The video game Defiance is a Massively Multiplayer Online Third Person Shooter (MMOTPS, though people keep incorrectly calling it an MMOFPS all over the internet). Defiance is also a new television series on SyFy (which, for the record, I refuse to pronounce as “Sci-Fi” and instead refer to as “Siff-ee”). Part of the draw for the game – whether on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, or PC – is its promised tie-ins to the series. Rather than simply being a spin-off or a shared universe, the expectation, based on Trion Worlds’ own statements on the matter, has been that events in the game, timed around the release of the episodes on television, will affect the series and vice versa, and later seasons will eventually be affected by events and character interactions within the game to an even greater degree.
But does it live up to the pre-launch hype? As a big fan of both the game and the television series, I would like to say that it does. I would like to say that . . . but, so far, it has not. It got off to a good start before falling on its face, though.
As the series progresses, these mini-reviews will take brief note of how and if those tie-ins exist, and the degree to which they fulfill the multimedia saga’s great promise. This time, let’s take a look at the game’s Episode Missions that were available at the game’s launch and act as a sort of prologue to the SyFy series’ two-hour pilot.
The game’s opening moments immediately tie into the television series, as you journey above San Francisco aboard the Earth Republic Stratocarrier New Freedom. Two of your fellow passengers, who travel to the surface in the escape pods to either side of you, are Irisa Nyira and Joshua Nolan (Stephanie Leonidas and Grant Bowler’s characters from the series). Upon arriving on the surface, however, there is no immediate sign of them, and the game shifts to following your own character, who is created in a brief segment between first seeing and then escaping alongside the duo.
Once past the game’s tutorial segment, players have the option of pursuing time trials, side missions, and other tasks, or simply diving into the main story missions. However, for a limited time between the launch of the game and the show’s premiere, a series of four so-called “Episode Missions” could be carried out at map locations marked with a special star icon.
In A Little Competition, your character encounters Nolan and Irisa at a minor Arkfall (an event in which a crystal from Votan ark vessel debris in orbit has crashed to the surface, potentially carrying goodies for Ark Hunters like your character, Nolan, and Irisa). After helping them and completing this brief firefight, the player is invited to the Crater, a bar encountered throughout travel in San Francisco.
At the bar, The Searchers brings Nolan, Irisa, and the player into contact with businessman (and slimeball) Varus Soleptor, who hires them (for 90,000 scrip each) to recover a Libera Nova Gem from raiders, supposedly because it holds cultural significance for him.
After battling those raiders, a call from the duo brings the player to Iron Demon Ranch to meet with Lawkeeper (and fellow member of the Defiant Few alongside Nolan) Jon Cooper, whom you will team up with for much of the game’s story campaign.
Thus begins The Heist, by far the most intense of these series prelude missions, which has you fighting alongside Nolan and Irisa (instead of going off in separate directions as in the previous mission) within one of the game’s “dungeons” (in MMO parlance), the North Point Mine, to recover the Nova Gem from a much larger, better armed group of raiders.
After meeting back at the Crater, an angry Varus promises you all three of the 90,000-scrip payments to hunt down Nolan and Irisa, who have apparently taken the Nova Gem for themselves and run off. The Departed finds you looking for the two series characters, only to have to save Nolan from an attack. In thanks for saving them, Nolan supposedly gives you the Nova Gem, along with the weapon he has been using throughout this adventure. Unfortunately, while you turn to grab the gun, he steals back the Gem, which the player character does not notice until the duo is riding off into the sunset.
For these four missions, you are rewarded with Nolan’s weapon (decent enough) and two exclusive costumes from these missions, which allow you to dress like Nolan or Irisa.
Effect on Television Series
While these missions are worthwhile for some fun moments and wisecracking from Nolan and Irisa as it is (or perhaps I should say were worthwhile, given that they disappeared just prior to the premiere and may return after the first season ends for new players to experience), these missions have an immediate effect in the show. In the pilot episode’s first quarter-hour, players will find Nolan and Irisa ending their journey near Defiance (formerly St. Louis) at a Arkfall that is far cooler than any in the game. At that Arkfall, Nolan uses the Nova Gem that he stole to activate a console and retrieve a Terrasphere that plays an important role in the episode’s climax. Moreover, Irisa notes that the Terrasphere could make them rich enough to pay off Varus, the game character, presumably for stealing the Nova Gem instead of turning it over.
For a series that is trying to be bold with tie-ins that can’t truly be interactive in real-time, especially in a first season, due to the constraints of production schedules for both television and game content, these prelude Episode Missions did a great job at introducing players to two major series characters in a way that gave fans a personal connection to their less trustworthy side, while providing nice, exclusive rewards and a sense that the player participated in events that may have stunk in the end for the player’s character, but made the player part of a larger event – the protection of Defiance in the pilot episode.
If it all continues like these Episode Missions, players and viewers should be quite happy.
(Unfortunately, we will find that this will not always be the case, when we bring you our look at the tie-in content released after the pilot episode. But that is a complaint for another time.)