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December 2018

Defiance 2050

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Trion Worlds
Release Date: July 10, 2018


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Defiance 2050'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 2, 2018 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Defiance 2050 is a completely from-the-ground-up recreation of Defiance that overhauls the story and gameplay of the original, reimagining the San Francisco-based sci-fi shooter experience for current gaming hardware.

Released near the end of the PS3's life cycle, Defiance was an MMO shooter designed to tie in to a Syfy TV show with the same name. The TV show has since gone the way of the dodo, but the game keeps plugging on. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have long since reached the end of their lifespan, and there isn't much life left for an MMO on those systems, either. Perhaps that is the reason behind Defiance 2050, which brings the shooter to the next-gen consoles and updates the PC version.

From the beta, it's worth noting that Defiance 2050 isn't quite a full sequel but seems more akin to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a relaunch of an existing MMO with new progression and design systems that upgrade and modernize the existing framework. This is certainly more of an upgrade than a straight sequel, and fans of the original will see a lot of familiar components.

In Defiance, you're a hired gun — an Ark Hunter — who ventures into dangerous mutant-filled lands looking for rare tech that holds the hope for humanity. Since this is a video game, the rare tech tends to come in the form of dangerous weaponry that can be used to kill the even more dangerous enemies roaming the land. There's a plot here, but in our preview build, it clearly took a backseat to the ever-present and all-important goal of looting and killing everything in our path.

The basic gunplay is going to feel familiar to anyone who has touched a shooter in the past decade. There are basic run-and-gun abilities, a cooldown-based grenade system, and a series of special powers for your chosen class. The class system is one of the upgrades to Defiance 2050 over the original Defiance. It streamlines the gameplay to make it more accessible. The classes all look straightforward, with names like Assassin, Assault, Combat Medic and Guardian, all of which as expected.

In the beta, we tried out the Assault class, which seems the most straightforward and focuses on overwhelming the enemy with firepower. Its signature ability in the early game is Blur, which gives the player a significant speed boost and a nifty afterimage effect. It's easy to see that Assault's biggest advantage is in being an all-round, combat-capable character. It doesn't excel in any one area in the early game but has no real weaknesses, either.

Defiance 2050 feels familiar, but that isn't a criticism so much as an observation. There are four classes, a basic mission structure, and a focus on completing missions to get better loot in order to complete harder missions and get even better loot. While the leveling system has been revamped, the basic structure also feels similar to the original Defiance in a lot of ways. If you haven't played before, this seems like an ideal way to get in on the ground floor of the game. Existing Defiance players can complete missions to unlock content in 2050 once it goes live.

There's some awkwardness in the beta that I can only hope will be cleared up before the final release. The most noticeable is that movement doesn't feel very good. I'm not sure if it's a legacy of being designed around the PC, but the running and aiming feels awkward. Movement has a weird animation that made me constantly wonder if the game was glitching or if I was doing something wrong. Moving and aiming at the same time felt very stiff, making me think that a mouse and keyboard was the intended way to play. Obviously, this is just a beta, and there's a lot of room for that to be cleaned up before the final release, but it really stood out to me.

Another area for improvement is that the guns didn't have the expected oomph. I'm not sure if this was because I was in the early game and didn't get to see the full power progression, but it never felt like my bullets struck home, even when they did. Enemies felt too durable, especially if I was going it alone. That might be to emphasize teamwork and cooperation, but it was tedious to fight mobs by myself.

All in all, Defiance 2050 seems like an attempt to revitalize and reinvigorate an aging game. Its success will be up for debate, but there seems to be a lot of modernization built into the changes. It has a lot of the same core gameplay, and it will take more than a short beta to get a feel for how much the game has changed. We'll have to see if Defiance 2050 can defy the odds and bring new life to the game when it leaves beta later this year.

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