Unlike traditional MMO games, there are no classes in "Defiance." Instead, players choose to be either human or Irathient with one of four unique backgrounds and the ability to use any weapon. All of them, including assault rifles, grenade launchers and the Bio-Magnetic Gun, are highly upgradeable. While it's possible to specialize in all-out combat or stealth abilities, the upgrade system doesn't pigeonhole players into predetermined roles or styles of play.
One of the most influential choices available occurs early in the game when the first surrealistic EGO power is chosen. Blur lets players move faster, Overcharge increases the power of their ammunition, Cloak turns players invisible, and Decoy creates a hologram to confuse enemies. I like the ability to try them all out first, especially since branching upgrade paths mean that it will be a while until another EGO power can be chosen.
My favorite aspect of "Defiance" is how the developers have ... err ... defied the conventional "lock-on" style of MMO combat in favor of the traditional "aim and shoot" fighting found in most shooters. This means that skill is required to hit enemies with attacks rather than simply locking on and dancing around them as players tap countless ability buttons.
As a result, the only combat abilities at the player's disposal are shooting, dodging, tossing grenades, using EGO powers and ramming enemies with vehicles. In addition to speeding up combat and saving players from carpal tunnel syndrome, offering minimal abilities puts players on a level playing field. It also stresses the importance of successful shooter tactics like gaining increased damage from headshots.
Unfortunately, most quests revolve around the standard "shoot the bad guys," "escort this character" and "fetch this item" templates. On the other hand, the dynamic Arkfall events are much more engaging. In these visually stunning combat scenarios, players band together to fend off random hordes of enemies that fall to earth in a damaged spaceship section.
Player vs. Player (PvP) combat occurs in two different forms, the standard eight vs. eight deathmatch, and free-flowing capture-and-hold Shadow Wars for up to 100 players! While deathmatches are good for beginners, they can quickly grow old. However, the massive Shadow Wars offers ever-changing game play where players must take control over and defend certain areas of the map. Even unexpected Arkfall events can occur in this frantically fun PvP mode.
Not surprisingly, all is not perfect in the post-apocalyptic world of "Defiance." For starters, the visuals are rather bland, and the storyline is forgettable. In addition, players are forced to fight annoying bugs both in-game and also in the software. Lastly, I would appreciate more reasons to band together with other players than simply to fight bigger enemies.
Nevertheless, "Defiance" is a fun alternative to fantasy-themed MMOs that actually rewards skill more than perseverance.