There’s a glut of real time strategy games right now, and quite frankly most of these games are carbon copies. Use your worker/constructor unit/peon to collect resources and construct buildings and ships, and then send out the soldiers/robots/warriors/battleships to conquer everything on the map. But for a few cosmetic differences, most games boil right down to this. Thankfully, there are some games that come along and change the status quo, taking the admittedly tired genre and breathing in a bit of fresh air. Time of Defiance is one of these games.
At its heart, Time of Defiance (ToD) is just a typical real time strategy. Resource collection, building and ship construction, and conquering the world is still central to the game. However, there are a few twists that make ToD really stand out. The folks at Nicely Crafted Entertainment took the term “real time strategy” quite literally. For most games, this moniker simply means that the game takes place in a continuous, non-turn-based fashion of play. For Time of Defiance, however, “real time” means just that—once a game begins, that game continues for a predetermined amount of real-life time (usually 3-4 weeks), whether or not the players are sitting at the computer. For this reason alone, ToD is something quite unique in the RTS genre.
In addition to the continuous real time aspect, Time of Defiance is also a completely multiplayer game. There are no computer opponents; every empire encountered is controlled by a human player. There is no computer AI to exploit, no universal enemy behavior. Diplomacy takes place between living, breathing people, so the reliability of a neighbor to uphold their peace agreement is not a function of computer code but instead a direct result of how their day went at real-life work. Of course, being a massively multiplayer continuous game, it’s also entirely possible to figure out exactly when that neighbor goes to work, and to take advantage of the unattended virtual real estate.
Game play in the Time of Defiance world takes place in a series of floating islands, high above the planet Nespanona’s surface. Seems that long, long ago, People Who Should Have Known Better started meddling with Forces Better Left Alone, and inevitably everyone found themselves scrabbling for life on the barren floating rocks above the shattered world. As the game begins, each player starts their meager little base on one of these islands, armed only with a handful of ships and a “quantum gate”. The quantum gate allows players to visit the Eighth House, a governing body and marketplace. Here players can talk to other players, buy technologies unavailable anywhere else, and even purchase “gate coordinates”, the ability to open a wormhole right into an opponent’s territory, to aid in those surprise visits.
The interface in Time of Defiance has a bit of a learning curve, but soon becomes fairly intuitive. Both buildings and ships are controlled through a system of pull-down menus, which means that on-the-fly commands are a bit difficult to do. However, detailed commands such as complex flight paths or mining routes are simple to set up, provided they don’t need to be programmed quickly. Speaking of speed, Time of Defiance is not exactly a fast paced game, especially toward the beginning. Even the smallest buildings and ships require several minutes of real-life time to build. Large constructions can take half an hour or longer, and travel across even the smallest of empires can take an hour. Much of the early game is spent queuing up several build orders, setting mining ships to autopilot, sending out a few scout vessels, and then exiting to real-life for a while. In fact, ToD is a game that I’ve found begs to be played in short sessions throughout the day, rather than in marathon gaming hours. When empires get larger, there’s certainly more to do at one time, but even then there are slow spots.
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