Science-Fiction Weekly – Defiance 2050, Mothergunship, The Spectrum Retreat, Earthfall
Caprica. Dark Matter. Stargate Universe. Helix. Defiance. The Expanse. All of these shows aired on Syfy. All were canceled.
Thanks to the rise of streaming networks and the need to lock up exclusive shows, The Expanse will live on to see another day on Amazon. I have a feeling a number of the aforementioned shows would have a second chance at life if the arms race we are seeing today for exclusive shows existed when they were canceled. Stargate Universe was on the verge of greatness, Caprica was a fascinating expansion of Battlestar Galactica, and Defiance...well...
Defiance isn't done yet. You may never see another episode of it, but the Ark Hunters are still splattering alien blood in the newly released video game, Defiance 2050. Don't think for a second this is a sequel, however. Trion Worlds says it hopes to "evolve the story with new content in the future," but the bulk of Defiance 2050 is a slightly reimagined version of the 2013 massively multiplayer open-world Defiance game.
One big change: Players can now select a class from the outset of play. The assault class specializes in close-range weaponry and can self-sustain in battle. The assassin is stealthy and deals increased damage. The guardian's focus is crowd control and has high vitality. And the medic functions as you would suspect, offering healing and combat buffs. After just a few missions, I was able to see how these classes change up the flow, especially in the Arkfall events, which bring players together to take down waves of enemies and bosses. As the medic, I wasn't dealing as much damage as I did in the past, and was better served staying back, firing from afar, and activating my healing robot to aid nearby players. It is nice to see this style of play in Defiance, a game that became too mindless of a shooter for me when it originally released.
Defiance 2050 is on current-gen machines, but don't expect much from it visually. It looks a bit sharper and the lighting is better in places, but no detail can hide the fact that it was built in 2013. The last-gen qualities are still there in the textures and world design. The biggest improvement is a steady framerate, which you rarely saw on the Xbox 360. Even during the Arkfall events, I didn't see much slowdown or latency in my movement while playing on Xbox One X. Enemies on the other hand frequently glitch out, phasing in and out of reality, and sometimes magically sliding across the terrain. Defiance 2050 is rough around the edges, but I don't think the enemy bugs led to different outcomes in the missions I took on. Yes, I died a few times and had to warp back to base, but it wasn't from an enemy disappearing. I mostly got myself in over my head against powerful foes.
Is Defiance 2050 worth your time? If you already played it in the previous generation, I would say the answer is a hard "no" until Trion Worlds details what is coming next as far as new content and story material. If you haven't experienced an Arkfall yet, the game is free to play, and is a fairly good time, especially if you party up with friends. Don't expect much from the story, unless you go back and watch the three seasons of the television series. Characters from the show make cameos with little context, and most of the universe building comes from it as well. You'll get a good idea of what to expect within a good half hour of play. I don't know how evil the free-to-play shop is yet, but weapon drops are plentiful during gameplay, and I haven't even thought about buying anything else yet. One thing to note for those of you playing: Valor Commendations are a form of currency created to reward those who played the original game. The number of Commendations on your account is calculated based off of the achievements and purchases you made in the original game. You can purchase unique titles and cosmetics with the Valor you have. While I agree this is a nice way of saying "thanks for your support" to longtime fans, it's confusing for people that aren't in the know.
Regardless, it's nice to see Defiance's universe continue on after viewership dropped from the show. I was a fan, and always thought they were just scratching the surface on the types of stories that could be told.
On July 17, developers Grip Digital and Terrible Posture Games are releasing Mothergunship, a rogue-like first-person shooter that hangs its hat on extensive weapon customization. As you mow down robots and dart in and out of waves of slow-moving bullets, you obtain a wide variety of weapon parts that can later be assembled into a gun of your design. In a way, it's a bit like playing with Legos. Parts can be rotated in 3D space and connected in a variety of ways to make Frankenstein-like guns that are hopefully powerful. One of the only rules for assembling a gun is the barrel has to face forward. You thankfully can't craft a gun with the barrel pointed in your face. The game even says you can create a 40-barrel gun if you so choose, but one shot will drain your energy and it will have to recharge.
The gunplay I've experienced so far runs at a fluid 60 frames per second and offers up a great challenge. The combat sequences are nicely designed, forcing you to change tactics and make good use of the hilarious triple-jump ability. Mothergunship doesn't take itself seriously, and delivers humor akin to games like Borderlands or Ratchet & Clank. The narrator is over the top, and the weapon building appears to favor craziness over stylish design. I've loved what I've played so far. Keep an eye on this one, folks. It's something different and could be a nice palate cleanser of a game.
If you're in the market for a narrative-driven puzzle experience similar in execution to the excellent The Turning Test, check out The Spectrum Retreat, which is out now on PlayStation 4, hits tomorrow on Xbox One, and comes a day later on PC. A Switch version is also expected later this year.
What begins as a walking simulator with the player exploring a hotel called The Penrose for story beats and key codes to open additional rooms soon shifts into a mind-bending puzzler taking place in a secret state-of-the-art facility (yes, it will make you think of Portal). To make more progress in this area, you need to open more doors, only the key isn't a code, but a specific color. You must scour the environment for colored cubes. If you look at one and click on it, you draw that color away from the cube and wield it with a device you hold. You can then bring that color to the door to see if it lines up. Sounds easy enough, right?
It is at first, but as the facility's rooms become more complex, and more colors are added to the mix. The puzzles start messing with your mind, and some appear to be impossible until you start thinking outside of the box.
I haven't been able to make much of the narrative yet, but it appears to be unraveling the story of what happened before your character arrived at the hotel. The puzzles are enough of a draw at this point, but having a great narrative to go along with it would be nice. Right now, the story is just kind of there. I'm not attached to it at all. Time will tell.
As a big Left 4 Dead fan, I can't help but be excited for Earthfall. Holing up in a small space and yelling at your friends to help or stop sucking has proven to be a delightful way to spend an evening. Earthfall looks to deliver that same type of intensity and the need to communicate to stay alive.
Instead of aliens, you find yourself taking on a variety of weird-looking aliens, some with tentacles, others with nearly indescribable body composition. If you don't have friends around to play with you, a single-player campaign is offered with a bit more narrative, but uses the same maps, and your friends are replaced with bots. These A.I. driven helpers also replace players if they drop out of a game.
The goal is to survive. That's it. Yes, you occasionally have small missions to complete (like spinning four steam wheels), but the focus is squarely on the battle between four humans and waves of aliens. If you played Left 4 Dead, Earthfall is a love letter to it.
Game Informer's resident anime character, Javy Gwaltney, is currently playing through the game for review, and should have a verdict on it within the coming days. You can get your hands on it tomorrow on Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4, but if you can't wait that long, it's been in Steam Early Access since April.
That's it for this week's column, gang. Thanks again for reading, and please let me know if I helped you in any way in finding a new game to play or to avoid one you were looking forward to. See you in seven days!