Dust 514 Hands-on Preview Part 2 -- Galactic Warfare on an Individual ScaleBy Sophie Prell - Posted Mar 28, 2012
Dust 514, the upcoming FPS MMO tie-in with EVE Online by CCP Games, was on display in full force at CCP Fanfest 2012. And while we've heard details of the game before, as well as seen multiple videos that tease the premise such as the Dust 514 announcement trailer and the EVE Online Future Vision 2011 trailer, this was the first time the press was allowed hands-on time with the game.
So if you're wondering just how Dust 514 plays compared to the other shooters on the market, read on for part two of our Dust 514 hands-on gameplay preview.
The first thing to know about Dust 514 is that, like Team Fortress 2, it's a game with a world and with characters, but not a story. You can't talk about Dust without talking about EVE, and EVE's history is dominated by open sandbox gameplay.
During Fanfest, we were told a story of how, in the beginning of EVE, players from various nationalities pushed out to claim their own part of the universe. The Russian player base had their corner, the Scandinavians another, the French another, and finally, the Americans. And all that, without context, doesn't seem so surprising. What is surprising is what the sandbox allowed for next.
Russians would continually attack the Scandinavians, trying to push them out of their space, assuming they would have no difficulty taking down such a small and relatively weak group. What the Russians didn't know was that the Scandinavians were being secretly funded by the Americans, who continually denied involvement in the conflict. So to further their push, the Russians formed an alliance with the French community, who agreed to attack American convoys and seal off trade routes. That's the history of EVE, and just as it will be with Dust, it's all player conceived, crafted, and executed.
In Dust 514, you'll create an avatar representing a mercenary in the EVE universe. You'll be given a sort of captain's quarters, where you can store and customize your outfits for battle. Each dropsuit you create will utilize components such as shield rechargers or damage amplifiers, which use up energy and suit resources.
This means you'll have to balance what your suit can do with what its energy requirements are. So for example, a sniper may wish to have a suit with less actual plating and more shields, allowing them faster and more agile movement. Or they could become a “glass cannon” and forego the shields entirely, stacking up on damage amplifiers. It's really up to you.
When customizing your loadouts, you'll be shown a chart that breaks down the more complex and sci-fi terminology into everyday, understandable language. Not sure why you would want a Complex Processing Matrix Hyperion Turntable Pony? Just look over at the chart and you'll see your shield is now 10 percent stronger. Ah, now that makes total sense.
From your quarters, you'll be able to search for battles and take contracts. There will be computer-generated contracts to get the ball rolling, but CCP is hoping that mercenary clans in Dust will form a symbiotic relationship with the corporations in EVE, thereby generating a consistent -- and more enticing -- chain of supply and demand across both games. This will also help generate story, as you could end up joining a clan of mercs that gets employed by an EVE player seeking to unseat a mega-corporation, which is run by another EVE player. It's organic design and risky, but man is it cool when it pays off.
Prior to battle, you'll enter a sort of pre-game lobby. But Dust 514 is all about plugging into the EVE universe, meaning this isn't just a chat room. You'll see a holographic map of the battlefield, as well as your teammates walking around as their avatars. Out the giant viewing window you'll also see the planet you're about to strike. It's a truly immersive experience that breaks down the fourth wall, and for that, I couldn't be happier.
Once on the ground, you'll have to choose a spawn point and loadout. A 3D overview map provides a glance of the battlefield, which is rendered using the Unreal Engine. From there, you have the typical mini-map, availability to chat with teammates, and HUD showing shields, ammo, and where your buddies are. Though they're not terribly original in design (no Resistance-style tracing bullets or deployable shields) each of the guns I tried nonetheless felt good to hold in my hands.
Every player also has access to request resources such as a dropship, tank and gun-mounted Warthog-style vehicle, which are sent to a queue and then placed on the battlefield. CCP was very adamant about explaining that things don't just materialize or come from nowhere in the EVE universe.
These are real resources you can lose or run out of, and that need to be transported to the fight. Vehicle combat could use a little tweaking, in my opinion. The damage indicators pop up if you should so much as go over a pothole, and the crosshairs seem to be a bit too close. There was also virtually no splash damage from the tank's massive cannon, which seemed off to me.
Infantry combat is much more balanced at the moment, though it lacks the visual punch that games like Halo: Reach deliver. As a small gripe, there are very few visual indicators that you've hit an enemy or done damage to them. Enemy bodies don't seem to reel back at all from bullets, and when shields are up, there is only a tiny blue net that appears when struck. Since so much of the armor color schemes are black, silver, and blue, this can be hard to notice. Shields also give no indication of when they're down; you just have to look at the enemy's health bar and analyze.
Still, these gripes are minor, and I believe they'll be addressed by Dust 514's release. Graphics are often the last thing to be updated in a game, and these effects could simply be placeholder.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Dust. It's a huge universe, one that deserves to be explored. And with the integration of Dust 514 and EVE Online, CCP has something truly magical and spectacular. When you've let yourself soak it all in and just sort of experience the universe as a living, breathing thing and not a series of code, you get a warm, fuzzy feeling you can't really get anywhere else. Dust 514 may not have been on your radar before, but it is absolutely a must-watch game of 2012. Look for it on shelves in the summer.