The one and a half verbs of Defiance

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What Defiance does well, it does well enough. This is basically a wide open playground dotted with activities, almost of all which come down to shooting a bunch of dudes, and sometimes pressing a button once you’ve shot them. But lots of shooting. Gratifying shooting with as many different guns as you like. Light machineguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns (three flavors!), pistols (as if), some lasery things, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, a gun that shoots bugs. Guns, guns, guns! It’s very nearly mindless.

The shooting activities are scattered widely enough, and the world is big enough, that you’ll often have to zip around on your vehicle, enjoying featherweight simulated driving physics along the way. Say what you will about these vehicles, but they’re ten time better than any MMO horse I’ve had to ride. You can do races, but they’re just a brief distraction from the shooting. Defiance is a game with focus. 85% shooting. 15% driving.

After the jump, 5% MMO

Since Defiance is an MMO, there’s also a drawn out leveling grind. The level cap is 5000, which is about 100 times the level cap in other MMOs. Don’t be too impressed. It’s not really leveling so much as racking up an achievement score. Achievement whores don’t have to feel cheap. I, for one, am grateful.

You’ll run out of meaningful skill advancement somewhere around level 300, at which point the sense of advancement comes to rest squarely on the guns. Customize your favorite gun with mods. Level them up for a bonus skill. And then throw them away because they’re no longer useful for leveling your character’s weapon skill. It’s one of the cruelest gear churns you’ll ever crank, but I guess it beats never having to swap out that gun you got when you first started playing.

Defiance is like a less fussy, less cluttered, less attractive version of Rage. Or it’s like a chintzy Borderlands without the four-player limit and with no real reason to group with anyone. You can jump into four-player instances, or gather for open-world shoot-a-paloozas called arkfalls that model the rifts in Rift without any meaningful rewards or consequences. You can play team deathmatches. Unlike most MMOs, you don’t need anyone else, and no one else needs you. Even rezzing is something you’ll almost never do. This is an MMO that eschews the traditional MMO trappings, and therefore the traditional MMO grouping structure. Everyone is a DPS class. The only real variety comes from which gun you’re using and therefore how far back you get to stand from what you’re shooting at. I have several friends playing and I never once felt the need to play with them. Random strangers will do just as well. How much social interaction do you get from standing around holding down the fire button?

It gets tedious after a while. The lack of variety is a serious shortcoming. The world doesn’t hold much worth seeing, and only about four flavors of things to fight, and a passable faction grind if you need a longer term impetus for the shooting. Ah, the shooting. It’s satisfying enough. It better be, because that’s pretty much all that’s here. Did I mention Defiance was very nearly mindess?

Defiance is mostly lacking meaningful connective tissue. It fails at the fundamental task of feeling like a thoughtfully designed and polished game. It fails at feeling like a world. It fails at giving you much to look forward to once you’ve realized you’ve seen most of what it’s ever going to do. You can only get so far with “it’s fun to shoot stuff”. About Defiance far.

2 stars