Defiance Preview (PC)

It’s a strange experience – there I was, playing what is essentially a third-person person shooter, and yet under the hood you’ll find a lot of concepts that apply to MMO’s - dynamic content, instancing, server populations, PvP, PvE, groups... Defiance first appeared on the radar as a game that’s supposed to link up with a TV show going by the same name over on the SyFy channel next year, but it’s taken a while for anything concrete on the game to actually appear. Now that we’ve finally had some hands on time with the game though, we can present you with some musings.

It’s an interesting one. And we mean that more in a puzzling sense than in a “it’s good” sense, not to say that it’s not good, but it’s ultimate worth is very much To Be Decided. As mentioned above, it’s an open-world third-person shooter with a lot of MMO DNA. Each platform that it’s being released on (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 AND PC) will have its own mega-shard defined by area – although there’s going to be no cross-platform compatibility. That pretty much means everyone will exist in the same world, at the same time, although there are some tech-tricks the devs can use to avoid over-crowding and lag. The world of Defiance is set in an almost post-apocalyptic future, after Mankind has made contact with a collective of alien races known as the Voltans and after wars, terraforming, etc… have ravaged the planet. It’s the player’s task to…, ERM…. We don’t actually know. There’s a main story that carries you through the game and is supposed to tie in with the pilot of the show, along with side quests, the emergent content and of course cross-over events that link the two products together.

We’re going to need a bigger boat

It might be a little unfair to say that Defiance’s only purpose in life it to offer a trans-media experience – Trion have made certain that both products can stand on their own, but without that cross over, it’s just another sci-fi game. Nothing about the Defiance as a universe or IP really stands-out at the moment, but much like how DUST 514 is doing something different, Defiance is making a similar bold move. Hell, even if it doesn’t work it’ll be nice to see another Science Fiction show on TV. It’s been a while. Specific details on the nature of the cross-over events are a little thin on the ground –we have no examples, but speaking to the Executive Producer he ran through the general points. The TV show is going to start altering aspects of the game world from the moment it’s aired (and it’ll be aired around the globe at the same time), although any changes or effect with be justified on both sides. It’s worth bearing in mind that the game is set in the San Francisco area, and the TV show in St. Louis, so it’s not like you’ll see the TV characters running around at the same time they are on the Telly.

Trion would hesitate to call this a full ‘MMO’ though – it lacks the broad range of features ‘real’ MMO’s have, and even some of the similar gameplay features it does have lack a certain depth. There’s no real crafting system, for example, and the only real choice on the character creation screen is to choose your background, which in a sense defines your ‘class’, but Defiance uses a more Final Fantasy X-like skill tree system where anyone can unlock anything, they just start at different areas of the board depending on their initial choice. Whilst you do ‘level up’ in the game, progression is actually tied to earning EGO points, which you use to unlock new skills on the skill tree. Trion wants late-game players to be more versatile, as opposed to just ‘stronger’ due to arbitrary stat increases.

They see me rolling. Buggies are easily summoned to carry you around the map

It’s not that Defiance won’t have plenty to offer though – the main quest thread alone is supposed to take around 20-30 hours, and that’s not including all of the side quests dotted around the game’s five zones. There’s also dynamic PvE content in the form of Arkfall events, where insect-like creatures (which were the result of the Voltan collective accidentally releasing terraformers on the planet) invade a local area and everyone bands together to take them up. These scale depending on the amount of people there are, and can involve multi-part invasions that mean you have to travel to different parts of the map to combat the infestation. There are also massive boss bottles connected with these events as well. Then there’s the competitive multiplayer content in Shadow Wars, where players are literally divided into two sides – Red and Blue – and they fight over territory in the game world. The way these matches are played out can differ, as Trion has a number of different game modes available, as well as other maps as well.

As we said earlier, Defiance is an interesting project. It’s got some good ideas behind it, and the MMO-light package will be good for getting people engaged in the game world, hell, even the TV show might be good… but you never know with bold moves like this. Plus, the game doesn’t look great as far as visuals go. Vibrant colours and textures sure, but a lot of pixilation and low polygon counts. We're hoping it’s because this was still the alpha build and the graphics haven’t been optimised yet. A more action orientated focus will keep the players moving and keep them engaged from mission to mission, and provided the competitive side of things hold up then gamers shouldn’t want for anything. It’s all down to whether they can hook them in. Maybe they should try and borrow the Free-to-play concept as well. Defiance is due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in April 2013.

Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing the large scale PvP fights.