Built from the shattered remains of Defiance, Trion World's 2013 sci-fi shooter that was linked to the Scyfy TV show of the same name, Defiance 2050 is a reimagining of the original that has been built from the ground up and features a boatload of new content. The MMO first launched on the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2013 and although it was able to attract a cult following, in part due to the TV link, it faded into obscurity for many. Rather than a simple port to new hardware, the developers have given 2050 the remaster treatment and have strived to create the best version of the title to date.
Defiance's open world is rife with main and side quests you can undertake, so you'll never be stuck for things to do - the issue is that many of these activities feel tedious and repetitive. Most distractions boil down to nothing more than shooting through waves of the same enemies and completing some random objective thrown in for good measure, like switch off the generators or defend a specific NPC. Some of the tension drains out of the experience, however, as there doesn't feel like there's much of a punishment for failure, as you can revive yourself a handful of times and death just sends you back to the last checkpoint. For these reasons it was hard to push past playing Defiance 2050 for more than a couple of missions at a time and while there is great longevity thanks to the amount of content that's available, it's likely you'll lose patience before seeing every there is to see.
Shooting here will feel instinctive for anyone who has played a third-person shooter (think Gears of War with the absence of a robust cover system). There's the option here to have two individual loadouts, and randomised loot is dropped from enemies that corresponds to your current level. The main issue with the combat, however, comes down to the AI. Many enemies will stare cluelessly in the opposite direction and will only flinch after you've sunk a magazine into their head. The AI also seems to have difficulty fighting against larger groups, as foes will stumble back and forth confusedly trying to guess who they are supposed to attack. It does feel fun when playing with a team of your friends though and Defiance's thriving community means you'll likely never be alone.
The post-apocalyptic alien world feels alive as it's filled with players engaging in firefights and searching for sweet new loot. Once again we were reminded of Destiny when exploring the map as there are always players present and, due to the abundance of quests, there's always something to keep you busy. The open sandbox has quite a unique feel to it with shattered bridges, remnants of alien technology and giant sprouting mushrooms that would feel right at home in Morrowind. It may lack the allure of the single-player sandboxes you find in the likes of Fallout 4, for example, but it does have its own character and things out in the world will catch your eye every now and then. Another thing we loved about the open world was that traversal is made simple and pushing up on the D-pad spawns a ride before you.
Whilst it has been said that game has been built from the ground up, Defiance 2050 comes with outdated visuals, ugly character animations, and low-res textures. The draw distance is also awfully short here and several times we experienced other players just popping into the game whilst we were driving, causing us to crash. Technical issues are also rife with map markers at times not spawning and once we even fell through the floor and plummeted into the abyss. The sound also isn't a strong point as the voice acting often feels wooden and the same repetitive electronic loop often booms behind combat. Visuals are of course not everything but after going from other similar loot-based shooters like The Division and Destiny 2 and moving to Defiance 2050, it does feel a little jarring.
Despite going through a closed beta period a week prior to launch, Defiance 2050 suffers from more than its fair share of network issues. At times we were kicked from our game and pulled back to main menu and the AI in the world would lag behind at a rate where it was pretty much unplayable. This is especially troublesome because it's a title that can only be played online and we wish Trion World's would have implemented some form of offline mode. These issues we imagine will be addressed as Defiance 2050 spends more time in the wild but for many who tried the game during the week of its launch the damage may have already been done.
Lastly, we can't talk about a free-to-play title without mentioning microtransactions. Luckily, here they don't feel forced down the throats of players and much of what can be purchased are cosmetic items and consumables (which can be found in-game). Fortunately, these don't disturb the balance between players and we're pleased that Trion World's didn't lock things like character classes and weapons behind a paywall. Despite its free-to-play tag Defiance 2050 feels like a complete package even without making additional purchases.
With titles like Warframe already dominating the free-to-play space and providing a much more polished and expansive experience, Defiance 2050 comes as a tough recommendation. Despite being a remaster its visuals feel outdated and the repetitive gameplay coupled with some glitches and connectivity problems make it an experience that may start to frustrate after a couple of hours. It does have an intriguing open world and a thriving community though, and as it's currently available as a free-to-play title it wouldn't hurt to take a punt if you feel inclined to do so.