Rating : 8/10
I’ll be completely honest: my heart sank when I was asked if I could write a review for Defect. Back in April, I was given the opportunity to preview the game, and I was blown away by just how complicated it could be whilst remaining easy to follow and fun to play; I want to stress that I really enjoyed my time with Defect, and that the difficulties I seem to be having in writing anything is down to just how good the game was all that time ago.
Defect is a game about endless cycles and the inevitability of failing friendships. Once a mission is finished, the crew will unanimously decide that they are better off controlling your abomination of a spacecraft better than you were, and will bugger off into the sunset leaving you stranded with a bruised ego and a need for a new vessel. The philosophical implications here are really quite interesting, and playing this game has taught me to stab my friends in the back and mutiny them before they can do the same to me; even more interesting, however, are the gameplay mechanics that the game introduces to the player through this cycle of betrayal. At the end of every mission, the old crew will show up and proceed to blast you to bits unless you and your shiny new spacecraft are better designed. I hope you installed some weak points, because if you find yourself face to face with your old indestructible missile-launching turtle, you probably won’t be making any more progress. Remembering the difficulties that you had in using that ship for a mission will likely save yourself a lot of bother when facing it in combat – perhaps you accidentally made the engines out of cardboard, and clipping them became the easiest way for your enemies to make scrap metal out of you.
One thing I particularly like about this game’s ship designer is the way that each individual part is treated as a separate piece of a larger whole; if your wings take too much damage, they will break and prevent the craft from steering, but if your engines are still in one piece, moving forward remains possible. This mechanic really shines through when considering weapons and armour, because they will function differently depending on whereabouts they are placed on the ship. Making the decision to have two laser guns on the tips of your wings might seem like a good idea at first, but it also means that aiming directly at an enemy will cause your ammunition to whiff harmlessly past them – and for God’s sake, put your mine dispensers at the back of your vessel and not the front. Likewise, armour may look a little nicer underneath your engines than haphazardly laid over the top of them, but it will also prevent it from functioning in the way that armour should. Once you take your ship into battle, you are also given the ability to take direct control of a component. Not going fast enough? Direct your focus to the engines and increase their thrust twofold. Weapons shooting exactly when you don’t want them to? Taking control will allow you to intelligently rain fire down upon your foes.
Apart from a few very minor tweaks, Defect seems to have remained relatively identical to how it was when I first played, and that’s why writing any further critique is so damn challenging. I’ve noticed that some of the missions have been reordered slightly, and the order in which ship parts are unlocked appears to have been jiggled around; other than that, though, it remains the same game that I played a few months back, and I’m okay with that. Building spaceships is really fun, and that’s coming from someone who prefers the comfort of dragon battles and Lovecraftian monster hunting to deep space exploration. I’d consider this to be one of those games that transcends genre not through intellectual writing or gorgeous visuals, but through its powerful entertainment value, and the satisfaction that comes from creation.
I enjoy Defect a lot and firmly believe that it’s a must have for anyone who likes seeing their work as a designer succeed at a task, or else tweaking it until it does. The game pairs entertaining, almost puzzle-like gameplay mechanics with a self-aware joke that was old the first time around, but that never truly elicits any feelings of boredom or malice. This Achilles Heel conundrum requires the player to truly think about what they are doing when designing a vessel, and causes some real internal conflict when choosing whether to make use of that extra plate of armour or not. In my eyes, Defect is a gem; but then, I knew that back in April, so if you didn’t take my advice then, the game’s official release should probably be that last push.
Defect is a thoroughly enjoyable game that hasn’t changed all that much since I last played it. Designing a ship knowing that you’ll need to kill it later introduces an interesting conundrum to an excellently executed spacecraft toolkit.
Owner of strange Dr Moreau-esque pets, writer of videogames.