This week, Trion Worlds released its new Silicon Valley Expansion for its action MMO Defiance, but before the expansion hit the public's PCs, Trion let us take a look at it during their in-house Community Day. Since the event was designed less for the media and more for the fans, Trion was a bit more circumspect in presenting the new content. Still, I along with a handful of avid Defiance players did get to try a new boss fight and get a glimpse of the recently-added territory.
The main thrust of the Silicon Valley Expansion is expanding the storyline concerning the infamous “Merchant of Death,” arms dealer Karl Von Bach. Von Bach's Messiah-complex still being his main motivator, he's come up with a new EGO (Environmental Guardian Online) device that he thinks can “save” the people of Earth. He urges them to join him in Silicon Valley, where he intends to distribute the devices. At the Community Day event, we were logged in to the blighted Bay Area just south of San Francisco where Von Bach and a grid-worshipping cult, the Pilgrims of the Guiding Light, had set up shop.
We spent some time tooling around in our flame-painted SUVs, getting the lay of the land and picking off hellbugs, then spent the next half hour zooming around the landscape from one glowing blue crystal to another. These crystals spawned three waves each of unfriendly bugs; we'd kill them and move on. Having dispatched a number of these crystals, we drove on through a ravaged Hillsborough Estates (if you live in the Bay like I do, this is a funny experience since Hillsborough today is where the $20 million mansions are) and came to a clearing inhabited by a big, nasty, crab-worm (OK, I don't know what it was - it looked sort of like a worm as it rose out of the ground, and it sort of had crabby claws).
Trion clearly had set this boss fight up as core of the hands-on during Community Day and it was fairly exciting. Defeating this massive slug required targeting glowing eye-like thingies when they were uncovered while fending off seemingly endless spawns of buggy adds. The latter weren't actually that hard to handle so long as you kept moving. Periodically, when enough damage had been done, the giant worm's head would open and another, smaller worm would rise out of it and fire a kind of burning venom at us. Again, this phase wasn't particularly challenging to contend with and mainly required continuous movement and paying attention to your surroundings.
In fact, the main issue I dealt with during the fight was running out of ammo (and accidentally dying after I'd gotten too comfortable thinking of the adds as a non-threat). This was because the worm and its mini-me head-worm remained stationary the whole fight, and so beating them merely took the patience to whittle down their thousands of hit points.
When we finally did take the thing down, its death lit the clearing up with multiple pillars of light (“for no reason whatsoever,” laughed one of the Trion devs) and that was that. Overall, it was a bit underwhelming, as was the remainder of the expansion content. Trion told us that the new geography includes as many familiar Bay Area landmarks as possible, including highway 92 and the cities of San Bruno and Belmont, but again, these references are probably more interesting if you live in the Bay.
I did notice there were new missions, and I happened along a group of the Pilgrims of the Guiding Light standing around one of their cultish hubs, but to me there wasn't anything that could really be called the “Aha!” moment of the expansion. Basically, it's more land, and a bit more of the Von Bach story. Trion said nothing about how the Von Bach storyline in particular will affect (or even go along with) the plot of the TV show, but they did say there will be some sort of crossover between the game and show throughout the summer.
Perhaps the need to keep pace with the show dictated the shape of the expansion but it comes off a bit small. Most of us think of expansions as adding entire new continents and races. Silicon Valley's geographic addition is relatively modest, and the “new” missions, enemies and rewards seem only slightly at variance with what's already in the game. It's hard to say though, without spending more time with it. In light of that, we'll reserve judgment until we've experienced all Silicon Valley has to offer.