Time of Defiance Review (PC)

Time of Defiance (ToD) is a superbly crafted, online, real-time strategy game from developers Nicely Crafted Entertainment Limited (NiCE). Based in Cambridge, UK, the team has come up with a game that should appeal to anyone with a hankering to conquer a universe, but to do so against REAL opponents rather than an overhyped AI.

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The graphics are fully acceptable, requiring Directx 8 as a minimum (although a 32mb card as a minimum is advised to get the best out of them) and at no time did I experience any slowdown even with my old 56 Modem. The 3d view seems to have been mastered, with the camera being able to be set in various positions to give best advantage (although the ‘behind the ship’ one is just that – you see the back of the ship & not much else). Sound is adequate without being OTT – battles sound much like any other battles but it is nice to be able to hear any of your construction buildings at work.

The odd thing here is that you are not trying to conquer planets, but occupy fragments from the Nespanona home planet that broke up millions of years ago. These fragments (or islands) are kept aloft via anti gravity devices developed by the Nespanona in a last ditch attempt to save their planet, and all contain resources in varying amounts that will be required to construct the vessels required for further expansion. It seems a little strange at first that your ships are generally powered by coal, especially when you consider the technology involved, and it takes a while for the full scale of the game to be realised.

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There are three principle screens involved within the game; the initial summary screen, shown when you log on, the Empire View which shows just how much of the area you have discovered/conquered (and also how vast the area is) and the Planetary view showing you close-ups of islands & ships. Each screen also has drop downs and popups giving you access to vast amounts of information. A nice touch is the ability to query any object by simply hanging the pointer over it and hitting F1.

You play a Cog house (one of the only races left who understand how the Quantum Foam Gates (Transporters to you & me) operate), and start with an initial island & a few ships. Your home island comes complete with its own Quantum gate and initial colonisation. Using the islands buildings you can reinforce the islands defences and/or construct your initial fleet. At the start, it is best to concentrate on getting a stable economy going before building expensive, thirsty warships, and it is here that the fun really starts. The 6 resources available within the game are as follows: Metal – used in ship/building construction, Wood – ditto, Stone – used in building construction, Coal – fuel for all Cog ships, Water – a valuable commodity used mainly as a currency, Moss – another valuable currency, but also used by the Shadoo to fuel their vehicles.

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In order to establish viable markets the Eighth Cog house has been set up to enable trading between other Cog houses. This is accessible via any of the Quantum Gates and is the place to store all your excess water and moss. To gain access to the Eighth House, you need a Quantum Trader loaded with water and/or moss. The gates are powered by water/moss so you also need to ensure they are kept ‘topped up’ otherwise they will not function. Once arrived at the Eighth, you can quickly see your bank balance and also any other options available to you, from buying ships & coordinates, to Cog news and chat to other Eighth visitors. It soon becomes apparent that some ships are a better buy here than creating them yourselves, especially when looking at some of the Shadoo ships on offer that you cannot build until you have a Shadoo colonised island.

From hints and tips you become aware that you need to send at least 3 Quantum Traders to the Eighth in order to bank enough water to purchase a Moss Miner. These are essential ships as they gather Moss from any owned islands enabling your bank balance to grow.

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One you are established, it is time to send out scouts to locate more islands for mining and/or colonisation. When you select your scout (or any other ship), a drop down menu appears in the top left corner of the screen showing the status of the craft. You can see at a glance just how much fuel your ship has & what other resources it has or is capable of transporting. Scouts have the ability to establish outposts on islands but need a stock of wood, metal & stone to do so. Running down the command list you can ‘head in direction’, which then pulls up another screen enabling you to choose the heading & distance you want your scout to travel. The Empire map is divided up into sectors, but you do not know what is in each sector until a ship of yours has entered it, so by choosing an oblique route that goes through multiple sectors, you can fairly quickly expand your horizons. When you find an unoccupied island, just by having a ship ‘docked’ at the island will enable you to claim the island as your own. You can then use your scout to check out the resource state as well as building space enabling you to make a decision whether to colonise or just mine it. Any Mining Transports in orbit (so as to speak) at an island will automatically mine any available resources.

There are basically two ways of moving resources round in the game. You can use the miners and transports to set up trade routes between islands by using the dropdown menus. This gives detailed options of just what routes to take, what resources to be loaded/unloaded etc. etc. and you can slowly build up a complex trading route moving all required items to the desired locations. This however is slow (but effective), so you can also establish a Quantum Net to beam stuff around Star Trek style. This entails upgrading Silos on islands to Quantum Receivers and also building Quantum Communicators on colonised islands. Selecting a communicator again shows a dropdown menu allowing you to choose what goes where. The bonus of the Communicators is that they can also automatically transfer water and moss to the Eighth House thus constantly ‘trickle charging’ your bank balance. The volumes beamed are not large each time, but if you have 3 or 4 communicators all beaming to one central planet, the silos soon fill up. You can of course then use this planet to beam to other planets and, when you choose the Empire screen, you can see you ‘net’ growing and also see where any gaps are that need filling. As not all islands hold all resources and the importance of keeping stocks of fuel at your most outlying planets becomes apparent, then the need for a good net soon becomes uppermost in your mind. Remember, your ships do not have inexhaustible fuel supplies, as you will soon find out when they run out of fuel & have to be resupplied somehow.

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Expansion & Occupation however, is what the game is all about, and it does not take long before you are building warships to defend your colonies & attack enemies. Each warship (or tactical) has various options that can be set for contact with other empires, ranging from ‘kill everything in sight’ (default) to ‘surrender’. Wiping everything out, while fun, soon shows itself not to be the best tactical move and a setting of “all tactical except allies” is realised to be a better bet. That way, you can neutralise any enemy defence then send in a boarding party to take control of any other ships/buildings not destroyed – a far more effective (& cheaper) option than having to re-colonise from scratch. By using an option at your HQ, you can set the default tactical state for any new tactical objects (ships or defence buildings) that are constructed AT THAT ISLAND. Defence is not to be taken lightly either – keeping strong fleets out at your empires edge does not deter an enemy who is capable of using a Quantum Gate to transport his assault force anywhere on the map. Again, a fine balance needs to be struck, but enhancing any islands defences as much as you can is not to be sneezed at.

Communication between players is as easy as speaking directly – just by looking them up in the player list & entering chat mode is enough to get things going. You also get an option to chat to the owner of any enemy held objects you come across in your travels. Any players not online at the time will get the message when they log on (by which time they may well have been eradicated by sneaky attacks). Indeed, you may well find the NiCE developers chatting to you to find out how you are and what you think of the game. The Chat is an aspect of the game that brings about a good sense of community and makes you realise that not everyone is (apparently) a nasty person who only wants to kill kill kill.

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As said before, ToD is an online game and as such, costs money to play. By going to the website you can sign up for a very generous free 8 day trial – this is more than enough time to get a good feel for the game (and probably lose a lot of sleep at the same time). The costs at first seem expensive, but when you consider that £7.50 a month is generally less than 3 pints of good English beer, the value becomes apparent (even more so with the bi-annual and annual subscriptions). Another consideration is that there is not just one game – by connecting to different servers you can choose a game to suite your preferred style of play – right up to manic 8X speed games for those skilled with keyboard manipulation.

Overall, ToD is a micromanagement nuts’ dream, whilst the tactical geniuses amongst us will be blown away by all the opportunities within the game. Improvements can be made (but what game cannot that be said about), I would like to see the ubiquitous ‘double click’ to select all like units for one, but this does not detract from what is a good, solid and highly enjoyable gaming experience.

New version 4.477 / Review Updated

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This version makes the game even more playable than before & certainly makes control units a lot easier. It is now possible to ‘draw a box’ round units to select in the ‘normal’ fashion. There are also some new ships available from the Shadoo side that can really help out with your economy flow. The Far-Reach allows you to ‘plant’ it on any island and gather resources which can be transmitted via the quantum net. Once the island is tapped out, then you can move it to another. One thing to bear in mind however is that this is a Shaddoo vehicle & as such will not mine or detect wood or coal. New starters now get 8th House protection for the first few hours to stop any ‘newbie bashing’ so prevalent in other games.

Now that the game is finding its feet so to speak, it is nice to see that the ‘community’ is also expanding. The game is now not so full of players keen to wipe you out – there are also a lot of ‘traders’ around, experienced players who can set up quickly & have goodies ready for sale early on in the game – these can really help to boost your ailing economy & allow you to get some good offensive/defensive fleets ready. Also around to help out are the veteran players who, it would appear to me, seem to like to play the game for the experience itself, rather than just total domination, and are always willing to help out with advice or even gifts if you are struggling. Alliances are now forming as well, although due to the vast playing area, it is still hard to concentrate a collection of fleets in one area (hard, but by no means impossible due to the Quantum Gates). I play as Wamphyyr – not very militaristic as I ‘m still experimenting & attempting to find the best way to get ‘up & running’ as fast as possible. I’ll chat to anyone & help out if I can so if you see me there, drop me a line.

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By Hamarik (SI Core) on Nov 15, 2009
I am going to try this game out. I hope there are somebody still playing this game!