Nespanona has finally exploded, fortunately the Cog were prepared and had already developed and placed anti-gravity devices under the planet's crust to keep the pieces afloat after this foreseen tragedy. It is your responsibility to expand your empire and defeat other rival empires. All your enemies are human; all have the same driving forces. In order to survive you must attempt to unite the remaining Cog or destroy those who oppose the movement, not an easy task to say the least.

At a time when the popularity of massively multiplayer online games is rising, Nicely Crafted Entertainment (NiCE) is attempting to up the ante. As a new company devoted to only developing online titles, they are trying to squeeze in among a tightly packed crowd, many of which have big dollars to spend. The release of Time of Defiance marks their first such game in the genre; an online only real-time strategy game that sets gamers right in the midst of this huge devastated world, attempting to expand and conquer as many of the islands as possible.

As I previously mentioned, Time of Defiance is set in a massive world; you will not be able to begin to understand the size of it until you start exploring for the first time. The play area is said to be over four thousand square kilometers (I really have not been able to travel from one side to the other of the huge map to verify this) and each game easily supports hundreds of players at a time. There are literally thousands of islands of varying size and varying resources available for mining. Most games of Time of Defiance last for twenty-one days, advanced games last for up to twenty-eight days and there are special skirmish games that occur at faster speeds and only last for a week (for the more dedicated players in the community).

In a typical game of Time of Defiance, players will spend most of their time in empire view. This is a close up view of their units, offering full camera control so players can zoom and rotate the view as they please. Players start off a game (if they are Cog) on one island with a Cog Headquarters, a few turrets, some ships and quite importantly a Quantum Gate to the Eighth House. Otherwise, players start off as nomad players - players without a home island. This can occur if all the designated starting islands are already taken in a game. These players must find an island to occupy before they start building and have many extra units available to compensate for this.

Gameplay occurs quite slowly, buildings and units can take tens of minutes to build which may deter some fans of typical RTS games. However, what must be realized is the game continues to play even while you are offline; therefore, these can all be queued up and will continue to build later. The flipside of this is that negative events can happen while a player is offline, such as resources running out or an attack from another player. This is specifically why Nicely Crafted has incorporated and email alert system, whereby when enabled players will receive important updates via email about these types of events.

Scouts are a must in the game to explore the immediate area; the entire map is divided into tiny squares, if you have a unit in a square you will be able to see all of the islands in the square and can tell if they are inhabited or not. The scouts are able to perform mineral surveys on islands to determine if they are suitable for habitation or not. As the game progresses, a player's empire will undoubtedly expand and shift its focus from island to island as resources become scarce and encounters with others more frequent.

Of utmost importance to the game is the Eighth House and being able to make efficient use of water and crystal moss. These two are the main currencies in this futuristic world and can be used to buy units or useful intelligence information. However, the Gate requires water to run in order to bank water and moss in the Eighth House and crystal moss cannot be mined with the typical equipment. A moss miner must first be purchased from the Eighth House in order to accomplish this. Although the game is quite complex at first, there are several useful text documents in the game's install directory that cover the basics and are a must read for beginners. Also, there is a wide variety of information on the title at its official website.

In the graphics department, Time of Defiance is far from revolutionary. But what is important here is that no one will really notice or care. This is because there is so much happening in the game that most time will be spent zoomed out from the action to fully encompass everything. Another important note here is that the download for the game is extremely small by today's standards - a mere 11mb at the moment, something that not even modem users would complain about - and this is the full version. So, it is safe to say that Nicely Crafted found a great balance between download size and quality of this game. Units and buildings look really basic and blocky from close-up, yet overall the graphics are completely suitable for the type of game.

There is also no in-game background music, for the above reasons. However, there is sound when starting the game up and sound effects are present. The sound effects are more than adequate, yet when nothing is happening the game seems a little too quiet. Even a very basic soundtrack would be appreciated as long as it did not significantly increase the download size. The game just seems a little too silent without a background soundtrack.

As a massively multiplayer online game, Time of Defiance requires a monthly fee in order to compete. Therefore, it must be noted that players will have to devote time to this game on a regular basis in order to get the most out of it. Also, the game is quite complex overall. It will take a few sessions just to get the basics and much time to completely understand it all. The interface is a basic text menu system that can be daunting and the world is simply huge. Just a few reasons why this game is recommended only to those who will play often; when games can last up to twenty-eight days it is important that players login often to get their money's worth.

Time of Defiance was originally made available for download from Nicely Crafted Entertainment's web site in August 2002. Currently, Nicely Crafted releases a new game client each month with updates to the game and new units. They are also currently working on graphics of the game, with a new graphics engine to be released in the future once development of the overall game finishes. This is an exciting time in the world of massively multiplayer games, and Time of Defiance is making great strides with each passing month. Just one thing to look forward to is the future of this game as its popularity increases and new developments are made.