EVE: DUST 514 – The reason free to play can be a let down

The premise for Dust 514 is certainly intriguing. For those not in the know, the original Eve is an online PC game set 21,000 years in the future – where players take on the role of Capsuleers, who are Starship Pilots that have been made immortal using cloning and consciousness transfer technology. In short you get to re-spawn, it’s just this time we have a justifiable excuse for it. Players acquire or buy various ships in an attempt to mine, pillage or conquer planets and set up political strongholds and facilities.

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Eve: Dust 514 is a futuristic first person shooter, exclusively for the PS3, is free to play and sees players adopt the same cloning technology. However in contrast to the original Eve game, Dust 514 sees you taking on the role of the foot soldiers on the ground that work in tandem with the PC users who orbit the planet that you are attempting to conquer on their behalf. The idea being that the ships above the planet can send in various dropships or airstrikes to aid you on the battlefield, whilst the PC users attempt to defend themselves in space. Both of you fight – side by side – for supremacy of the galaxy.

When you first upload the game you create your character and select from the traditional character sheet set-up with options such as male or female, character class and faction etc. You are then roughly shown the basics of in game currency and levelling up, which in reality is pretty daunting. There are so many menus and sub-menus, each with a huge amount of options and skill trees; it is easy to get lost. For those who love full customisation, this could certainly be a game for you. You can spend hours searching through load-outs before firing a single shot. This set up can become tedious though as every selection has a pop up ‘walkthrough’ menu. Although useful, many first person shooter enthusiasts will want a more straightforward and direct approach – with a skill tree that perhaps mimics Borderlands instead; making choices simple yet fun. Alternatively, they could have created a quick 10-15 minute in game tutorial that covers the basics rather than reading through the billion options available. Eve doesn’t seem to cater for that type of audience and when a game is free to play many will assume that Eve will be ‘pick up and play’ too.

Having said that, players can jump straight into battles should they wish and this is where the character sheet is somewhat undermined. I spent little time tinkering with my upgrades (except for my body armour) and then proceeded to kill a multitude of online players. Not once did I think to myself that I was out gunned, out matched or underpowered. Perhaps the purchases of more advanced weaponry later in the game would certainly tip the game in my favour? I did not feel this was the case. Whilst I understand the need to make newcomers feel at home and not out of their depth, surely a reward must be given to dedicated players? This now places the whole upgrade system into question – until you come across the store purchases. I’m not talking about the in game currency you can earn during battles, I’m talking about the purchases you can make with your credit card which give you weapons, vehicles and armour. Store items can start from as little as £7.99 all the way to a whopping £84.99, so for those with kids who have access to your credit card do not be fooled, not everything in this game is free to play.

eve 2Dust 514 sounds incredibly ambitious, yet quite simply isn’t. The unique selling point of this first person shooter is the effect both PS3 and PC users will have on the outcome of the game itself. During my experience I encountered little of that. The communication between the two servers feels restricted, as chat is limited between PS3 squad leaders and PC gamers, which appear to be only available with a chat pad and not a headset. You can request help when you die but hardly anyone responds to your cries. This, once again, goes against one of Dust’s major selling points; the need to work as a team. Don’t get me wrong, I witnessed some great examples of team play when players utilized the map facility to outflank or box in the enemy but a majority of the time you will find yourself on your own wandering around looking for a red marker on your radar just so you have something to shoot at.

However, this game tries to set itself apart from other first person shooters by not copying its competition. This is actually a mistake from my point of view. I am all for originality but when you create something that is free to play and an FPS, familiarity could be the key to success. Halo, Borderlands and Battlefield are the obvious choices that Dust should have plagiarised and in turn may have enticed new gamers to the foray. The makers should have stolen from Halo in terms of pacing and vehicles to create a high octane FPS. Copying Borderlands skill tree with some over the top abilities or added damage to weapons would not have gone amiss, this is set in the future after all. Finally, one of Battlefield’s strong points is tactics and team play. The way you can navigate the field quickly and effectively changes the whole outcome of the battle. Something Dust 514 put great emphasis on during the video tutorials but completely fails to deliver. The other amazing attribute Battlefield has is your own individual involvement to the team, as a lot of Battlefield is based on squad based objectives. If Dust had more objectives to obtain or destroy within one battle the game would be more frantic yet first time players could make a huge contribution, something simple like the spot ability from Battlefield 3 would have been a welcome addition.

eve 7Sadly, none of these ideas are implemented and we are left with a very generic FPS with no direction. Yes there are game modes like the familiar ‘Conquest’ but a majority of game-play involves killing the opposition until their re-spawns run out and not the team-based tactical warfare we were promised. Also, on the rare occasion you do have a mission, it is not explained very well. Even with the map display, what you are supposed to do when you get there was hard to determine at first and once again you just resort to killing the opposition.

Dust 514 has so much room to grow and it is not a terrible game at all, its ambitions are exemplary but its ingenuity is non-existent. Lots of updates, game modes and DLC are planned for later in the year and perhaps only time will tell if this game develops into something special or whether it will dissipate as unregistered space debris.

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