The lights are on
Trion Worlds made waves with its debut product, Rift. Following up on that MMORPG's success, the company is creating another massively multiplayer game at its internal San Diego studio -- but Defiance is anything but a traditional MMO. This multiplatform shooter that ties into an upcoming SyFy television show breaks nearly every mold you try to fit it into.Trion introduced the game with a live multiplatform demo that had two players here at E3 in Los Angeles, one each on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, playing with several PC players back home in San Diego. The sci-fi shooting is roughly identical on all three, with the only differences being graphical quality (the PC version has the highest capabilities, and the PS3 build at E3 looked noticeably superior to the 360 game), input method, and ancillary factors like achievements and trophy support. The first part of the demo had a half-dozen players working together on a bug hunt. The area we saw is a partially alien-terraformed San Francisco bay, and a variety of mutated and extraterrestrial creatures threaten anyone who ventures out in the wilds. Using many different weapons and secondary abilities like short-range teleports and energy leashes, the players cleared the bugs with ease, picking up several loot drops for their trouble.If I hadn't been told that this all takes place in a persistent server-hosted world, I would have guessed that this was a garden-variety cooperative console shooter. The action is entirely skill-driven; your shots go where your aiming reticle sends them and you run and dodge enemies like they're Brutes trying to gravity hammer your face off. Defiance has MMO-like loot, yes, and missions and towns and all the rest, but the gameplay is 100 percent action shooting.Later, the Trion employees demonstrating the game made their way to a decripit shantytown-looking place home to devious foes called 99ers: scavengers of alien technology so obsessed with their work that they implant themselves with their finds until their cyborg shells are barely human. Here, the group gets automatically assigned a mission to hack into sentry turrets and clear out the 99ers, which progresses over several stages and culminates with the enemies torn to shreds by their own defenses.This mission is very reminiscent of Rift's dynamically spawned public events. Entering the area prompts get a voice transmission from a mission-giving NPC requesting help against the 99ers, and groups can quickly and easily form up to tackle the challenge. Unlike Rift, however, Defiance employs WoW-like phasing technology to preserve players' places in the story. If you've completed the mission in the past and swing by the area again, you won't encounter the 99ers again -- but for another player who has yet to experience the quest, the cyborg assailants will be ready for killing.Finally, the team heads to a larger public event called Arkfall. This event has all players in the area working together to destroy a crash-landed alien incubation Ark before the chrysalis it is nurturing breaks and the fully powered alien warbeast inside emerges to wreak havoc on the Earth. The players beat the timer to blow up the arms of the Ark before that dire eventuality, but that's not the end of the event -- the warbeast breaks through its shattered chrysalis and challenges the good guys in its weakened (but still rather deadly) form, at which point the demo ends. Arkfall appears to be functionally nearly identical to Rift's rifts. You've got public groups banding together to deal with what appears to be a dynamically spawned enemy invasion, multiple stages of the encounter progressing in sequence, and rewards at the end. I don't mean the Rift comparison to be a negative one; that game's dynamic events system is the best part of a very good MMORPG.Defiance ties into an upcoming, unannounced SyFy cable TV show. Since SyFy hasn't unveiled it yet, Trion isn't talking much about that side of the game. All we know is that the game's world and the show's universe will evolve together, where any big events in the show will be mirrored in the game. Characters from the show will also appear in Defiance, and Trion says that it's "talking about" having top players' characters possibly being mentioned in the TV show.Defiance allows thousands of players on any of the three platforms to connect to a single server hosting a persistent open world. The gameplay is more Halo than World of Warcraft. It sports solid current-generation visuals, though nothing that compares with the Resistances or Battlefields of the world. Trion's challenge is to pull off its crazy three-platform cross-play and deliver solid gameplay. If that comes off, Defiance could be a bold step in a new gaming direction. Given the general excellence of Rift, I'm liking Defiance's prospects.
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