Trion Worlds’ Defiance has been on the gamer radar for quite some time, bubbling under through its development while being buoyed by its transmedia innovation. Some videogames are happy to publish a graphic novel and animated movie that add to the often irrelevant backstory and claim the trophy for its own, but Defiance is different. Defiance takes its dual format release and doesn’t simply sit them side-by-side, it entangles them completely within one another.
Set in the not too distant future, the story of Defiance is one in which aliens have come to earth and become residents alongside humans. Nearly a decade later, we see that society has undergone a massive shift; overpopulation runs rampant and many cities are unrecognisable. Launching first as a massively multiplayer online (MMO) action videogame, the directly interactive element of Defiance takes place in San Francisco, or at least what’s left of it. Scattered recognisable landmarks lie broken and disused, surrounded by miles and miles of wasteland. The indirectly interactive part of Defiance will launch on the SyFy channel a few weeks later, set in a similarly decaying St. Louis, a city which has changed beyond all recognition so has had it’s named changed, now known as Defiance.
The correlation between the videogame and television show has been discussed time-and-time-again, but we are of course yet to find out how it will work in practice. The theory is that events in one will affect the progression of the other, for example the character driven story of the television show can see politics come into play than change the way society functions, which will be replicated in-game. In the same fashion, the huge Shadow War battles can determine the outcome of a feud between factions in the television show.
The Shadow Wars are Defiance’s grandest multiplayer experience and developer Trion Worlds’ proudest addition. Available instantly from any point in the videogame simply by accessing the game mode menu (using the D-Pad on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) players can jump into a global feud in seconds. Assigned a faction players must compete for control of nodes within the local area. As more players join the match more nodes become active and the area of play becomes larger. However, this isn’t a separated instance totally removed from the real world: Shadow Wars exist on the same plane as every other core gameplay occurrence. Players can be involved in these fights as others on story questlines pass them by, perhaps even leading a hand by taking out an enemy on the way.
During Electronic Theatre’s time with Defiance the Shadow Wars were cleverly presented asides; welcome additions to the videogame that offered monetary rewards to the winners as well as new items and weaponry. In the final release however, these huge multiplayer affairs will have a much greater importance. More complete in their presentation were the Co-op Maps, another gameplay mode accessible at any time from the game mode menu.
While players can group-up at any point during Defiance, continuing the main questline and side-quests with anything from one to a dozen players – and perhaps even more in the final build – the Co-op Maps are more precisely constructed affairs. Designed for four players only these missions are separate events from the main videogame, taking players off the world map and into specifically designed areas. Still utilising the same characters, weaponry, items and everything else that players have become equipped with in the main campaign, the Co-Op Maps are entirely linear and always culminate in a boss fight. That which Electronic Theatre experienced felt very similar in its design to some of the early missions in Red Faction: Armageddon, though obviously with a group of players rather than fighting solo. This is clearly no easy feat given the complexity of Red Faction: Armageddon’s design and the comprehensive variety of Defiance’s gunplay.
The final gameplay mode included in Defiance is the Battle Maps, a more structured player versus player experience that wasn’t playable during Electronic Theatre’s time with the videogame. Available for twelve to thirty two players in a single match, divided into two teams, these Battle Maps are also set in isolated areas away from the main map. Offering the standard team deathmatch affair players can still earn experience and new items for their characters here just as in any other gameplay mode.
All of these additional gameplay modes compliment the core story lead experience as well as the television show, presenting a huge undertaking for any developer. That Defiance is trying to break new ground while still delivering a comprehensive MMO experience is a intention not to be sniffed at – there would surely be few developers that envy the position Trion Worlds has found themselves in – but at present it seems as though the plan is working out well, with a product that will launch with an entertaining third-person action videogame experience on all three formats. Electronic Theatre will bring you more details on that core campaign in the near future, but in the meantime you should be certain to keep an eye on all that Trion Worlds can offer with Defiance.