Terminator Dark Fate – Defiance (PC)

Terminator games have been a mixed bag for a very long time, from the lows of Terminator 2 on the NES, and Terminator 3 on the sixth generation of consoles, all the way to 2019’s excellent cult shooter Terminator Resistance, we tend to see the franchise on the lower end of the spectrum. With something a little different we’re taking a look at Terminator Dark Fate – Defiance, a brand new RTS from the guys at Slitherine. Where does the post apocalyptic strategy fare on the Terminator games echelon? Let’s have a look.

Defiance, is set just after the attacks in Terminator 2 Judgement day, civilisation is coming to a stand still as the Legion starts its first major attack on the US. You play as the Founders, a resistance force, and the group that ends up leading to John Connor and the main resistance against Skynet in the future. This is the first time we see the fight as it’s first starting up, so none of the main cast appear, there’s no Sarah or John Connor to speak of, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think as fans of the franchise we get very attached to our beloved characters and this does well to keep us away from them.

Gameplay is a nice spin on the usual RTS of being set up with an amount of troops/vehicles per level, then being fed more as you progress, whilst you are given the spoon fed units to start, at the end of the level you’re able to keep whatever units, weapons, vehicles you do find and they’re convoyed with your squad until you lose them, units can be found but these are usually very underpowered, or through story choices you can be aligned with new people along your travels, these can be found in sub missions in levels, or through conversations in the bigger menu we’ll get to soon enough.

Once you finish your level you’re given a bigger overview map which will detail locations to be going to, and other things you can crack on with, like resupplying your army, or refuelling these vehicles you’ve got in your convoy. You’re able to link up with other people on the same journey of trying to survive and it’s up to you whether you befriend and increase your load or keep on moving with what you have. This adds a level of complexity to your overall adventure, with making some hard choices along the way. It’s a nice spin on the usual formula, though you’ll find resource management becomes a bugger however, and you’ll end up leaving people behind because of the amount of resources you need is a lot more than you can actually obtain.

Going back to the actual in game missions, the gameplay is fairly typical of a modern RTS, Defiance offers large maps, with your trip through the US offering some pretty differing locales, you can be fighting through desert landscapes, desolate cities or even across mountainous climates, these all look the part, however with it being post apocalyptic these are very dull to look at, but the scenery around the levels gives some much needed variety. You’re in control of smaller squads through a decent enough HUD, or if you’re like myself, you can just highlight everything and get everyone moving together. Tactically this doesnt always work, and often you’ll find yourself controlling your individual squads to get your most advantageous units working in your favour, you’re able to offer each squad commands too, so whether you want them prone, or ready to ambush there’s a decent amount of options at your disposal.

My main gripe with the combat of Defiance, is everything seems a bit slow, there’s no offerings to help speed things up either, so slow units will always be very slow getting to your selected points, this can feel extremely laborious, especially on the larger maps. Even worse is that sometimes your objectives can be a small bit of dialogue to catch a conversation with someone, this of course can be on the opposite side of the map you’ve just come from. It seems drawn out for the sake of being drawn out and doesn’t flow very well.

Combat can also be a longer affair, especially if you’re using the games building cover system, fire fights can go on for what feels like an age. At one point I was trying to fight a group of exoskeletons in a building opposite, where both myself and the CPU were in opposite buildings, we fought for a stalemate for around 5 minutes, no-one hit either targets in this time either.

The game does feel on the more challenging side, but you’d expect being up against an army of killer droids this would be the case, you do end up with an entire army at your disposal for a good while if you’re able to keep your squads alive and there’s always someone ready to recruit for the good fight. Some of these can be upgraded too, and you’re also able to obtain weapons from the battlefield and add them into your arsenal, so giving your best squad more firepower is an option.

There’s also a multiplayer suite here though at time of review there were only 2 games available worldwide. There’s also some skirmish missions available, mostly domination based, with some assault too. Domination’s more like your classic king of the hill, fighting over trigger points on the map and hold them for as long as possible. Assault is more of an attack or defend mode, and both of these modes enable you to play as all 3 factions from the game, playing as the Legion felt most fun, having that power fantasy of commanding a squad of terminator units, from soldier to drones was a nice change, and a campaign based on that would have been an excellent addition.

Frankly Defiance isn’t truly bad, however it’s let down by some baffling difficulty spikes, a lack of a speed modifier and a lack of a terminator campaign. It does feel like Slitherine are treading water somewhat with this being a bit lacklustre but overall just ok, if you fancied a difficult RTS this might scratch an itch for a good few hours, however Slitherine have published better with 2022’s Starship Troopers Terran Command.



Brutal, challenging, but very safe.

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