Hands-On with Defiance - Blowing up Bugs and All-Terrain Antics

It may still be early in development but this MMOFPS is shaping up to be some bug-in-your-teeth fun.

Trion Worlds weighed in against the other MMOFPS games this year at E3
with Defiance. It was our first chance to play the game. We had
relatively limited information to go on from the year or so past after
its initial announcement but we met with Trick Dempsey of Trion to give
the game a good old fashioned try-out.

So what do we know about the game? As far as shooters go this one foams
with the Trion touch. Gamers will be thrust into a shared universe with
the upcoming Syfy show of the same name, starring folks like Julie Benz
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), Grant Bowler (Blue Heelers), Tony
Curran (Gladiator), and Jaime Murray (The Deaths of Ian Stone). How the
game will relate to the television series has been somewhat ambiguous
so we asked Trion's Trick Dempsey how the worlds would relate to each

alt="Race through Defiance on a trusty vehicle" width="250">

"Events that happen on the show you will hear about on your radio in
game, for example" Dempsey explained. "Characters that appear on the
show won't make regular appearances in game, but you may catch stories
of them here and there." Furthermore, last year we uncovered that it's
not out of the realm of possibility that exceptional players in the
game may get a name mention in the show. A word to the wise: Don't name
your character something ridiculous or profane if you want your 5
minutes of fame.

The world in which Defiance takes place is a post-war San Francisco Bay
area. There has been some alien (or supernatural?) invasion and the
world is unlikely to resemble the 'Frisco Bay you may know today. "But
there will be definite identifiable landmarks," Dempsey pointed out.

Much of the gameplay seems to be open-ended. There are certainly
missions and a story arc players can follow but with our hands-on we
skipped all that and got into the heat of battle and set out on our own
expeditions. So, in the spirit of the great explorers like Magellan we
set off on our four wheeler to find the next great adventure.

What's that I said? Yes, there are four wheelers and other vehicles in
the game. Given the large, seamless game map travel by foot would get
tedious after a short time. There are plenty of points of interest
though (which appear handily on your minimap) so it's unlikely you'll
spend a ton of time just driving from place to place. Think of it in
line with motor vehicle transport in games like Borderlands or Rage. As
an extra MMO-perk you won't need to remember where you parked. If you
lose track of your vehicle just summon it from where you are like any
loyal steed in other popular games.

 In a seamless world such as the one developed for Defiance
player population will make or break the world. As we raced across the
map this thought began to frighten me a little. Since we were in a demo
there were never more than two or three other players on the screen.

"This place could be rather boring if there weren't other players
around at all times," I blurted out, rather candidly.

"That's true," Trick replied, "but in Defiance all players of the same
platform will share the same world." So think of Defiance as less Lord
of the Rings Online, and more EVE, with one big shared server. As
mentioned too, plans to have the game playable between all three
platforms (PC, PS3 and Xbox) seem to have fallen through. This isn't as
much a failure in technology as it is a continued failure of Microsoft
and Sony being willing to play nicely together in terms of licensing.

As we fought some baddies with guns Trick then pointed out that
something was highlighted on our map just over the horizon, and that we
should go check it out. We figured he probably knows what he's talking
about so we left our enemies behind in search of new enemies and
excitement. We roared over hills and leapt over shrubbery we approached
a giant rift-type event with bugs spilling out all over the land,
causing certain chaos in their wake of destruction. This was our first
viewing of an Arkfall.

A Defiance Arkfall

A first glimpse of a Defiance Arkfall

Arkfalls will be familiar to Rift players as they are very similar. A
fallen piece of an alien ship allows other-worldly beings to invade the
Bay area. And we're not talking about crazed Giants fans tipping over
cop cars. These are literal aliens from another world. Managing Editor
Reuben Waters fought valiantly against the onslaught of
extraterrestrial evils with his pod gun, but inevitably he fell victim
to bigger meaner bugs. Trick then recommended he try an actual
projectile weapon, which was met with resounding success. A semi
automatic apparently does much more damage to insects than trying to
chuck syringes at them.

Confidence built by his own private doomsday, Reuben triggered the next
phase of battle which was an even bigger, uglier bug. This one had
giant crab-like legs that could cut a man in half. Bullets were
bouncing off his hardened shell so it was clear there was some trick to
this mini boss. Soon, he found there was a tiny glowing gland in each
of the creature's "armpits." Shooting those enough would cause one of
the legs to explode away from the body, and eventually leave the
creature susceptible to mortal blows.

The scripts in these battles are fun. Again, we had to envision these
fights with more people as playing with just a couple of others in the
booth didn't have the same sort of epic battle feel it would if there
were, say, 50 people with guns blazing. The arkfalls, like the rifts in
Rift, scale in difficulty with the amount of players and have time
limits to unlock the next phase. Should you fail to meet the time limit
the event simply ends and you're once again on your four-wheeler racing
to find more action.

The controls are straight forward and can easily be played on either a
controller or a mouse and keyboard. Apart from the occasional jerky
animation the firing and movement actions were responsive.

Overall Defiance is shaping up to be a game to watch, at the very
least, while under development. It is unlikely we'll be able to get a
real feel for the full game until it's further along, with more content
in game to try out, and more players playing. For now it seems a bit on
the empty side but that's to be expected with a game that hasn't hit
closed beta yet. What sets this game apart from the other MMO shooters
we saw this year is its relation to the television show, the
one-giant-shared server, and the seemingly harmonic marriage between
shooters and hallmarks of Trion World's current flagship, Rift.

We'll be watching for this one at later events this year, rest assured
of that.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Defiance Game Page.

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