Defiance fans have been hungry for new story content for some time now, and today Trion delivers! Dark Metamorphosis has just gone live and kicks off season four of the game with the continuation of the Dark Matter storyline. I had a chance to talk with Project Lead Carble Cheung and Content Designer John Hegner about the new stuff and the meaty storyline it delivers.
For those who haven’t been keeping up, Dark Matter was a splinter group of the Votanis Collective military; the player fought this faction in previous content and killed off its leader. That prompted some of Dark Matter’s members to reconcile with the main VC, while others formed the even more radical human-hating Neo-Votanis Front (NVF), which will provide the main resistance in the Dark Metamorphosis storyline.
The NVF has been tinkering with the DNA of shrill, a race of larval aliens, and Earth animals and making some pretty gruesome hybrids that you’ll have to contend with throughout the game. (Note: “Tinkering with DNA” in sci-fi always, always turns out badly.) You’ll actually team up with the old Dark Matter forces to take down the NVF, in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of dynamic.
Some of the NVF hybrids have been seen before, such as the dog-like stalkers and more long-range feeders, which spawn shrill larvae and shoot globs of goo at players. Of course, that wasn’t enough, so now the NVF have created shrill/human hybrids called harbingers, which up the creepy factor by 10 by giving the shrill a kind of consciousness and voice, which I heard a bit of in one of the cut scenes. Oh, and they have a sac on their head that spits out shrill leeches that seek out players and explode all over them. Definitely some nightmare fuel, that.
Taking the fight to them
There are five new missions in the Dark Metamorphosis storyline, which culminates with a raid on an isolated NVF scientific installation on the Monterey Peninsula, where the player is fights the entrenched NVF forces before an artillery strike arrives and Dark Matter blows the whole place sky high.
I asked why they didn’t just call in the strike first, because hey, video game logic. To his credit, Hegner had a ready reply. “There’s a defense network built up around the area and the player is being tasked to go in and grab all their research to figure out exactly what the NVF has been up to.” If you’ve played Defiance, you know that your Ark Hunter is pretty much an expendable resource sent on impossible missions by the powers that be, so it fits. “Hey, we’re going to blow this place to bits, would you go in first and steal some data? It’ll be fiiiiiine.”
The layout of the base combines both outdoor and indoor areas and has a distinctly different look and feel from the other areas I’ve seen in the game, with closely packed buildings and plenty of holes for enemies to pop out of. It seems perfect for PvP, and Hegner says that was a goal from the start. “When we were building this map, we wanted diversity of use for it. Starting off, it’s a single-player map, story-driven, but we went in with this knowing we wanted to take this into PvP eventually. Players that have played through it on our PTS, one of the first things they’ve said is, ‘Oh man, I can’t wait until this is a PvP map.’ They’re reading our minds.” Probably with some black-market Votan tech.
The shrill weapons are a nasty lot. There’s already some shrill-related gear in the game, such as the shrill grenades, which “ate through armor and flesh like acid,” according to Hegner, and to that Trion will be adding guns that fire shrill larvae and rockets that leave “puddles of goo and stuff.” Players will be able to get their hands on a few of these weapons, which will be rolled out incrementally. The armor you can acquire – though the store, of course – is also inspired by the NVF forces, with a “fantasy/sci-fi merger,” as Cheung put it.
The game must go on
I hadn’t talked to the Defiance team for a while, so I put the most salient question to them after the demo was over: What effect, if any, has the cancellation of the show had on the game? Cheung told me that, since the show is actually based on the game, and not the other way around, little has changed. “We’re continuing with what we feel is best for the players. We’re going forward with however we think the game needs to go. We’re free to advance the plotlines however we choose.”
In addition to the NVF storyline, Dark Metamorphosis includes new Arkfalls and a three-part pursuit (Defiance’s version of achievements) that players can, uh, pursue to acquire a new weapon. The new content is free to all players, which is always standard for Defiance updates, with paid aspects revolving around cosmetics and a limited number of weapons.
The show might be gone, but Defiance the game marches on, well, defiantly. It’s an underrated title that probably got more hype than it could handle with its small-screen tie-in, so maybe now that the show is off the air, it’ll be better able to do its own thing without having to maintain a balance with the show. Either way, it’s a game worth checking out.