Defiance is the future. It is a unique, groundbreaking concept; a television series with a computer game crossover that is a multi-platform Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game that is not “based on” the series, but is directly effected by it, and vice versa.
Yes, you read me right. How you (and your fellow gamers) play the “MMO” effects the television series. This has never, ever been done before.
This game-series combination was originally announced back in 2011 and I have been looking forward to it ever since. I have been watching it develop and a lot of “hype” has been built over this by critics and fans alike, myself included, so when I signed up for Beta Testing I was concerned that I would play the game and discover that my expectations were not met… They were.
The Beta test was available in several stages, and across several platforms. I had to wait until this weekend to play on my platform of choice, the Xbox 360. Console testing is the final stage, so thankfully a lot of the “kinks” had already been worked out, bugs fixed, etc, by this point, and my experience, I hope, will be close to the finished product, which is due for release on April 02nd.
The Beta has now (April 28th) ended, so I am going to give you my conclusion before then.
You should know that I have never actually played an “MMO” before, though friends have encouraged me to join them, and I have been meaning to try. This means that I cannot compare with other examples, I can only review this game on its own merits.
As my first step into the MMO-ing pool, I found the entire experience of this shoot-em-up multiplayer RPG rather pleasant. It is a little slow to start, with lengthy cut scenes and tedious starting quests, but the controls are really easy, very similar to the likes of Call Of Duty, the system is quick to master, and after the first half an hour or hour (depending on the individual player) of training missions, you will get to the good stuff.
The plot is really intriguing and the script is humorous, informative, and action-packed. The game world actually changes constantly, depending on the actions of you and your fellow players, be they positive, or negative, so you can literally come back after an hour break and find an entire area that was full of life before has been attacked and burned to the ground by the “baddies”, leaving few survivors.
The missions are very varied, with some being solo, some group-based, and of course, as is unique to this game, many of the missions are actually based on the events of individual “Episodes” of the television series it coincides with. My assumption is that, as advertised, when we play these, our actions on those will effect the television program, and vice-versa.
Character customisation seemed to have lots of options. There are two species (Human or Irathient), lots of physical alterations (including small details such as tattoos), and rather than selecting a “Class” players choose an “origin” for their character which effects how people interact with you, but not your weapons options or skills as these are the same for all the origins, which is an interesting twist. The skill set is absolutely huge with lots of options for different styles of play. Weaponry is also in abundance, much like any shooting game, with long range and short range options, grenades, etc.
The fact that I was actually playing with PC and PS3 gamers was really amazing. I could have played with my Steam (other options available) using friends on my Xbox 360 console, an impressive, rarely achieved feat in modern gaming.
The game is far from perfect, however. The server failed me on several occasions, sometimes mid-mission which was as I am sure you can gather, quite frustrating. I encountered many problems, many bugs, one of which was that I quite literally fell off the world and found myself falling ever downwards in a blank space, and had to log out and in again.
Thankfully, Trion have this covered. In your games menu, there is actually an option to send them feedback at any point about your experience, and at the end of every mission a dialogue box appears for your to select a rating out of ten and type any comments that you might have about your opinion on it. Whether they keep this in the final product or if this was something that was only there for the Beta remains to be seen, but I really welcomed this system and used it many times, I think it is a very dynamic way to constantly improve the game experience.
The show creators inform us that each episode of the television program will feature events from the game, and as we progress through the game, some of what we do will effect the show. They are doing this by filming all of the episodes, bar one or two scenes which they will addition as the game-show dynamic progresses. They told Kataku that there will be a virus introduced during the television plot, which will then be cured through missions in-game, and one of the actors in the show will mention the player name of the person who finds the cure. If this is indeed true, that is not necessarily as incorperated as originally hoped by fans after the announcement, but it still sounds like something worth being a part of.
Over-all, I found the gaming experience to be innovative, intelligent, fun, humorous and exciting. The graphics are impressive, it runs smoothly enough for the most part (though this is a Beta, it should hopefully run perfectly at release), the gameplay is varied, and the soundtrack by the unmistakable (SyFy “go-to guy”) Bear McCreary is breathtaking. I hope the series will be even half as good.
At reportedly $105 million, I really hope this works for SyFy, as this “transmedia” (what they are calling the plot that unfolds in multiple media forms) venture could make or break them. It has a lot of room for improvement, but I recommend this game-television hybrid highly.
You can Pre-Order the game on its various platforms, and with different levels of Pre-Order Bonuses and game packs (Limited Editions, etc) now, for its release on April 04th, and you can watch the double-episode television Pilot in the US and Canada on April 15th, and many other countries (including the UK) on April 16th. In the meanwhile, SyFy have released a fourteen minute special preview of the first episode to wet your appetites of what is to come…
Defiance Official Website
Games Industry International Trion And SyFy Redefine Licensing With Defiance
AdWeek SyFy Bets $105m On A TV Series And Video Game
Kotaku The Possibly Real Dream Of A TV Show Affected By Gamers
The WallStreet Journal A TV Show And Videogame Team Up
IGN Comic-Con: SyFy’s Defiance Crosses Gaming And TV