Defiance is the brain child of Rockne S. O’Bannon, a veteran in the television/movie science fiction arena. He has written or developed many projects throughout the course of his distinguished career with such notables as Farscape and Alien Nation. Besides its interesting back story, Defiance the television series has an element about it that makes it truly unique in the history of television: a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that ties into the series. Events in the series has the potential to influence the game’s storyline with crossover questlines in the game corresponding to the seasons in the series. These quests entwine with the series’ story in such a way as to enrich both.
The premise of the series, and by extension the game, is that a fleet of ships fleeing the destruction of their star system arrives at Earth, setting off a chain of events that result in the current storylines of the series and the game. This ark fleet carried a number of races known collectively as the Votanis Collective. The races are: Indogene, Castithan, Irathient, Liberata, Sensoth, and Gulanee. As a result of Earth’s race to gain resources and the resultant nuclear disasters during the Votanis Collective’s arrival, a number of new species has sprung up. These are mutants and Bio-men. And then there are the hell bugs.
Defiance the game is a hybrid role-playing game and open world shooter. In it, players take on the role of “Ark Hunters” scouring the landscape for “Arkfalls”, pieces of the Votanis Collectives’ ark fleet that had mysteriously exploded. Debris from this event will continue to rain down on a partially terraformed Earth for decades to come. Players deal with such dangers as hell bugs, and factions such as raiders and Dark Matter. The Volge is a particularly nasty faction of aliens and the ‘Afflicted’ are dangerously fast and hard-hitting zombies.
Defiance the TV series, now in its second season, takes place in the township of Defiance which rests on the ruins of St. Louis, while Defiance the game takes place in the ruins of San Francisco. The game world is incredibly large and requires vehicles to get around in and has the same sense of scale as real life San Francisco. The game also has many side interests, such as challenges and time trials; races and shooting and survival mini-games. A new addition to the game are “incursions”, where the players go through a series of small encounters leading up to a massive encounter requiring many players to conquer.
Defiance the game has a very strong twitch element to it, encompassing aim and dodge mechanics to survive, so the players had better be up on their controller/mouse+keyboard skills. The roleplaying element comes in the form of ‘EGO’ (Environmental Guardian Online) progression, where the player spends points earned through experience to upgrade their EGO grid. The four main powers that the grid is patterned around is Decoy, Overcharge, Cloak, and Blur. Decoy sends out a holographic image of the player to distract enemies. While Decoy is active, the player has the ability to teleport to the decoy’s current position. Overcharge is a damage buff. Cloak is an invisibility buff allowing for huge damage bonuses. Blur is a movement enhancement buff, allowing for defensive bonuses and enhanced melee damage.
The game has a vast array of weaponry at the players’ disposal. Guns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, sniper rifles just to name a few. Within each weapon type are different weapon qualities, like single shot, burst fire, or full auto. Also many of the weapons contain what are known as nano effects; secondary damage buffs, like radiation or fire. Each weapon can be modified for different bonuses, and even weapon sets per load out may have bonuses themselves. In short, there is a weapon combo to cater to all types of play styles from long-range to in-your-face melee. Downloaded content has added many more to the repertoire, such as Castithan charged blades and faction weaponry. Many of the weaponry and critters have shown up in the television series and vice versa.
The concept of media/game tie-ins is not a new one, but the manner in which Defiance approaches it is unique and immersive and goes a long way towards ensuring the longevity of both the TV series and the online game.
Opinion by Lee Birdine