Defiance: Hands-On Preview

The marketing term is “Trans media franchise”.  It means a project that appeals to consumers over a variety of mediums like movies, toys, video games and books.  Star Wars is the granddaddy of them all, quickly turning from an underdog film into a runaway toy line with novels, comic books, made for TV specials and video games (Even back in the 70’s).  Now every new franchise is hoping for the chance to sell products in multiple mediums with outliers like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh serving as modern inheritors of the Star Wars trans media formula.  New to this line of story-telling is Defiance, an upcoming show for the SyFy channel, and a MMO/Shooter launching on PC and consoles alongside the show.

Most science fiction TV shows get some sort of quickie tie-in game.  These tend to be forgettable, formulaic and often rely entirely on appeal from fans over any inherent value as a game.  The bargain bins at game stores are littered with copies of Dark Angel, Alias and Lost games, but with Defiance the intention isn’t to exploit an existing fanbase.  The show and game are being developed specifically for a simultaneous launch, and each of them is dedicated to a different part of a shared universe.

The TV show will be about the eponymous town Defiance, which is set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of St. Louis while the game follows the adventures of a different group of characters as they search the wider wasteland for valuable alien technology in a blend of third-person shooting and MMO.

Details about the game are still under wraps, but several beta tests were held recently and we got a look at what the developer Trion Worlds is up to.

There was a time when MMO players were content to read line after of text from NPC’s telling them to go kill six warthogs or bring back ten rat claws. Trion’s other MMO, Rift sometimes falls into this category, but more recent MMO’s like Star Wars The Old Republic and The Secret World have switched to a design format where fully-voiced dialog, and elaborate cutscenes take the place of terse quest-giver text.

Defiance is a MMO, but it is still a story-based game where players can pursue a main quest line while only participating in group activities when they like.  We can’t go into details about the story, but Defiance has a lengthy and interesting set of missions for players to follow even if they aren’t there for the action and just want to learn more about the Defiance setting.

Other players will be less concerned with the story and more interested in the boomsticks.  Defiance controls like a third person shooter with a varied arsenal of futuristic weapons for players to use.  There is a loot system, and a suite of special powers that players can equip, so shooter fans are likely to see elements of both Firefall and Borderlands in it.

Multiplayer involves teaming up for co-op missions like in a typical MMO, but it also has PVP combat which plays like the multiplayer in competitive online shooters.  There are also events that players can stumble across, not full missions, but rather randomly-occurring battles in the wasteland that players can join in if they like.  These include “Arkfall” events where large groups of players must join forces to take down powerful enemies in order to gain access to rare and powerful loot.

Trion Worlds has been teasing more and more about the story and gameplay as launch draws near and Explosion will have more in-depth coverage as it approaches.  The Defiance TV series arrives on the SyFy Channel on April 15th, while Defiance the game hits PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 nearly two weeks earlier on April 2nd.

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