Defiance TV Tie-ins #7


Defiance is a multiplatform (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) MMO third person shooter, based in the universe of the SyFy television series of the same name, which is in its first season as of the time of this writing. Invisible Gamer has reviewed the core game and now continues its look at the MMO’s content as it, as designed, evolves to connect with the TV show. This time, we look at content released to coincide with the SyFy channel airing of the episode I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.

Gosh, That Was Easy

Two updates ago, Defiance players saw the introduction of several new, easy to find data recorders, which set up the backstory of the Plague (viral hemorrhagic fever) and provided the fodder for a new Pursuit, along with several new triage stations at important game locations. The following update then provided a wealth of new content in the form of two new Pursuits, several new forms of Emergencies that revolve around Afflicted (zombies, more or less), and a new set of giant events in the game known as Sieges. 

These updates were both built around the idea that a plague has broken out in the San Francisco Bay area (as evidenced in the data recorders and new Emergencies), and it is only by fighting in those Sieges that the player can protect efforts to synthesize cure components at the four Siege sites. Given that this was all accompanied by a new trailer for the game online and on television that showed Indogene doctor Eren Niden being attacked and a warning that signs of the disease had appeared in Defiance (St. Louis), the setting for the television series, it became the player’s mission to stop the disease and create a cure that would help those in the Bay area and in Defiance.

While fans expected a major new mission (or set of Episode Missions) to round out this storyline, that does not appear to be what was provided. What began with a strong batch of new content – especially the introduction of Sieges and Afflicted – seems to have fizzled out.

The new content this week came in the form of one new Episode Mission and one new data recorder. Notice that I did not mention a new Pursuit, as there isn’t one. Whereas any other update would likely have multiple data recorders to find for one Pursuit and another Pursuit to be completed by the Episode Mission (or series thereof), none were added for this update. Instead, the data recorder was laying at the feet of the person to speak with in order to start the Episode Mission, making finding it difficult for only those with an IQ below their shoe size, and only one new Episode Mission was added, rather than a series of them.

The new Episode Mission, Launching the Cure, is a bit bizarre and rather short. Apparently, Eren has developed a cure, but it needs to be delivered to Defiance. In the game, though, one cannot travel between Paradise and Defiance, as the game world only currently encompasses the Bay area. Thus, containers of the cure have been loaded into a huge missile (an ICBM) that can be launched to deliver a payload of the cure to Defiance, and Eren needs your help to reach the missile launch station. You fight your way through Cronkhite Bunker (one of the game’s main “dungeons” that you visit in the Story Missions and co-op sessions) to reach the missile, then launch it toward Defiance, where it should release its payload to be recovered and save everyone. The Bunker map has been retooled so that it is laid out the same as it has always been, but some halls are now filled with water, and enemies have been changed to include waves of Afflicted and members of the game’s toughest regular faction of enemies, Dark Matter (who are apparently there to stop the missile because the disease is killing normal humans, and Dark Matter wants normal humans – any normal humans – to die . . . cue mustache twirl and villainous laugh).

While the mission provides a new take on the Cronkhite Bunker scenario, there is a severe sense of “been there, done that” with this one, and fans’ reactions are not helped when considering that the mission itself can be completed much, much more quickly than the Bunker map usually would be. While it is not something that can be finished in, as some have complained, “five minutes,” it does feel significantly smaller and easier than one would have expected, and enemies are of varieties already encountered ad nauseaum in the game.

And . . . that’s it. It would seem that the Plague storyline has concluded in the game, which brings up another issue . . .

Parallel But Not Simultaneous?

The whole concept behind Defiance and how both the show and game have been pitched to audiences is that what happens in the show will affect the game, and what happens in the game will affect the show. In this case, that is happening, and we quickly saw a bit more of this connection in the first few minutes of the next episode, If I Ever Leave This World Alive, which were released as a teaser for the episode. However, while the connection is there, the two media for the tale seem to be out of sync.

The first update to feature any information about the Plague was released during “dead weeks” between the show’s airing of two episodes that were completely unrelated to the Plague: Brothers in Arms and Good Bye Blue Sky. This makes some sense, though, since one could argue that Paradise was dealing with the Plague before there was ever any trace of it in Defiance (later revealed to be “months” earlier, which causes some chronological issues). This seems to be confirmed in this week’s episode, I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, as a reporter from the game’s region arrives in the show’s region, only to be struck by the Plague at the end of the episode.

That, in and of itself, was handled rather clumsily. The episode is mostly about what seems to be a human astronaut, once thought killed in space, who has been found on the ship (a piece of Arkfall) that crashed during Good Bye Blue Sky. It is a story about his quest to find out the truth about who he is and how he fits into the world. Oh, and then, out of nowhere, in the last 70 seconds before the credits, they introduce the Plague element. The character from the Bay shows up sick, breaking into a conversation tied into the rest of the episode, and the show’s physician, Doc Yewll, immediately, after running a scanner over the patient for about two seconds, claims that it “looks like viral hemorrhagic fever . . . We’ve got ourselves a Plague.” Really, Doc? All that analysis in a matter of seconds? They need to pay you more. (Technically, the Plague is Irathient Flu, which the character had familiarity with already, but it certainly was not clear in the episode itself.)

The next episode of the show airs on June 17, and the first few minutes, released online shortly after this week’s episode, make a strong connection to the game, as Doc Yewll hopes for a cure from Paradise, noting that “there was an outbreak in the Bay area. A former colleague, Eren Niden, spent months working on an antiviral. If we’re lucky, one of the independent outposts will relay the message to San Francisco.”

This would have been a great connection if it had been timely. Any tension is drained upon finding out that the show’s characters need a cure from the game, after players of the game have already completed the mission in which that happens. Launching the Cure should have been content for June 17, not June 10. In fact, all of the Plague material should likely have been shifted to one week later. As it stands, we get a relatively minor bit of new content this week, which, in some respects, spoils elements of the following week’s episode on television. The stories remain in parallel, but it would seem that they are out of step with each other, perhaps due to the period between Brothers in Arms and Good Bye Blue Sky, in which no new episode aired.

(For what it’s worth, the week after this new content, the episode If I Ever Leave This World Alive does indeed feature the arrival of the cure care package in the Badlands. Joshua Nolan and Connor Lang seek it out, saving everyone, thanks to your efforts in Paradise, which seem to have taken place during the first few minutes of the episode, halfway across the continent.)

The Verdict

With what seems to be a rather weak, easy, and fast Episode Mission, lacking any new Pursuits or unusual mission rewards, and a story that appears to be ahead of the television series in a way that drains at least some of the tension from both media for Defiance, this week’s game update stumbles over what should have been one of its shining multimedia moments. The negative impact of these factors can be mitigated a bit by the fact that they do directly influence events of the following week’s episode, but the tie-in trips over itself when it should have been able to sprint to victory.