What I’ve Watched – Defiance

01 - Title

A merger between Gaming and TV is an unusual one. Sure, we’ve had shows based on games and games on shows, but never a true merger. When It was all announced I was more than a little interested. I love both Sci Fi and MMO’s. I’ve played quite a bit of the game but having been on holiday, I’ve not had time to do everything I wanted so a What I’ve Played will come later. So, sunburn and all, I took the time to watch the first two episodes of Defiance. Here’s what I think so far.

Games and other media rarely work when a cover is made. I can count on one hand the number of films based on games, and games on films, that have been worth the cost of the IP and actually done justice to it. It’s always difficult to cross that border, we enjoy a largely interactive medium where much is created through our simple participation and the actual being of the character. Films rely on your investment in what you see, but knowing you never can influence it.

Not only that, the style of a game is hard to enable to cross borders. The utterly oppressive atmosphere of Silent Hill was all but lost in the first film, in the second it bid farewell without a single glance back. However, this isn’t to say something good can’t be made. Defying my low expectations, the Prince of Persia film was actually pretty good and even captured the feel of the games and the progression of the prince as a character. While it didn’t use the story of the game it actually felt like something suitable for Prince of Persia which is more than I could have asked for after a long stream of piss that are the later Resident Evil films, Tekken, Max Payne and Uwe Boll in general.

02 - Singing

Three hundred words in and still no Defiance. Well simply put, I like what I see. I get a big Stargate (SG1) vibe from it and I like it more for that. It’s soft science fiction at best, sure we’ve got aliens and futuristic tech, but everything is so very familiar and grounded. Hardcore Sci Fi is long behind us now, I simply don’t think a show that focuses on the spectacle is economically viable. Chances are this is the sci fi we have to get used to, especially after recent failures like Terra Nova, V and Stargate Universe.

Defiance follows the story of Jeb Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted Irathient daughter, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) as we join them driving through the wasteland of terraformed USA, chasing the landing spot of an Arkfall. An Arkfall is the wreckage of Votan ships falling from the sky. In the use of music similar to that of the easter egg in Bioshock Infinite, Defiance endears us to Jeb and Irisa. A sense of familiarity is created in a simple few minutes, where a song breaks down the barriers of anger through two people knowing each other.

What will work is that alongside the current stories of the show and the game, there is a large fleshed out backstory thanks to the long development cycle. This has given the writers from both sides to add to the world, all twenty-seven years from the arrival of the Votan to 2030, when the show (and possibly the game) starts. Following Nolan and Irisa looks like it will have us with a number of complications every episode but at the same time an overarching story is introduced right away. Defiance is very much a sci fi, western and police procedural all mixed up into a nice ball.

As well as our two main characters, there is a strong supporting cast played by some great actors. Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) is the mayoress of Defiance. Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) is the ruthless Castithan (one of the seven Votan species) who runs the seedier side of town. Stahma Tarr (Jaime Murray) is Dataks wife and just as sneaky and ruthless. Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene) is the rather anti-votan, human community leader. This is just to name a few of a sizable cast.

03 - Blast

How does all this link into the game? This is a gaming site after all. Well the idea is that core plot points and characters featured in the show will make an appearance in the game. At the same time, the game started by featuring Nolan and Irisa and once they left the San Francisco bay area, the setting of the game, the show picks up with them around St Louis. There is also talk about large characters in the show then migrating over to the game, only to then return to the show.

While the show and the game take place worlds apart – around 2000 miles by my counting which in a post terraformed-apocalypse Earth may as well be a million miles – these links should certainly add to the interest. Aside from the start, Nolan and Irisa leaving the game world for the TV world, there hasn’t been a great deal of linking between the two. For the two episodes that have aired, only minor additions have been made to the game – adding just small audio-logs or what are effectively sight-seeing tours of areas. Hopefully these are just slight things that aren’t representative of the future of the interactivity and the plans mentioned earlier come to fruition adding to both worlds.

All of this will boil down to both products being at least reasonably successful. Everything I’ve read points towards there being a shared budget of $60 million. Even divided equally at $30 million each, it’s a large amount for both companies to shell out. Syfy isn’t exactly mainstream TV and while Trion found success with Rift, they’re no Activision-Blizzard. I like Defiance from what I’ve seen so far, and I can say that I went around 25 hours on the game before getting a bit tired of it. Will this unity work? I hope so. Hopefully this can set a precedent for further combinations between gaming and TV, or Film.

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