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Defiance – Preview (PS3)

March 8, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Countless MMOs have tried to enter the games market over the last few years, but only a few have ever found enough of a footing to make them sustainable. Now, another entry into the genre has appeared as Trion Worlds is set to release their biggest endeavor to date with Defiance. A Persistent Online Shooter  that will not only launch across the PC, 360 and PS3 on April 2nd, and has no subscription fees, but also will be the first to have a TV-show launching parallel to it on the Syfy Channel later that month.

Having got a hands on preview of an early build of the game, it was easy to see that Defiance is a big project for Trion Worlds as, having developed an Persistent Online Shooter across three platforms, and having had a hand in shooting an entirely new television show, is fairly ambitious for any studio. Both the show and the game are set in the near future, after a group of alien species called the Votans enter Earth’s orbit seeking to relocate after their planet was destroyed. Waiting in orbit for years while negotiating with Human leaders, the Votans could no longer hold out and waged war against the people of Earth. During the battle, Votan ships were destroyed, causing alien terraforming technology to fall from the sky randomly, reshaping the planet forever. After years of conflict and irreplaceable damage to the planet, both sides declared a ceasefire which allowed Earth to be inhabited by numerous races.

The game, which is set in the San Francisco, California Bay Area, places you in the role of an Arc Hunter, a character of your choosing who hunts down debris that falls to Earth, called Arc Fall. In the build that was shown, you were able to choose between a Human or an Irathien, which is a near human like alien species with more tribal features and a wide bridge on their nose. From there on, you are able to choose between various origins like a Veteran, Survivalist, Outlaw or Machinist, but, besides the history of the character, little is known what this will do for the character’s involvement in the world. Besides the standard RPG elements in the character creation menu, like constructing your character’s appearance and background, there are a number of in-game features that show this game is more of a hybrid than a standard MMO.

Defiance is very much a standard third person shooter much to its own benefit, as the concepts it uses makes the game very easy to pick up and play for anyone who has any experience with the genre. The controls follow a very standard format for shooting, as your character shoots with R1, reloads with square, crouches with circle and has the ability to use special powers with L2. These abilities are unlocked using points earned by getting XP through dispatching foes, finishing missions, or by purchasing XP multipliers through the game’s microtransaction store. Each unlock starts off as one of four different trees that vary from non-lethal abilities to damage boosts, with sub categories filling the area around them. Other options, like being able to have a vehicle on hand at all times, is a great addition, as you are able to summon an equipped vehicle to help you cut down on the senseless need to run long distances.

The game’s mission sequences are where Defiance tries to set itself apart from the crowd – by using its unique asset of its connection to the television show, it is able to deliver content in a way that no game has been able to. Events both on the TV show and within the game are set to converge in various ways, as major moments on the show are currently designed to play a unique roll in occurrences within the game. Eventually, the results occuring on the servers will play out on the series, or moments in the show will have ramifications on the games world. Sadly, none of these missions were available during the preview event, only forgettable fetch/kill quests, meaning that it still needs to be seen if Trion Worlds can pull this off – but if they do, this could be a memorable moment in gaming.

Looking at the screenshots for Defiance, it is easy to get a false impression of what to expect when playing the game on a console, as all of the shots shown seem to be captured off of the PC version, which looks vastly better. This alone is a big problem when developing a game on platforms that range in technology by over 7 years, but, as the game has been in development for over 5 years already, even the PC version looks like it will be outshined before it even launches. While not ugly on consoles, even for an early build of the title, players looking for eye candy are going to want to source any image they find before passing judgment – all of the pics on this preview are off of the PC version, as those are the only images currently available.

As with all MMOs, it is impossible to see how the market will respond, how the servers will hold or how exactly microtransactions will become a factor for the game right away. But, Defiance has a great deal of potential, and an experienced developer behind it pushing a unique concept. So, as we get closer to the launch of one of the last Persistent Online Shooters of the PS3′s life cycle, we should keep an eye out, as this one is attempting to break the mold one last time.