose one, it may or may not have options available. With certain items, you can break them down into resources, which is better than deleting them in my opinion. Sometimes you will get rare resources depending on the weapon you break down. For other options, you may be able to attach mods to it. Mods vary for the most part, especially with guns. You can add sights, stocks, muzzles, magazines, etc. There is so much in the world it’s as crazy as Borderlands with the amount of weapons. If you have mods on a gun, you can remove those mods. Once removed, you can then retrieve them and apply to them another weapon. If a weapon has no mod slots, but can be modified, you will have the option to add mod slots, but it does take time. The modding section is fairly in-depth and the only real way to get it into it is to experience it for yourself.
The next item in the pause item is the EGO Grid. Here lists all of your EGO powers and EGO perks. What is nice is that even though most of the perks are locked, you can still see what they are so you can determine the path you want to go unless you plan on unlocking all perks. The way the unlocking system works is that when you choose to unlock a perk, the adjacent perks around it become unlocked as well. But they are only unlocked, you still need to apply an EGO unit to it in order to equip it. When I first started playing, I was wondering none of my perks weren’t working. I didn’t know you had to equip them so be sure to make sure they are both unlocked and equipped, otherwise you are just wasting EGO units.
The next area in the pause menu are Boosts. Boosts are helpful things that unfortunately cost Bits. The only way I found to obtain Bits is to use real money via Microsoft Points. They don’t cost much, but still, using real money isn’t always favored. The boosts also only last for a certain period of time, maybe a day, sometimes 3 days. I believe they change when they expire, although I don’t follow them since I don’t like to use real money 🙂 Anyhow, the boosts consist of right now; XP, Scrip, Reputation, Skills and Loot. If you take the time, you don’t really need these boosts as you end up collecting as you go, but this is for the people who just want to get through this game as quick as possible, which now that I think about it is probably an oxymoron.
The next area is your stats. Stats are pretty useful for the most part. It categorizes everything for you so its nice and easy to read. The first section keeps track of your currencies, but all of them. This includes your Scrip, Bits, Keycodes (which you need to unlock lockboxes), Key Fragments and Ark Salvage. Next is your Ammo which is pretty self-explanatory. Next is your EGO Upgrade status, showing you how much experience you need until your next EGO unit is available to use. This bar is also located on the bottom of the main HUD. After that are your factions that you are bound to which I get into later as well. After that are the useful things, the skills for all of your weapons and vehicles. The more you use of something, the more you gain experience with it. Leveling up weapons for example, decrease reload time or vehicles will increase speed or damage. The skills are sorted into the following categories:
- Assault Rifles
- Sub Machine Guns
- Light Machine Guns
- Combat Shotguns
- Pump Shotguns
- Sawed-Off Shotguns
- Bolt Action Sniper Rifles
- Semi-Auto Sniper Rifles
- Rocket Launchers
The last 3 are vehicles. It’s quite useful and I’m still amazed at how basically everything can be upgraded in one way or another.
The last area in the pause menu lists all of your inventory. When you fret about not being able to pick up stuff, you will be here. This is where you can delete items from your inventory. Some items also have 3D models that allow you to zoom and rotate as well. Mostly everything will have some kind of description so you won’t be completely confused about everything. Also a couple other notes, while in inventory or choosing weapons, there is a compare option that allows you to compare your equipped weapons against other weapons either in your inventory or even in stores. It’s another nice feature to figure out what weapons are the best. I found that weapon names are also color coded. I believe each color means something. White seems to be basic, I believe green are for heavier damage, where as purple are synergy weapons for the most part, yet sometimes they don’t do as much damage as green weapons. There’s also cyan and a couple of others I think, although I haven’t found everything yet. I believe that it is for the pause menu. Back to the other menu we go, this is going to be a long review.
The goals of the game is basically what you need to do. I can’t imagine anyone completing it quickly. There are a ton and I believe the devs will just keep adding as time goes on. This is probably one of the few games that will never go stale. Anyhow, goals are broken up first into 2 categories, Pursuits and Contracts. Pursuits contain 2 main categories as well which are Season One (which I think the game will have its seasons as the story didn’t really end) and Episodes. Episodes are the mini-quests to do that have to do with the show, since the game is celebrating Armistice and that’s actually what the beginning of the show was about, those are the available episodes at the time of this review. Anyhow, pursuits consist of all types of things to do as with time, you may end up collecting them all. Season One has a total of 104 pursuits all broken down into further categories which I’m not going to bother listing, trust me there is a lot. Episodes have 6 right now and last week they were different because the main show guy, Nolan and the girl were in the bay area in the game before going to St. Louis – that was the only tie-in I noticed though. Once you complete a pursuit, you will earn scrip, outfits or titles, and the Dodge Challenger RT if you are really good.
Contracts have a certain amount of time for things to be completed either daily or weekly. Completing contracts, I believe, although I haven’t done them all yet, binds you to a faction since they are all categorized by factions. From what the dev blog states; Rewards are scrip, ark salvage, and reputation with one of the factions in the world of Defiance. There are special vendors associated with each faction. These faction vendors sell items that may not be available on normal vendors, at a cost of scrip plus reputation. The world is huge so you might want to jot down where certain vendors are.
Since videos are coming up in the review, I decided to decrypt the HUD for you so you can understand what is going on. Here’s a screen shot:
In the top left, the first number is your EGO rating. You’ll learn more about further in the review. Next to that is your character name. Underneath that is your shield. When your shield is gone, it won’t be lit up. Under that is your actual health. You only take health damage when your shield is not functioning. Lastly, as you can see I have a constant reminder that EGO units are available. In the blank area underneath that, contract/pursuit items will show up when you are going after them.
Next on the left, you have a Quick Menu and Quick Chat using the D-Pad. Quick Menu will let you get into the online aspects of the game quickly without navigating to the main menus. It consists of Matchmaking, Nearby, Friends, Find Player, Invite Friends, Invite Xbox Live Party and Defiance Store.
Quick Chat is a neat thing where if you don’t feel like talking via a mic, the game has built-in responses for most situations. You can also view chat windows as there is a log of everything that happens, such as when people/friends leave groups and more. It’s a nice little feature.
Under that, starting on the left is your scrip, or money as you’ll find out. Right of that are your keycodes. You can only carry so many and lockbox items requires a certain amount to unlock certain tiers. There are 4 tiers if I recall in the lockboxes, 4 will use most of your keycodes.
The icons under that from left to right, first is your Power which is activated by pressing LB. It will dim when you use it and recharge over time. In the middle are your grenades which are thrown by pressing RB. These again, will dim once used and recharge over time (nice not having to worry about only having 2 or 3). Next to that is your assigned vehicle, pressing up on the D-Pad calls your vehicle anywhere, anytime. It’s a nice feature as well.
Lastly, under that your equipped weapon, the number of rounds in that clip and the number of bullets total. What’s nice about this game is that there are ammo boxes everywhere so you will rarely ever run out of ammo. The yellow bar underneath is your EGO upgrade bar. When you fill it, you will gain 1 additional EGO unit to apply. You fill the bar by completing missions and enemies, gaining experience.
To the right, the top of your mini-map states what area you are in or location. It’s helpful as you navigate this huge map. Under that is your mini-map which is useful when using GPS. Underneath the map, when you are doing a mission, the objectives will appear here. At the bottom, you will notice the little bar. Pressing down on the D-Pad initiates your microphone options, via a regular microphone or Kinect. You can set your mic to talk to an area, group, team, clan or your EGO. The commands I posted prior to the review all go to your EGO. You just say what you want and voila, you are there. As you’ll read on in the review, the menu navigation isn’t the easiest so the voice commands definitely help for once.
The map area you will use constantly. Since the world is very large, its hard to find everything without using the map. The map is categorized as well. Here’s a screenshot of the map with the legend so you can follow along:
The first item, Player, shows you your location. Under that are the main missions. These are the missions that have to do with the game story, which is different from the show. The game story is kind of mediocre so don’t expect something as dramatic as Mass Effect for example, although I think the story will continue on maybe when a season two starts. Main missions take priority over everything else. They are always able to be located even without using your map. I did make a video of one of the main missions so you can get an idea of how it works. It’s not much different from everything else, some are just longer and there’s cool ones where you go underground. Unfortunately this weeks episode missions you have to find on your own without any help, so I didn’t bother with a video of one. There are side missions as well that I’ve noticed unlock when you complete certain missions, although I restarted the main mission mode so I had none available. Anyhow you can check it out below:
Hotshot is kind of like a mini-game deal. You have an objective to score so much in order to get a bronze, silver or gold award. Thankfully they are not timed, but some of them are difficult. You basically kill as many enemies as possible with certain weapons from what I’ve played but you want to do it quickly in order to keep your multiplier up and sometimes you will be challenged. The enemies respawn and you are limited to a certain radius of an area. Here’s a video of the hotshot mode:
Time Trial is a racing mode. You have to race from one point to the next as fast as possible usually going through arches that you can’t miss. The vehicles are usually given to you and you just have to be able to handle it. It’s rough, I’m not good at it at all which is odd since I’m pretty decent at racing games, but I think it has something to do with the terrain so it is challenging. Here’s a video of it:
Rampage mode is basically a survival mode. You have a set amount of time with swarms of enemies rushing at you that you have to survive for in order to score. It’s quite challenging as well. Here’s a video of it:
Arkfall are where Arkfall pieces fall from orbit. The Hellbugs which are new aliens that live in the earth, show up like crazy and you have to destroy something relating to the arkfall, whether it’s the crystals on it or the hellbugs themselves, but the hellbugs feed off those crystals which is why it attracts a ton of them. You can barely do this on your own if you are in a remote location on the map, there probably won’t be anyone around to help you. When you go into the more populated areas you will engage into, the first time I have ever seen it, way over the normal 24 player online limit. One arkfall battle I was in, I would estimate probably about 100 players and there was no lag believe it or not. It may have been the 64 number that was stated when I initially found out about this game, but still, 64 players on Xbox is still not typical. Anyhow, here’s a video of one of the battles, as you can see there are a quite a few people online and there’s no lag. The way this whole method works is really good actually. Check it out below:
Shadow War is the competitive online mode where as Arkfall is the co-op mode. The difference with this mode is it’s basically a world scale war team deathmatch. There are 3 points to control – A, B and C. It is 64 players vs 64 players and the match does not start until all 128 players are available. What is cool is you can join the match queue, and when its ready the game lets you know. Anyhow, it is crazy chaos with everything going on but it is quite fun. There’s also NPC’s in it that mess you up as well so it’s definitely challenging. Here’s the video of it:
The last items on the map are pretty brief. Merchants just show you locations of known merchants. I do believe you have to find them first before they are added to your map. Fast Travel allows you to scoot around the huge world without having to drive. Extraction points just show you where you will respawn if you die. Waypoints just show you where you set your waypoint. As I’ve said numerous times, this world is huge. It would be really helpful is the devs could add the smartglass map deal like Forza Horizon to this game. The reason why is the game does not ever pause. The world is always alive. Even when you hit start or are doing some menu item or looking at the map, enemies can run up to you and kill you, an always on-screen map/gps like Forza would help alleviate the issue as you could see the red dots coming towards you so then you can hurry up and be done with what you’re doing before you die.
The intel area keeps track of all of your collectibles, both known and hidden, both audio and video. There’s also a help section that goes into more detail about game items. It’s pretty simplified, but I thought the videos were kind of neat. Here’s a video of one:
The store is an area where you can buy all kinds of things with real money again. This is the only area I noticed where you can buy Bits which are needed to purchase anything in the store. There are categories in here as well:
- Featured Items
- Lock Boxes
There is also a claim item area. When the devs are being generous, they will stick items in here for you to claim. When your inventory is full, the following item will automatically be in the claim area as well, after that, you are out of luck as you can’t collect it so always make sure you have room in your inventory, otherwise any attempt to collect it results it from disappearing and you don’t want that to happen to rare items.
The settings area has a slew of things as well. They are broken into categories at the top which I’ll go into briefly. The first is Gameplay. The gameplay options allow you to turn all kinds of things on or off such as gamertags, names, enemies, etc. The next area, Video, allows for motion blur, overscan and gamma settings. Next is the audio which adjusts volumes and subtitles, voice, etc. The Controls area allows you to adjust the invert axis if needed. Lastly, is the Account section. Here you can log out from your session, view your submitted tickets to the support desk, submit feedback, report a bug (which is an ingenious system by the way) and link your web account to your console. Here’s a brief screenshot of the website, yes it’s all integrated as well and I’m sure it will only get better:
Under the matchmaking, this is where you go if you want to leave the co-op mode. There are more categories here as well. First are the Co-Op missions. These are individual co-op missions that force players to team up against some tough enemies. These seem to be available when devs add them. I’m sure more will come in time. I did make a video of it so you can see how you can work together:
Competitive allows your death matches. These are normal team death matches consisting of either 6×6 or 8×8 players. Nothing new here, it’s neat though, here’s a video of it:
Lastly, is the shadow war. As I mentioned earlier, you can watch the video of it above in case you skimmed.
The last area, finally, consists of all of your social options. The Friends section allows you to invite people from your friends list and who have the game join a group. Next is the clan settings. Clan settings allows you manage your clan quite well. There are a couple of requirements though, there’s a 5000 scrip buy-in and your EGO rating needs to be a minimum of 25. Next is the chat section which allows you to set specific options for chatting in either an area, group, team or clan. Lastly, you can search for online players.
What makes this game great is that it’s so different from a PC MMO. Sure the graphics and sounds aren’t the greatest, but typically you want to play a game because of the gameplay. That’s where this game shines. It also helps those PC enthusiasts like me, that do like to play MMO games, but can’t afford new hardware every year to keep up with the demanding requirements. That’s what makes this one nice, all of our hardware is the same, so it works out perfectly. What I could see happening though, since this game is client/server-based and more than likely, our consoles can’t handle the really high-def graphics, especially since mostly everything is downloaded, but I do get the feeling that this game will live onto the next-gen systems that can handle it. We will probably just have to download a new client.
The other huge thing to me is all Trion cared about was to get their game out. They stated it’s taken them 5 years to produce this game. They don’t care about nickel and diming consumers to death like other developers do. There is no ridiculous season pass to play, all of the updates and I guess you could consider, most DLC is free. Sure there are little things that cost real money, but you don’t need them to really enjoy the game. It reminded me of the good old days when gaming was about gaming with a profit and not devs not trying to become the next billionaires, so hopefully the next gen round of developers learn a lesson from Trion.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Defiance
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?