Arkfalls are where most of your co-op time will probably be spent, as they're easily the most impressive event type Defiance likes to toss around. Taking place in the open world, any number of players can band together and complete an Arkfall to earn experience, currency and keycodes, which help you purchase lockboxes, something that'd otherwise require you to pay a microtransaction. Save your hard-earned dollars.
Minor Arkfalls require players to simply destroy an Ark crystal while fending off waves of Hellbugs/Scrappers, and tend to be over in a matter of minutes. Major Arkfalls are a combination of a series of Minor Arkfalls ending in a huge boss fight. The boss fights usually have a trick to them, such as taking out a number of enemies to lure the main baddie out into the open, and take quite a long time to complete. Arkfalls scale with the number of players who show up, and each time I engaged in a Major one, there were at least a hundred players working together by my estimate.
No MMO would be complete without some sort of instanced dungeon, and Defiance is no different. As of right now, there are seven "Co-Op Missions" which players may queue for. In the Co-Op Missions, up to four players team up to take on various objectives in a private instance. Usually, these will follow a similar pattern to the Main Story missions - you'll get some quick setup, such as rescuing some captives, then kill your way to a series of simple objectives, culminating in a boss fight.
The boss fights are fairly simple, but do require players to watch each others' backs and focus fire when applicable. If you're looking for highly tactical fights, or at least tricky mechanics to overcome, you'll probably come away disappointed. As is, the Co-Op Missions are a nice change of pace, and the queue times are quite short, if you feel like spending as much time doing them as possible.
Personally, I didn't find much to the co-op beyond adding more players. With the exception of the BMG weapons which let you heal other players, there's next to no interaction beyond reviving a downed player or necessary synergy between players' special abilities. To me, a game that bills itself as an MMO should at least offer a compelling reason to not Lone Wolf everything, and Defiance simply doesn't. There's nothing *wrong* with the co-op implementation, but I feel like the class-less system really hurts it. I know that the standard "holy trinity" of roles in an MMO has received a lot of flak, but it forces a good deal of teamplay. Perhaps that'd be harder to translate into a shooter.
The 360 Experience
For the most part, my experiences were similar to Mike's. The 360 version suffers from a few technical issues. The menus are a little cumbersome, and at times it's a guessing game when you're trying to figure out weapons stats, pursuits, and contracts. It's not too bad, but it's not newbie friendly. The game does suffer from some pop-in and slow down. When a hundred players are all in the same Arkfall the gameplay still holds up, most of the time.
I particularly liked the fact that it's easy to switch between loadouts on the console version. I could change between my Cloaked sniper to my Overcharged shotgun stud, then to a Decoy-using support character with the press of a few buttons. The weapon variety improves as you advance in the game, and high-level mods can greatly impact weapon performance.
I think there is room for nuanced play and class synergy. If you really want to get the most out of Defiance, you'll want to group with three other players. You can go on missions and co-op instances together, and it's easy to designate roles, or even change roles on the fly. Several perks are focused on reviving allies and there are weapons that can root enemies and lower shields. But like Mike said, most people are simply using Overcharge and blasting away while a few players use their healing BMG guns. Defiance is a good attempt at a shooter/MMO hybrid, but it feels mostly like a shooter, and a decent one at that.
The TV Show
Defiance the TV show recently aired and it's actually decent. The story centers around St. Louis which is now called the town of Defiance and an ex-soldier turned "law man" and features some pretty high production values for a cable TV show. It's easy to get a Firefly meets Battlestar Galactica type vibe from Defiance, though as of now, it falls short of their quality. It'll be interesting to see how things in the show tie together with the MMO.
The framework for a solid MMO is here, but it feels like the game's content was rushed out to meet the launch of the TV show. To fix the content issue, Trion's got a combination of free and paid content updates, as well as quests that tie into episodes of the show. $40 gets you the season pass which promises five downloadable content packs in the near future. If updates to the game help increase player synergy and keep a steady stream of content coming, it'll be easier for me to recommend. As is, I'd probably wait and see what happens.
As Defiance is an MMO, the state of the game will constantly shift. This review was written based on two weeks of experience with the game post-launch, and playtime after the first major patch. Trion Worlds provided us with a PC code and a copy of the 360 version.
The Co-Op Experience: Defiance is an MMO, so you can meet and interact with a massive amount of other people. Dozens of players can participate in Arkfall events, but story mission groups and co-op instances are limited to four players.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.