Defiance is what The Elder Scrolls Online should have been. That might seem like an odd comparison to make, but hear me out.

In my mind, the fundamental flaw of ESO was what was supposed to be its strength, and the strength of many other massively multiplayer games: There are tons of people for you to play with, quest with, and generally kill stuff with. But ESO is based on the Elder Scrolls single-player games, where you’re a lone hero and everything depends on you. If there’s a monster to be killed, you have to kill it. Alone, or maybe with the help of a henchman.

In ESO, however, everything is multiplied by about a million. Go to a cave full of beasties and there’s already a dozen people running around killing everything. Hope you can tag the end boss! A Dark Anchor spawns? Everybody run to that spot and spam your skills in a mad frenzy to try and kill everything!

It’s been my thought for a while that MMOs have overemphasized the first “M” a bit too much in recent years, that they still think it’s 1999 and we’re all just going gaga over the fact that we can play a game online and with hundreds of other people! I’ve played plenty of “open world dynamic event”-type games, from Rift to Guild Wars 2, and there’s a limit as to how massive those games can be before they just devolve into a giant zergfest with 50 or more other players where it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re somewhere around the enemies and spamming your buttons – provided your computer can handle rendering all those special effects. I’m not an “all you other players, get off my lawn, I want to solo my MMO,” kind of guy, but I think it comes down to a basic question: MMO games can involve a hundred players doing something at a time – but should they?

Which brings me back to Defiance. I don’t know if it’s because of how spread out the area is or how its server architecture works – or, cynically, maybe the servers are just that low in population – but, in my opinion, it’s got the perfect amount of “massive” to go with my “multiplayer online.” When I’m sent out on a mission, I’ll often encounter one or two other players in the same area to help me, and that’s just the right amount for fending off a few waves of mutant enemies. Even the big dynamic events are reasonably populated, with around 10-20 players fighting off swarms of hellbugs and other nasties. The fact that we use guns and aren’t shooting fireballs or cosmic rays or whatever probably also helps make the battlefield feel less cluttered. And no matter what, you still have to aim your guns, so there’s no tab-locking onto a target and pressing auto-attack to win.

I only sampled the PvP just because I was having so much fun doing the open-world content and missions. I played briefly in the Defiance beta, and I can recall the map seeming relatively empty of points of interest. The game was probably rushed to make its deadline last year, to coincide with the debut of the show. A extra year has been good for development, to the point that I almost feel overwhelmed by the number of icons on my map telling me where to go. Do I continue with the main mission? Do a side quest? Time trial? Arkfall? An icursion? What’s that?

It’s not Elder Scrolls Online, but given its post-apocalyptic gunplay feel, it feels to me like an MMO based on another Bethesda product. If there was a Fallout Online, I’d want it to be rather like Defiance. You can just cruise around the map and find stuff to do without even trying, and that, to me, is the essence of an open-world game.

Is Defiance perfect? No. Enemy AI is fair to middling, but the game throws enough of them at you that you at least won’t feel like it’s a cakewalk. There could also stand to be better tutorials and a more robust new player experience. I’ve enjoyed my 10 hours or so in the game, but it’s possible that I’ll get bored with it or it’ll feel repetitive later on after clearing out a camp of mutant soldiers for the umpteenth time.

For now, at least, I’m enjoying myself. And since it’s free-to-play, it’s not costing me anything to have that fun. If you want an open-world, dynamic-event game without the headaches of overpopulation, give it a shot.

By Jason Winter

39 Readers Commented

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  1. no1curr on June 18, 2014

    /10char

  2. Golgo28 on June 16, 2014

    have fun playing the whole 8 hours of content cause that’s all the game has.Sure you can get an extra 5 hours if you pay 50 bucks for all the dlcs.I made the mistake of supporting this game when it was back in alpha/beta.Even payed 150 for the ultimate edition.the only reason it took a week to best at launch was cause the servers were so bad,you couldn’t stay logged in for more then an hour.Not to mention the so called episodic content was mostly just go fetch an auto log.Then in an attempt to draw players in they nerfed everything.Now you can drive all the way to San Francisco as soon as you start the game.This game has nothing in common with eso,hell it’s not even on par with a crappy asian f2 mmo.the new players will play for a week then the game will be dead again,except for a handful of trion fanboys.Seriously the game isn’t even good enough to be in the category of,”I’d play it if it was free.”

  3. Merkadis on June 16, 2014

    Ah yes, comparing it to fallout was a bit of a hype on your part, Jason.
    But nevertheless.. it’s good.

  4. Uteli on June 16, 2014

    So, the game looks promising huh? Has a bright future for sure? ^^ Alot people playing?

    • Merkadis on June 16, 2014

      Nothing is sure, not even whether you will live another day or die tomorrow. So.. hell if i know.
      But it does look promising… if they make right moves with this game they may just make something quite awesome out of it.

  5. Merkadis on June 16, 2014

    Theres also some smaller inconveniences like limited to 2 weapon loadout slots, and inventory slots.
    I haven’t figured yet whether all mentioned above can be unlocked for free in some way or not.. so far doesn’t look it, but i’ll continue looking, who knows.

    • Merkadis on June 16, 2014

      Edit: theres about 34 inventory slots btw, so far i manage fine but the loadouts limitation is rather annoying i have to go to inventory to switch if i need different weapon.

  6. Merkadis on June 16, 2014

    Played it, got 500+ rank atm not bad BUT.
    It’s p2w atm.. why? heres why:
    DLC’s. They lock some skills, some weapons, some content, and tier 4 gear chests.
    Thats quite a lot of limitations, trion need to remove this bullshit and make it truly free.

  7. playeronesvk on June 16, 2014

    played on closed beta and was bullshit rendering distance max 20meters around y its not fun game…

  8. HellcatM on June 15, 2014

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. The thing I like about the game is it does instancing and grouping right. You go into a quest area and you might see a few people there doing the quest with you, not separately or having someone asking you to group.

    The auto group in quest system is awesome and the thing I loved in the beta and I love now. I’m playing with a friend and we go around doing quests together, but when we hit some quests we see people in there with us and at that point their in our group. When the quest is done we go our own way and the group is disbanded. Its the way MMO’s should be. Its funny, I was doing one of the quests where you’re shooting hordes of monsters. I saw my friend in the distance and he couldn’t see me and that’s how the questing system works. When you go in, if the quest can handle 4 people you only see 4 people and any more people get their own instance. Also yes you’ll get a bunch of baddies but there is an end. Most MMO’s they just keep spawning while you’re in the area, Defiance you there is an end to the spawning and you’re done with the quest.

    I really hope more MMO’s pick this up. I know Defiance has taken its blows and its not perfect but so far its the most fun MMO I’ve played. I really get bored of having to beat people and get the first…or last hit of the monster I have to kill to get credit and if I don’t I have to wait till it respawns to try again. Its never ending and Defiance does get that right.

    The one thing I wish they would have fixed in from the beta is when you finish a mission you get that big screen that tells you your stats. Sometimes there are baddies still there so if you don’t exit the screen quick enough you will get killed. It should be you get a notice and you can click a key when you’re in a safe zone to get that message. Or it could be part of when you hit control to get more options.

    Also I find the trade system a little more difficult than it should be. To many button presses to trade and to many to accept trade.

    There are a few more but they’re minor compared to the issues I have with other MMO’s.

  9. s1m007 on June 15, 2014

    This game was dead and now as free to play it is atleast alive. Defiance have a lot of problems someone mentioned the bad matchmaking, the repetetive quests and the unbalanced PvP. The DLCs are so badly thrown at the players. When you hear that the game has so much dlcs you expect a lot of content and that’s not what you get. New Dlc for defiance means 2-5 new weapons and maybe a new buggy color (and you compare it to Borderlands) .In the last months the playerbase was so hideous that from all the PvP mods only 1 was playable because of the small plauerbase. The last DLC uses one of the buildings of the last story mission as something that’s suppose to be NEW. After I reached 1300 rank I know everything about this game and I still like it. I just hoped Trion did better.

    • Brochim on June 15, 2014

      I wouldn’t say it was dead Pre-F2P. The server population has definitely skyrocketed since the switch over. But even B2P I’d still seen more people in one area then I often do on Anarchy Online

  10. TwoDigitScout on June 15, 2014

    Brilliant post, well said!

  11. GMAlonzo on June 15, 2014

    Great game indeed

  12. Pieareround on June 15, 2014

    I actually bought this game for five bucks during last year’s Steam Holiday Sale. I played about 30 hours, at which point I found that I’d gotten bored with both the story and the myriad side missions and dynamic events. PvP never held my attention. Here are a couple of my thoughts:

    1. I don’t regret purchasing it. At $5 for 30 hours of gameplay, I absolutely got my money’s worth.

    2. As yet, I don’t plan on going back – the patch size alone was enough to disincentivize me.

    3. If I do go back, at least I have some rewards waiting for me, being that I bought it. Plus, those rewards are not cut down at all even though I got the game at a discount price.

    4. When it comes to sci-fi themed, PvE centric, dynamic open world shooters, I still prefer FireFall. And being that it’s (finally) launching “soon,” I expect to have a lot more content to get into in the near future.

  13. Rawasa on June 15, 2014

    This game uses a score system, every monster shot you get points, every monster killed you get points. So there is no such thing as afk-ing in major events, higher score= higher exp,money/other currency and higher rarity of weapons(minimum score= green weps, good score= blue,great score=purple or orange). also the game has great optimization i have had times where there is over 100 players in an arkfall and no lag whatsoever from explosions or gunfire and 100 players can be in an arkfall and it can still take some time to finish(atleast 15 minutes). source: bought it played it. I welcome F2P because the raids are a “little” easier now because of more players.

    • Bruchim on June 15, 2014

      The optimization is amassing I run a crappy ati radion 4500 (balls old) and the game runs fine. If I’m in a 70 person Incursion with gawd knows how many mobs. the client stops rendering the other players, I can see somebody already gripeing about that, But It definitely makes it alot easier for me to see what i’m doing without all those extra body’s and explosions going on

  14. Adrian87 on June 15, 2014

    Didn’t liked my experience with Defiance in closed beta. But after seeing Michael’s first look, Jason streaming it and both of you seemed to be enjoying the game, i installed it to. Haven’t got into it yet (even thought that was a week ago, Factorio and State of Decay are ruining my free time), but i will definitely give it another run to. Seems to have improved a lot since i played.

  15. Merkadis on June 14, 2014

    To compare it to Fallout p_p are you serious? i suppose after hearing that i have to check it out myself.

  16. -_- on June 14, 2014

    Love how nobody is mentioning the Pay Wall for weapons you get as drops but can’t use because lol DLC.

    • 70calories on June 14, 2014

      the DLC weapons don’t really matter much since it’s mostly a cosmetic change I’ve found guns that’s not DLC better then the ones that are it’s mostly how lucky you are with the states when they drop

    • Brochim on June 15, 2014

      The DLC weapons are nice. Mostly there revamps of of standard weapons and there definitely not needed to complete the game or do well in events. I regularly use my canker in incursions and AR2 Bonfire in PVP. Main different to scores in group events right now seem to bee the exp and score oosts. but they have no impact on how much damage you take or receive,

  17. LOL on June 14, 2014

    This game is trash. Whoever said graphics are good is a fool. Graphics are major dated, gameplay its jerky and not responsive. Camera is horrible. There is no rank matching so you will get raped in pvp. Game is old and garbage. When P2P goes to F2P it is because game is dying and is crap. Don’t listen to tweenagers children.

    • SgtSlay on June 14, 2014

      I understand what you mean, but you messed up on one thing. It was B2P not P2P.

      • LOL on June 15, 2014

        Indeed you’re correct.

  18. Marlblanke on June 14, 2014

    “and there’s a limit as to how massive those games can be before they just devolve into a giant zergfest with 50 or more other players where it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re somewhere around the enemies and spamming your buttons – provided your computer can handle rendering all those special effects.”

    Funny. This is exactly my experience with Major Arkfalls and Sieges. So many people that I can just equip a grenade launcher, fire at random and cash in on the xp and items at the end of the event.

  19. DC on June 14, 2014

    I’ve been playing since the F2P launch and i had tons of fun. I’ve ended the story missions and you can still have tons of things to do. You can also repeat the story quests, take better weapons, make co-op instances, Arkfall, etc… I found my kind of MMO 🙂

  20. Ruy on June 14, 2014

    i was excited to play when it turned F2P i even start watching the series at the same time. So far love it. The problem after a good hours of game play it gets a little boring because you repeat over and over some “events” and the quests go in the same direction… still a great game but i think it isn’t super addictive.

  21. uguran on June 14, 2014

    its good game with borderland

  22. jeremy on June 14, 2014

    I have been playing this since it went Free to Play and it is a lot of fun its like borderlands with better graphics and more people and that is in no way a bad thing 😉

    • Pedobear on June 14, 2014

      Mounted son

      • Hope on June 14, 2014

        I pray every night that Pedobear & Mounted die slowly of cancer, a sad children with nothing to do but troll a website noone really goes on =(. Sadness.

    • Player 1 on June 14, 2014

      “its like borderlands with better graphics” ure clearly a very young person that thinks graphics are everything in a game which ure totally wrong here kid, every game has it’s own unique features despite the graphics, but yes Defiance is a really fun game specially when you fight the Volge along with 50 persons.

      • bloodybadger on June 14, 2014

        He just mentioned graphics, no need to overreact

      • Tenaka on June 14, 2014

        You genuinely made me laugh “kid”, mainly because of your approach whilst spelling you’re like a 12 yr old.

        The game is *exactly* like Borderlands with better graphics. Age has nothing to do with this factual statement.

        • Pieareround on June 15, 2014

          I would argue that Defiance’s graphics are different from Borderlands, but not necessarily better. Borderlands has that cel shaded art style that looks good despite being fairly easy to render. Graphically, BL comes off as a heavily stylized triple-A title, while Defiance most certainly does not.

    • Kimwer on June 15, 2014

      Actually, Borderlands has better graphics. They’re just cell shaded. The graphics in Defiance are really bland, but enough to pass.

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