Within the farthest reaches of the Tranquillity server, a tale of debauchery and deception is always waiting to be told. CCP Games’ Eve Online is an MMO that, by nature, is driven by conflict. It’s often heralded as one of the most interesting games to read about, but for the inexperienced player, one of the most boring to actually play. This is a mantra that continues to ring true as CCP expands Eve out of the stars and down onto the planets that are so hotly contested by the corporations above.
While Eve Online has had ten years to perfect its world, Dust 514 feels like it is in desperate need of a decade of evolution, with the current build simply in no shape to move out of the shadow of its peers. It doesn’t have the community to drive great conversation and the gameplay isn’t solid enough to create captivating play, Dust is in a limbo period that – as the beta has shown – has plenty of room to grow despite its initial faults.
As we mentioned above, Dust has evolved plenty since its beta days, but the mundane moment-to-moment gameplay still sours what is otherwise a highly ambitious undertaking by CCP. The vast array of weaponry on hand do little to make you feel like an intergalactic soldier, with sluggish handling only serving to poison the experience of diving into drawn-out firefights with a handful of soldiers by your side. There’s simply not enough precision granted with the PlayStation 3’s gamepad; the guns feel light and are more than happy to wildly lead across the screen as you struggle to keep iron sights on enemies in the midst of explosions. A mouse and keyboard configuration is available but it doesn’t seem sensitive enough to appease those who feel at home gaming on a PC. The sensitivity settings can be tweaked, but Dust never quite manages to give you the seamless control over your characters movement that is expected from modern FPS games.
Dust’s core mechanics will no doubt be evolved over time, but as it stands they don’t inspire much confidence. Simply put, Dust 514 might be an FPS that promotes an unprecedented level of depth for a console game, but under-developed shooting mechanics mean most players won’t see more than a few battles before they reach for the PlayStation home button.
It’s a shame really, as it’s clear CCP has put a lot of time into creating an FPS that still feels at home within the wider Eve universe, though on occasion it does create a no-mans land for players not acquainted with the space-sim. Just as Eve lets players build their perfect spaceship, the capability to build your perfect mercenary is part of the framework of Dust, with players able to piece together a personal drop suit to create a near endless variety of load out options.
The complexity of the system is one of the best things about Dust, but the systems are hidden behind a labyrinth of unintuitive menus. Creating your drop suit is more akin to forging a mech in Chromehounds than it is to customisation found in say Call Of Duty, with each drop suit allowing for different combinations of weapons and equipment depending on the power and processing capabilities placed on each brand or model of suit. There’s plenty to hold your attention, and if you can dedicate the time to learning how to navigate the obtrusive menus, marketplace and customisation screens, there’s a highly rewarding experience to be found.
To support such an ambitious character tool, and the free-to-play model Dust has adopted, there is also a hefty grind to be found. It can feel like a walled garden for all but the most dedicated players, with each piece of gear holding its own skill requirement and prerequisites to use. The skill points required for each tier of gear and suit multiply exponentially with each rank, substantially reducing the chance of building your dream suit without opening your wallet.
Two forms of currency have been built into Dust; real (AUR) and in-game (ISK), with nearly every piece of gear having a AUR counterpart, sans skill requirements, allowing for faster accumulation of vital parts. It never feels like you’re paying to win, though it does instil the notion that building your ultimate merc will take more time than its worth in Dust without utilising your own money. Still, whether you’re spending your hard earned cash or grinding ISK through battles, some form of currency is required to restock your load outs – you lose a copy of each piece of gear equipped every time you die. For the high-end battles; it’s exhilarating to get through a scrape with your gear intact and both feet firmly out of the grave. For new players however, it can be incredibly disheartening to have to switch back to the beginner ‘Militia’ weaponry due to lack of funds to restock your load out.
As expected, most of Dust 514’s appeal is in its metagame, and the premise of joining the wider world of Eve is considerably more appealing and engaging than the game itself. The more time you can dedicate to Dust, the further the rabbit hole will go, but players looking to simply jump in to the fray sporadically, will sadly find a substantially neutered game experience.
All but the most dedicated will fail to find the connection to Eve Online, and despite CCP’s early efforts, Dust feels like a game built for to appease the 500,000 subscribers the MMO houses within New Eden, while letting everyone else look in through a window with displaced curiosity.