Following Electronic Theatre’s recent look at Trion Worlds’ Defiance and how the television production bleeds into the videogame experience, today we bring you more details on the core gameplay that connects all of these external elements. The Shadow War and competitive play offered for player versus player (PvP) hungry gamers is most certainly an entertaining production in its own right, but in a world as big as the decaying Earth that Defiance presents there needs to be something more tangible to mark your progression.
Given that Defiance is positioned as a multi-format massively multiplayer online (MMO) action videogame, it should come as no surprise that the single-player experience isn’t actually limited to solo play. Players are welcome to invite their friends (either via the hardware friend list or that created in-game) to join them at any point, and bring them along on any mission they may be about to attempt. These missions can be at any point in the videogame and any player can join them; even those that have already completed the mission and several others staged after it. Of course, Defiance features a wealth of distractions in addition to the story missions, so finding an activity suitable for all players should never take more than a quick glance at the map screen.
The character created by a player is persistent through all gameplay modes, whether they are being used to progress the story or challenge rivals on the dedicated Battle Maps. Players have a significant amount of customisation available to them in a visual capacity and can also choose from one of four classes. The choice of class offers one of four special abilities available at the start and where on the skill tree your opening will be, but from this point on players are welcome to mix-and-match their choice of skills in any fashion they see fit. This is done by spending Ego Points, earned in-game through completing challenges, killing enemies and winning team-based matches, amongst the many other instances available. Of course, as the player carries this character from the campaign to the competitive multiplayer modes by way of a quick press of the D-Pad (on consoles) all equipment, cash and experience earned in any gameplay mode helps to develop the same character across all modes.
Of course, as a videogame that’s key point of interaction is its combat, very little of this would matter is the shooting action wasn’t up-to-scratch. Thankfully Defiance does its level-best to offer an entertaining and unique experience in this area, with the combination of skills and weaponry creating some opportunistic action sequences. Players can opt to develop skills that are either offensive of defensive depending on their preferred style of play, so it’s relatively easy to patch the weaknesses in your tactics once a few Ego Points have been earned. In the same regard, finding loot on the battlefield will either provide you with an opportunity to execute different strategies or the funding to adopt new weaponry which can. The usual assortment of sniper rifles, pistols, assault rifles and rocket launchers et al are all present and correct in Defiance. But it the more obscure weapon types that prove most interesting at this stage in the videogame’s development.
The closest comparison to Defiance in terms of it combat would be Gearbox Software’s phenomenally popular Borderlands. Players encounter enemy installations, striking down foes and scavenging the items they leave behind. However, in the same regard players will find some of the more eccentric weapon designs included, such and incendiary assault rifles and acid spitting shotguns. What’s more, Defiance showcases some entirely unique weapons such as the Infectors, which launch a spore at the enemy which then grow into a headcrab style creature, slowly depleting their health. Vortex weapons offer players an electrical surge that can connect to several enemies at once and the BEM Buster weapon, which can first be accessed by completing a reasonably early mission in the videogame, allows players to fire five grenades in a sizeable area before remotely detonating them. These grenades are sticky also, meaning that players can target groups of enemies with careful placement in a central area or plant all five on a single powerful enemy to decimate their health bar quickly.
As enticing as all of this action gameplay is, Defiance isn’t without issue. The enemy artificial intelligence (AI) is woeful in places: regularly will the run two metres ahead of the player and stand still before taking aim, and while the warning shots fired into the sky are clearly an interesting attempt to build atmosphere, it’s somewhat blunted when the animation is used far too regularly and frequently without the correct context. Many graphical issues and crash bugs are currently evident also, but Electronic Theatre is confident Trion Worlds can iron out the kinks before launch. Indeed, the team acknowledged most of these issues before Electronic Theatre experienced them, demonstrating their conviction to plugging the holes before moving on to the official beta testing phase early next year.
Defiance is clearly a one-shot product. It’s an MMO quite unlike anything else available on the market right now, and one which will live-and-die on the success of its console editions as clearly this is an audience which so few MMOs have managed to reach. The integration with the television show is Defiance’s unique pitch, but the quality of the production goes beyond that by offering something which is very rare on consoles, and in that it’s rightfully earned a place on Electronic Theatre’s ‘most wanted’ list for 2013. If Defiance wasn’t already on your radar, it should be by now.