Defiance was an odd little thing. A solid enough Borderlands-esque MMO loot n’ shooter, tied in to a mostly-okay TV series. It came, it saw, it faded from the public eye and joined the ranks of a thousand other forgotten MMOs; still active but seldom talked about, supported by a skeleton crew of developers.
While Trion Worlds have done well to support Defiance over the years (including a respectably generous transition to a free-to-play model and a hefty expansion to its map later on) it’s always been held back by its engine, designed around the restrictions of PS3 hardware. Now, the game is getting a current-gen revamped re-release under the banner of Defiance 2050, and is accepting beta applications now.
Set for release this summer (no fixed date), Defiance 2050 promises a pretty major technological overhaul, running on a reworked engine targeting the Xbox One as its new lowest common denominator. While it sounds like they’ll be retaining most of the content from the original release, the new version is officially set four years after the original game, which has perpetually languished in the ever-lasting year of 2046, frozen in time as the TV show got axed after its third season.
When I think back to playing Defiance, three things spring to mind. First is the fact that it was a surprisingly challenging game. Rolling solo, enemies put up a respectable fight and careless play even for a couple seconds could get you flattened. Later enemy factions with their energy shields and dropship-deployed reinforcements put up a seriously stern Halo-esque challenge even for groups, and missions scaled up to match the number of players involved. It was nice to play an MMO which treated players with respect.
Secondly, I remember the weapons. As much as I’ve enjoyed the likes of Destiny 2, most of the weapons there fell into a handful of very rigid categories with only minor stat differences between them, with only legendary/unique gear feeling halfway distinct. Defiance had some seriously weird and varied weapons right off the bat, with guns that shoot toxic gluey goo balls, grenades that spawn parasitic monsters, laser shotguns that fire an almost horizontal flat spread ala Contra’s spread-gun, wild energy pistols that would unload their entire magazine in a second flat and so many different kinds of explosives.
Third is the Arkfall events, which the game marketed itself on. While I feel that they were a little overrated in terms of gameplay mechanics, they were still spectacular to behold. Players around a zone all find themselves gravitating towards these massive dynamic rolling battles against waves of monsters, culminating in a massive slugfest fight against a big boss critter, lousy with glowing weak points. Engine limitations meant that you could only see half the players involved, but seeing 20+ people unloading on a single building-sized beastie with a dozen variants of rocket launchers was a sight to behold, low-fi as it was.
Hopefully, the new iteration of the game will forever banish the visual and network limitations of the game, and allow them to run events featuring larger swarms of enemies to match the player counts. I’d love to see some fights against proper armies of critters, rather than ten or so continually propped up by spawning reinforcements. So far, there’s no word on whether first-gen Defiance owners will be able to transfer their characters and account over to the new version, or whether first-gen adopters (before it went free-to-play) will receive any perks, but I’m glad to see this one getting a second chance.