Defiance 2050; stuck in the past but looking towards the future

Posted on July 30, 2018

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Defiance 2050 is the second go-around for this release by Trion Worlds, but that is possibly the point of this exercise. The original Defiance released back in 2013, paired with the moderately successful TV show of the same name on the SyFy network. The show lasted three seasons while the game… well, it had some issues at launch, but still managed to maintain a dedicated player-base in an experience that was crafted by MMO veterans responsible for other titles like Rift and later, ArcheAge.

So, what is Defiance 2050? The short answer is, it’s a free version of the original Defiance, downloadable now on Steam, Xbox One and PS4, with some elements “re-imagined”.  There are some graphical updates, general quality-of-life improvements and a new class system as well. Players of the original might not find enough to suck them back in all over again, but as a newcomer to the franchise, I can think of plenty worse ways to spend an evening of co-op online shooting with my mates.

Defiance 2050 is an open world looter shooter MMORPG, and with that comes the pros and cons of the genre in all its glory. First impressions here are likely to be negative, but I urge you to remember that the game was originally released five years ago before you judge it too harshly. Character models are laughably bad, some of the animations are truly janky and the storyline is traditional sci-fi fare with poorly written dialogue, awkward voice acting and largely forgettable characters. They may think the stakes are high but I never felt that throughout my play-through of the story. I found it difficult not to skip some of the long-winded cut-scenes, but sure I guess there is plenty of lore here if you’re looking for it.

Once you move past the initial set up and questionable production values, Defiance 2050 does open up to become a pretty enjoyable shooting game that is of course best played with a squad. If I can use a bad analogy for a moment, it’s like choosing between a new fancy fine-dining experience or just choosing to go to your local burger joint instead. You know that one of them is going to be different and possibly exciting to try, but man that cheeseburger combo is just so cheap, reliable and satisfying. Defiance 2050 is that combo.

You’ll quickly find yourself in a soothing rhythm of shooting baddies, completing quests, earning experience and leveling up with each satisfying ding. Shooting feels good, although enemies are particularly sponge-like at first with the amount of damage they soak up. Grabbing new weapons to try is always fun, as is adding modifications or enhancing them with salvage that makes them more effective. You’ll steadily progress and gain more power for your character, along with a class system that can be changed on the fly (once you earn them) if you want to test out different types of abilities. This is a nice wrinkle, meaning that you don’t have to make a brand new character to experience a different style of play with varied abilities. The foundations of the gameplay and progression are good, even if some of the mechanics are a little stuck in the past.

Setting it apart from other MMORPGs is the Arkfall system. Remember how I said that Defiance was created by the team who did Rift? Well, that idea is replicated here, but is even more satisfying than it was in previous games. Arkfalls are big group events that spawn randomly on the map, where waves of enemies then appear that must be stopped. They tend to inspire other players to get involved as well, with major ones in particular attracting 30-40 players at a time in the area to band together and save the world in unison.

The major Arkfalls end with a large boss fight and useful rewards, making them more than worthwhile taking part in – along with being genuinely entertaining. At the end of them (and at the end of every mission, actually), a scoreboard is shown that shows how effective you were compared to other players involved. This cooperative/competitive mentality that Defiance 2050 consistently shares means that redoing missions is far less laborious, if only to claim bragging rights with your friends.

” It’s super easy to group up with friends no matter what level they are, and all enemies are instantly scaled…”

There’s an ease to some of the partying mechanics as well, which makes sense given the history of the studio. It’s super easy to group up with friends no matter what level they are, and all enemies are instantly scaled so that they are strong regardless of where you are on the map. This means you can’t just return to the newbie area as a strong player and constantly wipe out AI like they’re nothing. This scaling ensures that everybody has to contribute equally to a fight and you can’t just cheese your buddies to a high level – rather, you have to genuinely work together, as it should be.

You can also fast travel to your friend whenever you want, wherever they are, which is so handy and I wish all games of this type had that option. On the flip-side, marking a waypoint on the map is only visible to the person who marked it, which feels like an oversight. There are odd choices like this that constantly pop up, actually. I am always going from “oh I love this feature” and then getting knocked back to “who would approve this!?”  moment to moment, which speaks to me of a team who have a good understanding of the genre, but have made some mistakes along the way that they are trying to correct.

Luckily, a roadmap was just revealed over the weekend, outlining some of the upcoming changes and expectations we should have about Defiance 2050 moving forward.  This includes a new class, new enemies, new missions and more, plus endgame content for those who have “finished” what’s available and hit level cap, including game dungeons and boss encounters. In my opinion, the game can only get stronger over time, and I hope that it manages to maintain a decent enough player base to support its ongoing development.

Defiance 2050 isn’t going to change your life, but I don’t think it’s trying to. It’s a decent looter shooter, it’s playable online with your friends and has some cool ideas that at least had me eager to jump in and play some more. In fact, I’m still playing it. For a free experience that’s available on console with a solid roadmap of future content and improvements planned in the coming months, I can’t help but recommend you at least give it a crack. After all, what have you got to lose?