Defiance is one of the more intriguing MMOTPS projects on the horizon due to the unique partnership between Trion Worlds and Syfy. You see, Defiance isn’t just an MMO, but also a TV show. The events in both the show and game will, to some extent, be reflected in both mediums. If that weren’t enough, Defiance will be one of the few MMORPGs available on the XBOX 360 and Trion Worlds helps to entice the shooter crowd to give that whole “MMO thing” a shot (pun intended!) with their game.
We recently had a chance to check out Defiance (the game) during the Trion Worlds Gamer’s Day event here in NYC. Despite the game being playable at a number of shows I also attended throughout the year, this was my first time really seeing it in action, and my first time playing.
In Defiance, players take the role of a mercenary who has no qualms with working with both aliens and humans. While I didn’t actually get a chance to look at character creation, the characters we saw looked quite varied, so it’s safe to say you’ll probably be able to create a character to your liking.
As far as progression goes, Trion Worlds has eschewed the often rigid constraint of character classes for a more free-form skill grid that essentially allows players to accomplish the same things. There are four active abilities in the game, each arranged in the four corners of the skill grid. From here, players select an ability and can spend earned points towards passive upgrades that branch out from each of the abilities in the tree. Investing points along a specific ability’s upgrade path will unlock additional bonuses and effects while also conferring passive bonuses to your character that often synergize well with the sort of playstyle that ability promotes. While players will have a limited amount of points they can spend in the grid, loadout slots can be utilized in order to tackle the various forms of content found in the game.
The basic format of the PvE game gave me a very Borderlands feel at first glance. Sure, you’re firing your weapon from third person, but the game essentially involves running around an open area and undertaking both main story and side-missions. The foundation should be familiar to MMO fans in the same way Borderlands itself is familiar to MMO fans due to the various mechanics the series pulls from the genre. One important difference is that the loot system is instanced to your character, similar in fashion to Diablo III.
The story missions often feature the characters from the TV series, including the main character, Jeb Nolan, in fully voiced cutscenes, while the side-quests can come from a variety of characters found throughout the game world. RIFT’s eponymous dynamic event content system also makes an appearance in Defiance in the form of ‘Arkfalls’. Why Arkfalls? Well, there are alien ships called ‘Arks’ that float above the Earth and Arkfalls are basically events where chunks of these Arks fall down to Earth, releasing nasty creatures, such as Hellbugs, into the environment for players to fight.
If you’re more of a PvP-inclined player, Trion’s got something for you too. Defiance will sport the traditional instanced PvP game modes, but the real stand-out PvP activity is the game’s Shadow War feature. This is basically an open world PvP system that any player can join in at any time and earn experience and other rewards in the process. We didn’t have a chance to participate in this ourselves, but it’s reassuring to know that Trion is making the effort to really take advantage of the MMO format with an emphasis on open world PvP.
Combat in Defiance seems fairly straightforward, though I do think there is something to be said about successfully pulling off shooter combat in an MMO setting. You’ll do battle from a third person perspective, though you can sort of aim down the sights to make more precise shots. Most of the weapons I used were fairly standard, though the sticky grenade launcher and especially the Infestor (or Infector?) stood out. The latter gun fires darts at your target that do damage-over-time and cause pulsating pustules to form on your target’s body. The pustules continue to expand and then burst open, creating a number of disgusting spider-like creatures that will seek out and attack enemy targets for a while. I feel Trion is onto something here with these sorts of weapons and I hope they include additional creative weaponry to add to the arsenal.
Vehicles are also available in Defiance. We zoomed around the map in our ATV, but we were told that a multi-person jeep (with mounted weapons!) would also be available in the game. The ATV we used was a bit squirrely due to the physics systems being in flux, but we were assured that they’d be tightening the driving up over the course of development.
All in all, I came away impressed with Defiance. I guess this shouildn't really have as much of a surprise to me, given Trion Worlds' excellent track record with RIFT, but the notion of a viable console-friendly MMORPG has been a unicorn of sorts over the past couple of years. Initially, Defiance will be a bit lighter on the MMO mechanics (no crafting at launch, for example), but I feel what I was able to experience so far may strike a happy medium of appealing to both crowds.
Defiance (the game and TV show!) are set to simultaneously launch in April, 2013.