A DUST merc in space: exploring New Eden from the 'other side'
Prior to June of last year I knew very little about EVE Online except that it was a very in-depth MMO spaceship game, set in an expansive universe and riddled with customisation and strategy. Beyond that was a mystery and being predominantly a console gamer, I had little interest in learning more.
However, as DUST 514’s mechanics and gameplay elements started to make sense to me, I began to get a little curious about its older brother and how much my understanding of DUST 514 would affect the EVE learning curve. A few months later, in a trip to Iceland to get hands on time with Orbital Bombardments at CCP HQ, we were taken on a guided tour of their offices. As we walked around I saw many gorgeous pictures of various EVE ships on the walls. They looked fantastic and it was easy to forget that these intricate and detailed-looking vessels were actually starships that I could own, customise to my liking and pilot throughout a vast universe. Later that day I spent some time talking to two game designers about EVE as they showed me some of the basics of how the game is played. After this I decided that I had nothing to lose from taking advantage of the free 2 week trial that’s available from EVE Online’s official page.
I downloaded the client, created my trial account and after logging in, I started character creation. As in DUST 514, you can choose your race and background, but unlike DUST, you then get to create your character’s avatar. It’s a fun process; after you have sculpted the face and hair to your liking, you can alter the pose, angle, lighting and expression to create a snapshot that becomes your avatar in the game and on the EVE forums. In space stations you have access to the same mercenary quarters found in DUST so you can walk around and see your avatar in 3D.
After I created my Capsuleer, I was taken into the game’s tutorial mode. Here you are introduced to some of the basic elements of EVE gameplay as well as the various professions and industries in game. I went with military training but there are tutorials for mining, exploration, industry etc. Within the first 30 minutes of playing I came to see that the game wasn’t as daunting as I had expected. On the left hand side of the screen is EVE’s Neocom menu which gives you access to many of the things found in DUST 514 including fittings, assets, the marketplace, corporation and e-mail. Going into fittings I saw that the interface was the same with slots to be filled by module upgrades. Everything was familiar, just more complex and advanced.
One of the coolest features of EVE is the abandonment of traditional progression systems that are typically incorporated by other games that have RPG elements. In DUST 514 you earn Skill Points through battle and use them to advance skills through their levels. In EVE Online skills are trained with time, not SP. Each skill level has a real time duration that has to elapse before it advances. You can cue your skills up so whether you play or not, you are making progress in the game. DUST partially adopts this system and grafts its more traditional system with the inclusion of passive SP which accumulates whether you’re gaming or not.
As far as gameplay is concerned, you don’t have real time control over the ship. By clicking on objects in space like other ships, space stations or stars and selecting actions like ‘warp to’ or ‘orbit at x distance’ you pilot your ship to and from New Eden. Such navigation suits me fine because travelling in EVE is an extremely beautiful and serene experience and I am always more interested in taking it in than having to worry about controlling it manually
After the initial confusion passed and things started to make sense, it dawned on me just how breathtakingly beautiful EVE Online is. Everything looks great, from the ship models to the space stations, but what really takes the cake is the universe itself. Sublime nebulae decorate an endless array of stars and light emitted from local suns blankets the space-scape around me with soft hues. Even just travelling back and forth is a relaxing and enjoyable treat for the eyes-- and for the ears. The music in EVE is gorgeous, ambient, subtle and blends perfectly with the game’s visuals. The combination of these two makes the whole experience of flying through New Eden a meditative detour from the more thought-taxing aspects of the game like levelling, ship fitting and industry.
I enjoy my gaming best when I have a balance between a game that offers me immediate, moment to moment action and another that offers me a more serene and relaxing experience where I don’t have to be so mentally engaged. DUST 514 and EVE Online offer me this, and better yet they are two parts of an expansive and deep sci-fi MMO sandbox IP. While DUST 514 is free-to-play, EVE generally runs on the more traditional subscription model with a twist.
An EVE subscription costs between €10-15 a month depending on how much time you sub for. However, if you get good enough, you can pay for your subscription using the in-game currency ISK. PLEX (short for Pilot License Extension) is an item that adds a month to your subscription that is bought with real money and can be sold in game for ISK. The PLEX seller gets a healthy sum of in-game money and the buyer gets to pay for their subscription by purchasing and using the PLEX, so both parties win.
All in all I am thoroughly impressed with the quality of EVE Online. It is insanely massive and my words cannot do justice to how incredible it is in scope and detail. If my impressions of EVE have peaked your interest, I recommend you go to the official EVE website and start your free two week trial today. You have nothing to lose and only a beautiful and expansive universe to enjoy and explore.