Defiance 2050: A Review of Trion’s Updated, Free Co-op Shooter
Defiance 2050 is an update to Trion World’s free-to-play futuristic shooter Defiance (2013), which you also may recognize as the name of a now-cancelled Syfy show produced in conjunction with the first game. The update includes a variety of updates and additions, from textures and mechanics to a new class-leveling system. Players can now choose between an Assassin, Guardian, Combat Medic or Assault archetype, each starting from the same basic role as an Ark Hunter employed by scientist/entrepreneur Karl Von Bach, beginning their story as a survivor of a sky ship crash landing into the game’s setting: a post-alien-terraformed San Francisco.
Familiar Setting; Changed Landscape:
The game takes place on a post-war Earth where Votan (a collection of loosely allied alien races) refugees and human survivors try to work together for the common good. Years prior, the destruction of an orbiting alien fleet resulted in a great and accidental “Arkfall” event where ships and technology rained down on the planet, including alien terraforming technology that has changed both the terrain and the wildlife -- mostly for the worse. As stated above, players roam about an open-world future San Francisco Bay Area, which has clearly seen better days. As a human or Votan race, you explore new locations and battle aliens, mutated humans, and other hybrid creatures, virtually all of them hostile.
A Sprawling Shoot-Em-Up:
Right from the start, Defiance 2050 is a game that manages to be simple and mildly chaotic at the same time. After completing the brief, somewhat-informative tutorial, you begin a slow, sometimes story-driven grind across the countryside alongside your fellow players, moving from mission to mission while mowing down mutants. These enemies pose virtually no threat in small numbers, but will spawn seemingly at random with no defined end or source. Guiding you during this time are some regular NPC buddies and your EGO, an artificial intelligence implant designed by Von Bach, your benefactor.
It’s a peaceful, uncomplicated experience, despite the dramatic setting, and it can be fun to swoop in and help your fellow gamer; occasionally, a combat summary will pop up to declare the most effective player in a given encounter.
Weapon and equipment upgrades can be bought, built, or found at random in the scattered, broken-down structures and rolling, terraformed hills. Class-based leveling upgrades improve your skills in mostly passive ways, making your hits harder or your move speed faster. At early levels, these progression path decisions can be ignored in favor of pure firepower and decent
aim, given you can compensate for AI that mostly just runs at you and occasionally glitches from one place to another.
During the course of this slow scramble, it’s easy to feel lost and aimless -- particularly with the bleak terrain and familiar swarms of enemies plodding angrily toward you. Health recharges quickly, and falls do seemingly no damage, making any part of traveling a question of purpose and interest, rather than danger or a clear direction. Death, when it does happen, always feels very sudden, and you respawn with a vague memory of how to get to where you were before.
The strength of the gameplay is in its familiarity to other shooters; there’s nothing overly complicated to learn here. If you want to run around shooting, lob a grenade here or there and watching red health bars go down, Defiance 2050 will do that for you.
The most engaging advertised aspect of the game is that the previously mentioned Arkfalls still occur, easily identified by the red symbols on the map, guiding you to mini-events with promises of greater challenge and greater loot. The enemies are a bit more challenging, and it is much more fun to work with other players to take them down than it is to live a solitary life killing mutant rifleman.
It’s worth noting that the story, should you choose to follow it, is fairly well-scripted and straightforward. Characters are well-defined, if not particularly deep, and anyone who likes a good sci-fi setting will feel right at home among the player and non-player inhabitants of Defiance 2050.
The Final Score:
Players who are looking to try something new that is free and easy to jump into will benefit from Defiance 2050’s simple quest structure and combat mechanics. The game was clearly made with a lot of love for the lore and setting, and pay-to-win game features advertisements are nearly absent from the pace of play. If you’re not otherwise absorbed in another sci-fi shooter genre, this one is worth a few hours of roaming to see if it scratches that itch.