As I gaze at the star map, part in disbelief part in awe, I realize that good or bad this is something truly original. Dust 514 is treading new ground and for better or for worse you can’t help but be impressed by its ambition.
There are some who don’t even know of Dust 514’s existence (let alone its impending release) however this is laced with a sense of irony as there are very few who won’t know the game which made it all possible, Eve Online.
So what makes this game so special? Put simply it’s the level of ambition shown in its design. It would have been easy for CCP Games to come to Sony with a PS3 exclusive spin off that was in ‘name only’ related but this is something quite different. Dust 514 and Eve Online operate together in every possible way.
As you struggle for galactic supremacy in Eve Online, you must take control of many planets and stations across the universe. This is accomplished by sending units down to fight for the desired ground whilst supporting them with orbital weapon barrages. In Dust 514 you are those units.
You will be hired by some of the most powerful players in Eve’s vast economy, to take over planets and terrain, and they will be actual people who are playing on their PC while you are on your PS3. They are able to provide air strikes from space while your match is going on. Alternatively you can shoot down their prized warship from the planet’s surface. You can fire a ground-to-space missile in Dust 514 and in real time it will bridge the gap to Eve Online and hit someone’s ship.
These are two very different games on two different formats and yet they seamlessly align to become one experience and this is something that should be commended. The mere fact that every struggle for the omnipotent Eve Online player to gain ground in an increasingly hostile galaxy will be put in the hands of Dust 514’s PS3 gamers is something that has never been attempted before and is sure to lay the ground for things to come.
However, with an idea this grand there are sure to be some trials to overcome and after playing Dust 514 it soon becomes apparent that there is still plenty to do in order to make it the FPS success for Eve and non-Eve fans alike.
Eve Online is not like other MMO’s. It is self-made by its fans for the most part and is also incredibly in-depth. There are elements like a real economy that often has real economic growth and collapse as well as politics, power struggles and the odd interstellar war. Its upgrade and building systems (as well as many of its other features) require real time and effort on the player’s behalf and there is not much pick up and play factor here.
This is all compounded by the game’s use of a single shard server system, which means all Eve Online (and soon all Dust 514 players) are on the same server. Another element not shared by other MMO’s.
Love them or hate them, all of these elements are required to make Eve Online what it is, but the same cannot be said for Dust 514. This is unfortunately Dust 514’s biggest problem and it will serve to put many off.
Upon first logging in to Dust 514 you will possibly find yourself incredibly baffled and more than slightly overwhelmed by the plethora of options open to you. You will create a character and choose a class etc. but the feeling of knowing what you are doing doesn’t last long. Once arriving at your base of operations you are met with a veritable arsenal of options and menus most of which, even after playing a substantial amount of matches, you will still struggle to understand.
The class system is also very in-depth however, unlike some other elements, not unnecessarily so. One of the best things about Dust 514 is you are able to pick a profession and just become a mercenary for hire. For example you could just be a pilot with no allegiance. Just flying troops in and providing support to the highest bidder. It’s these features that give Dust 514 the potential to be great.
Once in a match, the game plays well too, if a little hard to grasp at first. The maps are big and the art direction is awesome, plus the music is both epic and soulful giving the whole game a high production value. However, surely in order to get the most out of this you would need to be playing alongside Eve Online players to embrace the scale of the events as they unfold? If not and you are just playing it for the casual FPS elements then you are not going to want to trawl through hundreds of planets on a star map of the whole universe just to find a match.
The major flaw here is that CCP obviously want to appeal to the casual gamer as well as the hardcore Eve player. However with an idea this grand that relies on something that is not only well established but also incredibly complicated, their ambition could ultimately (and unfortunately) be their undoing.
Time will tell and I for one hope that Dust 514 finds its feet in time for launch, as it is nice to see such an epic concept realized. It intends to push the boundaries, that much is clear, but Dust 514 may have just bitten off more than it can chew.