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Looking back at 5 years of… Defiance

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With this year being the fifth anniversary of the extremely ambitious MMO and television show crossover attempt that was Defiance, I figured it’d be a smashing time to take a look at how it turned out and why the future looks relatively bright for the Defiance universe going forward.

The project began as a collaboration between Syfy and MMO focused developers Trion Worlds in 2010, but it was 2nd April, 2013 which marked the actual launch of Defiance on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. The idea was to merge gaming and TV like never before, with the TV show set to debut two weeks later. Those behind the concept wanted you to be immersed in the world of Defiance, with the game impacting the science fiction TV series on Syfy and vice versa. Unfortunately, the only impact on me personally was a negative one overall, but it had so much promise.

Set in the not too distant future after a war between Votans – aliens to you and I – and humans, Defiance on Syfy brought the post-apocalyptic Earth alive as it followed the no-nonsense Ark Hunter, Joshua Nolan, and his deeply troubled, adopted alien daughter Irisa. Arriving back in his hometown of St. Louis, he realises it’s not what it once was, with terraforming leaving it in ruins. Now a refuge place of sorts, Nolan settles in to the place known as Defiance and decides to keep the locals in check as the Lawkeeper. It’s no easy job considering the warring races residing here, both human and alien alike.

In regards the game, it arrived as a third-person shooter MMO, placing you in the position of an Ark Hunter in search of alien tech. Your character’s chosen origin – whether you’re a human or an Irathient – and gender have no affect whatsoever other than in terms of appearance. Due to an EGO (Environmental Guardian Online) implant, you’ll have access to abilities such as cloaking and over time you can level up and enhance these by earning XP. After being introduced to your boss, von Bach, there’s a crash landing during the inaugural search for Arkfalls and the idea is to make enough of the currency, Scrip, whilst attempting to locate your missing boss.

Having played Defiance on release and before the TV debut, I had no idea who these people I met actually were, but I know now that those I would’ve recognised only played a bit part in the game at best. That wasn’t such an issue as the TV show suffered from a real blandness, despite possessing an interesting premise of weird and wonderful characters of different origins, so I don’t think it would’ve benefited from it regardless.

The world was huge and allowed for free-roaming, letting you choose when to take on a mission and when to just have a wander around. These missions usually consisted of clearing out areas full of mutants or accessing a place, before defending it from hordes of creatures. It was regularly intense, with the only saving grace coming in the form of other people nearby occasionally lending a hand – if they could hear you screaming for assistance that is, because most would have in-game chat muted. A real highlight, in fact the only enjoyable moment I remember, was battling a massive hellbug in a dynamic event alongside a load of players in a satisfying massacre of said beast and all that came with it.

Unfortunately, on Xbox 360, the launch was plagued with issues, the sheer amount of which would cause a meltdown amongst gamers these days. I’m talking so many problems that Trion were releasing huge patches regularly to fix the horrendous lag making it practically unplayable, invincible enemies that wouldn’t lose health, glitching guns and missions rendered incomplete no matter what you tried to do. All of this occurred often enough to ruin my entire experience and by the time it’d been sorted, the damage was done.

Credit where it’s due, Trion stuck with Defiance through thick and thin, adding new content ever since at no extra cost. We’re talking new enemies, new ways to team up in co-op and additional quest lines to follow. The most recent update kicked off the Armistice event, seeing diseased defilers, hulkers and mechanical monstrosities popping up all over the place. You’ll be wondering why people are still playing it, and I believe a large part of it is down to the decision to become a free-to-play title after 18 months of its release.

Another reason could be because of the cancellation of the TV show after three seasons, as the game served as a home for the continuation on the story. A giant update known as Dark Metamorphosis took on the mantle of being the fourth season, telling the tale of how Dark Matter forces have developed new and horrifying weapons that could potentially spark a second Pale War with their destructive power.

Defiance has come a long way in five years, but for those who were disappointed with the initial attempt, the recent news of a massive overhaul may be enough to convince the masses to give it another go. Repackaged as Defiance 2050 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, gamers will see that the textures and frame-rates are improved when it arrives in the summer, at the very least. One can hope that the upcoming closed beta will help iron out any bugs and server problems to ensure a successful launch.

I expected a lot more from Defiance, but time is a great healer and I’ll be ready to check out the dynamic open-world madness of Defiance 2050. It better not be shtako!

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