DUST 514 Open Beta Overview

DUST 514 is the free-to-play sci-fi MMOFPS from Iceland’s Crowd Control Productions, or CCP as it’s more commonly known. It is set in the same universe as EVE Online, CCP’s notorious 10 year old spaceship MMO on PC.

In EVE, players assume the role of ‘Capsuleers’ who are immortal spaceship pilots. Through an EXTREMELY deep skill training system, they can both improve their spaceship capabilities and skill as well as assume various industry roles such as mining, production, transport, exploration, piracy and military among others. It has over 450,000 subscribers who have made massive corporations that inhabit the 7000+ star systems that comprise New Eden. Stay tuned to PSU for impressions of my voyage into New Eden later this week.

After migrating across several test servers and going through several builds, DUST 514 now resides on EVE’s server, named Tranquillity. Starting with the ‘E3 build’, beta testers went through the Precursor and Codex builds before reaching the current build; Chromosome. Having two different game genres on two different platforms sharing a single shard server where they can interact with each other is an amazing feat of software and hardware development. Where most game developers wait for the next gen technology to help them create their next masterpiece, CCP has simply forged its own.

A Dropship repairs the armor of an allied tank and buggy.

Players have a few channels of interaction at their disposal at this point in the beta. In DUST you can create corporations and recruit DUST and EVE players, as can EVE pilots. Gamers from both platforms are able to chat and voice chat in real time as well as send and receive e-mails. At the moment the most exciting interaction between these two games is the Orbital Bombardment feature. In certain game modes, PC pilots are able to fly to planets hosting battles on the PS3 and can fire precision strikes in real time down to the battlefield. To learn more about this feature in its current form and what’s coming later on, click here.

DUST 514 itself is a military FPS with many features that set it apart from the competition. Unlike most shooters, your skills in various battlefield roles need to be trained via the Skill Point system, including armor, weapons, equipment, vehicles and turrets. Some skills give you passive boosts to certain stats like your shield, armor, hack speed and weapon range and others grant you access to higher level gear. Skill Points are earned in two ways; actively on the battlefield by completing objectives and performing various actions (reviving team mates, repairing armor, resupplying ammo for example) and passively even when you’re not playing the game. It’s kind of nice knowing that when I’m at work or away from home, I’m still making some progress in game.

Training skills goes hand in hand with complete freedom to develop your merc exactly how you like to play. While the game offers the four usual archetypes of medic, heavy, assault and scout, you can blend these in any way you choose. There are currently 100 skills at your disposal to choose from which deal with everything from the development of specific weapons to classes of weapons, shield and armor, vehicles and turrets. You don’t even have to be a ground mercenary, you could train as a dropship pilot and fly your squad to objectives for rapid objective taking for example.

A merc in a Heavy Suit with his Forge Gun. Tanks and Dropships beware!

The persistence offered in this game is a very appealing proposition to me. The idea of having a highly trained and versatile mercenary that I will keep and develop over the years is a lot more appealing than buying retail shooter games and starting from scratch on each new title. Speaking in an interview with CVG, EVE Designer Kristoffer Touborg touched on this, "When it comes to console shooters, I see it very much as a migrating population, which moves from new title to new title. What we need to do is basically change their mindset, to make them understand that Dust is a game that will get better and better, and that is going to be a big challenge." CCP has a lot planned for DUST 514; not in the way of numbered sequels however, but rather expansions that will continually expand the existing title. This means you will have a persistent avatar that embodies all of your time and experience in this rich universe as it continues to grow over the years.

Other features that set it apart include an economy which is used to purchase the assets you’ll take to battle and how those assets are brought into the field. In DUST, everything you take into the fight has to be bought in the marketplace. This includes your various devices, weapons, dropsuits and vehicles and their module fittings. When you die, you lose whatever you had on you and the same goes for destroyed vehicles. This was a jarring concept for me at first. The idea of me losing my gear when I died and having to buy new stuff was almost off putting. It later dawned on me that it’s systems like this that are setting up DUST 514 and EVE Online to be the most realistic war simulator ever made. Not only does it make sense in terms of simulating the reality of combat financially, but it also adds another level of consequence to your performance in game. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to earn ISK (the in-game currency). You get it as a reward at the end of battles regardless of whether you win or lose. Naturally the winning team gets more and other things are taken into account, such as how much expensive equipment your opposition lost during the match. Unlike other military shooters where vehicles spawn in game periodically at fixed spawn points, in DUST you can request them at any time in battle and they get brought to you via a delivery dropship right at your location.

In time CCP will link the economy of EVE with that of DUST 514, but this has to be done very slowly and carefully as EVE’s economy has been developing over the past 10 years and so DUST’s economy needs to be refined and regulated before the two can be blended together. CCP knows how long it generally takes players to make money in EVE Online and this pace has to be mirrored in DUST to insure there are no inflation issues. In an interview with MMORPG.com, Brandon Laurino, Executive Producer of DUST said that everything was in place for union of the economies, “we have laid all the plumbing between EVE Online and DUST 514, and now we are slowly turning on all the faucets. As we approach the 10 year anniversary of EVE Online this year, which falls around our annual FanFest event at end of April, we will be escalating this connection, culminating in massive events between the two, and of course, new functionality, features and other updates.”

A logibro (Logistics class merc) defending an orbital artillery cannon.

There is another kind of currency in DUST 514. AUR can be bought from the PSN/SEN store and can be used to buy various equipment in the marketplace such as unique dropsuit skins and side-grade weapons. CCP has made it crystal clear that it isn’t a pay-to-win situation. Items bought with AUR have comparable ISK counterparts; these counterparts require more training though, so AUR items essentially give you access to gear above your current level of training. The AUR bought weapons are not overpowered versions of the ISK gear, they are just variations and there are always trade offs between all the weapons. Eventually the DUST market will probably open up and players will be able to sell AUR items on the market for ISK, so those who can’t invest into the game should still be able to get these items.

Before battle you start off in your mercenary quarters. This is basically just a visual representation of your Neocom which is the menu that deals with everything you do outside of combat. It allows you to access your skills, the marketplace and dropsuit and vehicle fittings as well as check your current inventory of gear, check your corporation’s status and send and receive e-mails. CCP is working on a Vita app that will grant you access to Neocom on the go so that you can do all your preparation and be ready for battle when you get home. No word on a release date yet but stay tuned to PSU for news on this.

At the moment there are two game modes available, Ambush and Skirmish, which are team death-match and point capture respectively. The currently available maps vary in size and design with some offering cool spots for close quarters combat and others a hunting ground for snipers where more cautious play is required and the use of the free buggy is recommended. Graphically the gameplay has made leaps and bounds since the E3 and Precursor builds but still isn’t up to scratch with other shooters. I do really like some of the environmental effects like the fog in some levels as well as the lighting. The graphics will improve though, DUST is a beta in the truest sense of the word and is still very much in its infancy. CCP is committed to the continual improvement of the game but is focussing on the core gameplay mechanics involved in amalgamating to games on two platforms into one IP. There will be an update that will go live around the time of the EVE FANFEST event in Iceland at the end of April that will bring significant graphical and gameplay updates to the mix.

A logibro falls in battle…

I’ve given you a little glimpse as to what the game is about but I urge you to try it out for yourselves. The open beta is available now to download from the PlayStation Store. Before you suit up, you may want to have a look at our article on basic skill training, it should help ease you into the world of DUST 514’s deep gameplay experience. Also, if you would like to join PSU’s official corporation, click on the banner below for details. We are creating a friendly and helpful community here at PSU and will take you in and help you on your way should you have questions or need assistance.