Trion Worlds, developers of the recent MMORPG Rift and MMORTS End of Nations, is not content with doing something in the same genre more than once. I know this because I just spent about an hour playing Defiance, Trion Worlds upcoming MMOTPS (I don’t know if that’s an acronym yet, but if it isn’t, you heard it here first). That’s right, a massively multiplayer third person shooter, and a multi-platform one at that.
While it’s not the first MMO to be on Playstation, XBox, and PC, it’s definitely the first shooter to do so, and by my reckoning, Trion is doing a great job of making a game that will appeal to most audiences. I say “most” because while Defiance seemed like a really fun and challenging game, most of that challenge came from the fact that I was using an XBox controller instead of my preferred mouse-and-keyboard. Console gamers will likely find much more reward in access to an MMO designed around a controller, but I question whether PC gamers will find enough meat in Defiance to hold their interest.
Overall, Defiance was pretty damn fun to play. I rarely have a good time playing a shooter on thumbsticks, but after a few minutes of practice, I was taking out mobs like it was my job. As a nod to one of the best parts of Trion’s other major MMO, Rift, dynamic questing plays heavily in Defiance. I was alerted to one of these events by a radar warning of objects falling from space. These objects turned out to be what looked to be spiky lightning meteors that just so happened to be spitting out hellbugs. After taking care of 2-3 of these meteors, I recieved another warning that a “super dense” object was falling from space nearby.
It turned out to be the boss Hellbug, who featured bright orange weakpoints which needed to be shot up to expose the vulnerable larva within. I have to admit, I found constantly pumping multiple clips into the weak points to be a bit tedious, but that was mainly because there were only two other players fighting the boss with me. As with Rift, more players means the events go by faster, and there is the potential for even bigger battles with more players in a given zone.
Defiance takes the idea of the MMO shooter beyond past attempts at the genre by implementing “pixel-perfect” hit detection. Previous MMO shooters like Tabula Rasa, or the original Planetside, utilized the basic concept of cone of fire plus dice roll equals damage. While horrendously imprecise, this was a necessary evil due to the bandwidth limitations of the day. As seen with other MMOs like the upcoming Planetside 2, and now Defiance, the full shooter experience is now available in a massive setting, headshots and all.
One of the most ground-breaking facets of Defiance is how players can experience the world out of the game. Sure, other games have mobile apps, deep websites, books of lore and history, but I can’t think of an MMO yet that’s had a tie-in TV show. Trion is working hand-in-hand with SyFy to develop a tie-in TV series that covers the exploits of two NPCs who the player will be constantly going on missions with in Defiance. As an example, imagine if SyFy had run a show at the same time as the launch of Mass Effect that focused on the story of Garrus Vakarian and Urdnot Wrex. Trion is hoping that this tie-in will increase player attachment to the characters and the story, but as an untested concept, only time will tell.
Defiance is currently slated for release in April 2013 for PC, XBox 360, and Playstation 3.