Some would say that a video game/television show crossover is a little on the ambitious side. I would have to agree. Combining the two forms of entertainment has never been pulled off successfully. But this may all change with Defiance, a brave new IP that brings both mediums together in an innovative and interesting way.
Developed as both a game and television series, with each being given equal time and consideration, Defiance allows players to watch the show and then jump seamlessly into the game. Much of what happens in the series will directly translate to the game, enabling you to continue the story-line between episodes.
Eventually, the series will feature aspects of the game as well, with one example being a Wanted poster showing an in-game player/avatar within the Syfy production. The developers mention the crossover will start small, but will slowly grow as the game and series evolve. But both need to reach a certain level of success for the formula to be viable long-term.
The good news is that at least one piece of the puzzle, the Syfy Network series, is already looking quite strong. making the future prospects much brighter for the mash-up. The premiere of the show earlier this week garnered an impressive 2.7 million viewers, making it an immediate success, as well as the highest rated scripted series on the network in years.
I took some time to watch the first episode and came away thinking that, with a little tweaking, it could definitely turn into a very entertaining experience. Just like many premiere episodes, there is a lot that could be improved upon, but the foundation is strong and offers many opportunities to create something special.
The concept is that of an old-school western with a distinctive Sci-Fi skin:
Defiance is set in the near future, where aliens known as Votans have come to Earth seeking a new home after their solar system was destroyed. However, when they reached Earth, they discovered they were not welcome. Rather than turn away, they began a war with the humans, determined to make Earth their new home.
After decades of war, a ceasefire is declared when both sides realize they must focus on survival on this new almost alien planet. The series largely revolves around the character of Jeb Nolan. After serving in the war that is now over, he returns to his hometown of St Louis to find it decimated. Deciding his services are needed, Jeb takes up a position as the Chief Lawkeeper in Defiance, so he can protect the town from dangerous clashes between humans, aliens, military scavengers and other dangerous visitors.
Check out the show trailers here to get an idea of what to expect:
But of course, we are a bit more interested in the video game part of the equation, so there will surely be a heavier weight given to that performance as opposed to the series. The game itself was developed by Trion Worlds and is described as a futuristic online open-world shooter where thousands of players (known as Arc Hunters) scour a transformed Earth competing for alien technology. Defiance allows you to create a unique character and level up with a large number of customization options.
According to the website, players can “hunt alone or with others as you improve your skills and unlock powerful modern and alien weapons that will help you survive the massive battles that await in this constantly evolving online world. Explore vast landscapes on a variety of vehicles and lead the charge in huge co-op battles and fierce multiplayer conflicts. Immerse yourself in the world of Defiance as the game impacts, and is impacted by, the Defiance TV series.”
The critical reception for Defiance (which released on Aril 2nd) has been hot and cold, with many admiring the concept but having a tough time with bugs and weak AI. Currently it has a Metacritic score of 64, which is on the lower end of the average, but not terrible.
As the developers continue to tweak these issues, it will be interesting to see what the game develops into. I believe that, if the series is successful it could serve to help create a much better gaming experience. TV shows like Breaking Bad have proven that an evolution of characters and plot can produce amazing drama, and this creative enlightenment that many series have gone through after establishing themselves, could translate positively to the gaming side of the coin.
Not only will the game continue to improve from a programming and performance standpoint, the show will help give the developers many more directions to go in. If given time to grow, this symbiotic relationship has the potential to become great entertainment.
But if the game fails to give players a reason to come back after the show (or vice versa for that matter), the franchise as a whole wont last very long. It will be interesting to follow this process going forward and see if the grand experiment works long-term.
I do hope that this is the start of a greater cohabitation between entertainment mediums. Considering we are currently living in the “Golden Age of Television”, it may be a good idea to harness some of that magic….. because we all know that most games are in serious need of help in the storytelling department.
What are your thoughts on this crossover? Did you watch the show or play the game, and if so, do you think this whole idea has legs? Let us know!