Defect is a game best described (and reviewed) by exploring its main gameplay mechanic, which is where its brilliance lies. On the surface, Defect is just another 2D space shooter that supports free scrolling in all directions. As such, it doesn’t stand out from the crowd – its visuals are crisp with large spaceships projected against a ‘deep space’ background, but that’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
What makes Defect different is how you get to design your own ship, building it up from individual parts and thus creating a machine that’s ready for the next battle or mission. That may not sound like too big of a game-changer, but in Defect you’ll quickly discover what is so interesting about this. You see, after each mission, your ship’s crew decides to revolt against you and leave you stranded without your spaceship as they take off. The real twist comes later though, when you’ve built a new ship and see your old buddies return at the end of the next mission, ready to take you down. If you win… the same thing will happen with your new ship.
This creates a fascinating turn of events. You have to design a ship knowing it will turn on you before too long. That means creating weak spots that don’t stop you from completing a mission but allowing you to take down the ship when the time comes. To further add to the complexity, your next ship needs to be stronger, but will need its own weak spots too – since history will repeat itself.
It’s as brilliant as it is simple, and it’s a lot of fun to play. A lot of that fun comes from this very dynamic, since the actual shooting is a bit formulaic. You could see it’s there to support the game’s main mode, which is how to design and build your ships – and the two modes work together quite well.
You’d be smart to keep trying to find creative solutions though, because there’s a potential scenario in Defect that might ruin part of the fun. In theory, you can design ships according to a simple formula – where ship A has a weakness that ship B can exploit, and vice versa. That way, you keep designing pretty much the same ships, which takes a bit of the fun out of the game. The fact that not all components are available right away helps with this, but part of the solution is up to you – be creative, we’d say! It makes Defect a fun and different experience well worth exploring.