I love the idea behind Defiance: create an MMO and run it alongside a TV show, crossing over with characters and plot lines to create an interactive experience that can be enjoyed independently, but become more profound when combined. This trans-media sci-fi experiment has provided a roller coaster of emotions during my first week with the game, as my feelings have grown with what it is trying to achieve.
I entered Defiance at a disadvantage – the game had already been out for almost a month, and the television show had already aired three episodes, which I had yet to watch. What I found inside was an interesting story about the end of humanity, as the Earth was terraformed by hostile forces leaving the place with mutants and a bunch of nasty creatures, all out to kill me. We were heading somewhere in San Francisco Bay Area, and for some reason everyone referred to me as an Ark Hunter.
“The promise of a big payoff at the end is what has me intrigued”
I created my character based on the general archetypes found in most shooters. Skipping the heavy and soldier class, I loaded up with a sniper rifle and headed for the surface. Unfortunately an event caused me to be separated from my team, and I found myself on my own in the dangerous war zone between the Earth Military Corporation and the mutants.
That’s when I was introduced to my EGO – a digital device that grants a number of skills. Ditching the traditional leveling up found in most MMOs, players earn EGO points which increase their skills and abilities, which works really well. Instead of running into that wall of “my friend is level 55 and I’m only level 10,” it feels players are on a more even field, with differing abilities that work well together. I chose the cloak skill, which allows me to turn invisible for a certain amount of time and surprise my enemies. Coupled with my super awesome sniper rifle, this proved to be an excellent choice.
Then I was off in the wastelands, killing mutants and searching for fallen crew members. Defiance does an excellent job throwing you into a fast-paced environment, putting you in charge of a badarse soldier who is more than capable of wiping out a small army of mutants. The game offered up standard questing fare – get from point A to point B, wipe out all the enemies, pick up some random loot and progress to the next quest. The story wasn’t at all captivating, and after about three hours of gameplay, I was ready to retire.
Yet something kept nagging at me. Maybe it was the satisfying combat, that feels as if it was ripped directly out of APB: Reloaded, polished a little, and placed in a sci-fi world. Or maybe it was because I simply wanted to understand what Defiance was trying to achieve a little better.
That’s when I watched the TV show. I quickly fell in love with the plight of Nolan and Irisa, and blasted through the three available episodes in an afternoon. That’s when it started, that creeping MMO addiction I’ve found myself in so many times before.
I couldn’t stop playing.
The television show had me hooked on the world, and the game was drawing me into the story. Despite the fact that my character is in a totally different area than where the show takes place, the occasional cross-over with characters from the TV show is extremely rewarding. I’ve even managed to find some quests that are directly linked to the latest episode, which is a really neat touch.
But now I need to play catch up. I need to blast my way through as many quests as possible, just so I can be on par with the episodes when they come out. I can’t help but feel that my journey with Defiance is working towards an interesting climax, perhaps one where I find myself in the township that the show is actually based.
That is why I’m bringing you this weekly blog. It’s my act of Defiance, my refusal to review the game before the television season is through. The promise of a big payoff at the end is what has me intrigued, and while I’ve certainly found issues during my eight hours with the game thus far, I’m willing to persevere for what I hope will be a thrilling conclusion.
So I’ll be back next week, with another update. I’ll tell you how I feel, how the game has progressed, and the new features I have discovered on my journey.
Written by Stephen Heller