Time of Defiance

Time of Defiance

Written by Tyler Sager on 7/21/2003 for PC  

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.
This real time aspect really makes for some interesting strategies. Sending a fleet of warships to conquer an enemy’s island can take the better part of a day of real-time. And that’s just for them to arrive at their destination. Players may soon find themselves scheduling their day around the game. “Let’s see…these guys are going to arrive in three hours. That means I can take a quick trip to the grocery store, grab a bite to eat, catch a little TV, and be back in time to begin the actual assault.” Of course, it’s always easier to try to plan your attacks so that your opponent is offline, meaning you’ll be facing only automated defenses. Which means learning opponent’s playing habits, and using it against them. Of course, they’re also doing the same, so randomizing the playing times is beneficial. Politics and diplomacy also come into their own in Time of Defiance. Do you trust your neighbor enough to let them know when you’ll be gone, so that they might look after your empire while you’re away? And do you return the favor when you “ally” steps out, or do you use that opportunity to help yourself to some more islands? For those with constant access to the game, ToD has a feature that will send a real-life email warning when the empire is under attack. For some, this may be a good way keep an eye on things when not directly playing the game. For others, this is just a way to add insult to injury, when you arrive at work to find that your islands are falling left and right, and you can’t possibly get back to the game for another eight hours.

Graphics are solid, although nothing too flashy. There isn’t a lot of variation, however, so the game quickly gets that “samey” feel. Sound is appropriately done, with decent combat sounds and unit acknowledgments. Game requirements are quite low, and ToD is also dial-up modem friendly. New content is constantly being added, keeping the game fresh. Games consist of 21- or 28-day rounds, so if you find yourself repeatedly squashed in a particular game, it’ll be over in less than a month, and everyone will be reset to square one to once again try to conquer the world.

As unique and compelling an idea as Time of Defiance is, some may find it just doesn’t fit their playing schedule. ToD requires some pretty serious dedication of time, and many (including myself) just can’t dedicate that amount over a long period. For those finding themselves away from the computer for days at a time, ToD may not quite be the right game, especially given the (very reasonable) monthly fee. However, if you have the time available, and want to experience a true “real time” game, Time of Defiance is worth a look.
A unique twist on the real time strategy game. This is the Game That Keeps Playing, Even When You Don’t.

Rating: 8.2 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.

Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.
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