Defiance, the first release from Avalon Hill's new non-wargame division, Visceral Productions, is out to be the thinking man's Descent. "You're not just trying to zip down corridors and waste people," says producer, Mark Hall. Instead, you must maneuver a ship through numerous settings, including a Descent-style base - plus islands, canyons, and urban settings - blasting biomechanical monsters and solving puzzles.
While the two games may have a similar first-person look and feel, there's another force at work here: gravity. Descent's gameplay was built around six degrees of freedom - which made many a gamer queasy with nausea - while in Defiance you must constantly fire timed thrusters to gain altitude. The thrust can only be activated in short bursts - until the energy levels run out, the ship settles to earth, and you wait for them to recharge. You can strategically use the environment to "hop" your craft up across structures such as ramps and boxes to get through tunnels, fire on turrets, or monsters. Timing and conservation of thrust are part of the puzzle-solving nature of the game. "The immersion is still there," says Hall, again contrasting the game with Descent, "without the feeling of losing your lunch."
Defiance's plot is fairly straightforward. You are a test pilot putting a new combat vehicle through its paces on an arms-manufacturing planet called Calchon. In mid-training, the base is attacked - and you have the only combat ship available to fend off an array of 18 monsters, including the missile serpent, a flying manta ray-style creature that fires missiles from its tail, and shaft mites, which have four steel swords for legs. Other biomechanical enemies include the slow, huge juggernaut, and the dark hunter - which has a square cannon mounted on its side. The monsters fire energy weapons and missiles, and also have close-combat weapons such as claws. Your ship is armed to the teeth with a variety of cannons - including the ultra cool chain gun, bouncing bombs, a rail gun similar to the one that will appear in Quake II, and a variety of missiles.
Eight people can play Defiance over an IPX, and Visceral promises four additional deathmatch levels. The game will look good, with a maximum resolution of 1280 X 1024, 3DFX support, and a frame rate that Visceral promises will be as good as anything else on the market. The game will also support Microsoft's new force feedback joystick - which will undoubtedly add to the immersion. Meanwhile, the Visceral team hopes that Defiance's storyline and puzzle-solving elements will break it out of the Descent mold. "The game is much closer to Tomb Raider," says Hall. "Each level has certain tasks that must be completed, giving you more of a real game than a toy." Players will crack open the box in mid-October.