Updated Tue, Oct 23, 2012 by Ethec
The Defiance cast had a show to shoot and we had a game to play, so it was back to the hotel and a swanky rooftop demo area for some quality time with the game. I sat down with an attractive female character that could have been modeled on Julie Benz and took a look at my abilities.
Though the Sausalito playfield is intended to fall somewhere in the middle of the game (one of its five mammoth playfields at launch), my character's abilities were fairly limited, with only basic equipment and no ego point enhancements (buffs and debuff abilities, such as enhancing run speed). That suited me just fine for a fast introduction.
The character - we'll call her Amanda in homage - was packing an assault rifle, a holographic decoy ability that works on players and AI-controlled enemies, and the handy ability to summon a zippy four-wheeler (or quad) anywhere. I immediately did so, and it was shades of Farcry or GTA as I splattered some raiders, flourescently accented enemies that could have stepped out of Mad Max's highlighter factory, on the way to a mission.
Missions are repeatable, and players get new missions by interacting with a prismatic cloud (for lack of a better description) near mission objectives. This one had me and my closest 12 demo-mates assaulting a raider farm to shut down their generators and destroy their weapons caches. Little did I know that this was all just a warmup for world PvP, but fortunately I did discover a sticky grenade launcher sitting in a crate at the farm, an elegant weapon that came in very handy later.
Senior VP of Development Nick Beliaeff had us kick off world PvP, which was as simple as joining a queue. To my surprise, a 4 second countdown phased us into the exact same zone with nary a loading screen. The difference: the map had nominally fewer AI enemies, two teams of perhaps fifteen each, and (in lieu of missions) three capture points. I hopped on my quad, dodged a teammate traffic jam, and set out for objective A. The location was well chosen, nestled in a combination greenhouse / solar farm with plenty of cover opportunities.
Since this was the initial blitz, I easily captured A and set out for B, but soon spotted a handful of enemy players heading for A. I doubled back, ran over one unfortunate guy on foot, but discovered a QA ringer (one of a handful on each side) toting a hellbug gun, who made quick work of me with nasty little bugs that could hone in around corners. I respawned nearby (you have a choice of spawn points depending on what your team has captured), and decided to change my tactics. Outing my decoy as I swept in, I loaded up the capture point with sticky grenades and waited for an enemy to return and finish the cap. Hitting the reload button blew one enemy halfway across the map, but her teammates discovered my hidey hole and put me down. As in any online shooter, sheer numbers usually decide the encounter.
I picked up an Xbox controller to see how the game played with these ancient instruments of gaming, and though the keyboard and mouse felt more natural to me (being a PC gamer through and through), I didn't embarrass myself and even managed a kill or two with my thumbs and trigger finger. Nick reminded us that the game is not only multi-platform - playing on PS3, X360, and PC - but will be cross-platform as well, meaning that players on each platform will play with (or against) each other.
Time ticked down, and a defensive approach (capturing two points and defending them well, rather than going for all three) seemed to work well. Victory was ours, and my fifth place finish (just behind the QA folks) didn't shame my family. We returned to the PvE map, and Nick immediately spawned an arkfall nearby. The experience was extremely reminiscent of Rift, with waves of scrappers spawning - drone scrappers, boss scrappers, all pretty scrappy. Close-quarters dynamic events perhaps work better in a melee & magic game than a shooter, but the experience was fun enough. No rewards came as a result of winning the event - perhaps itemization is still a work in progress - but with six months to launch and a fun, functional foundation for the game, Trion has plenty of time to flesh things out.
Defiance's two hour season premiere will air in April 2013, with the game slated to release two weeks prior. Syfy has gone all-in with the IP, and is deep into production in the show's ten episode first season without airing a pilot. Ten Ton Hammer will continue to cover Defiance as the game nears its groundbreaking release next year.