by George Rothon
CCP have been hard at work with their latest offerings to the gaming community with DUST 514, which they were showing off at this year’s EGX. Surprisingly, not a lot of people paid much attention to it on the Saturday and most of the attention was surrounding your normal bunch of Triple-A games. They don’t know what they were missing.
If you fancy a little in universe background on the game, the basic plot is that a discovery on a wreck lost in deep space has allowed the different factions in the EVE universe to create a new breed of soldier with the ability to transfer their consciousness into another body upon death (Cylons anyone?). The video below explains it in a little more depth if you’re interested.
Story covered, onto the game. DUST 514 is a PS3 exclusive where the player takes control of a mercenary on one of many huge planet side battles waging war against its sister game EVE’s factions/corporations for control. Although the game is currently in the closed beta stage of its development cycle, you can sign up to test it, or if you’re a current EVE subscriber you can gain access to the beta.
The main selling point, ironically, is the fact DUST is a free-to-play game, although unlike some free-to-play games CCP have said it won’t be using a pay-to-win model. DUST will, however, have micro-transactions and an optional subscription which will reward players with things like XP boosts and other perks that CCP have yet to reveal, similar to the offerings from Battlefield 3 Premium and Call of Duty Elite.
The next big thing DUST has to offer is that EVE Online players can assist the troops on the ground from space in numerous ways – such as providing fire support. It’s not quite that simple though, EVE players have to watch their own backs at the same time as they will be under fire from the enemy fleet, which is also orbiting the planet.[drop2]The main drawback of this design is if there isn’t enough appeal to the EVE players in the sense of rewards (in game currency, items, upgrades and skill boosters to name but a few) the EVE players will no doubt lose interest and a major part of DUST 514 will cease to exist, leaving the ground combat feeling less connected. The upside of this possibility is that it means a likelihood of free updates for both platforms to keep the player base eager to come back for more – a host of new roles, weapons, upgrades, maps and vehicles to name a few of the possibilities. Only time will tell.
The build that was being shown off at at EGX was quite impressive, considering it’s still in the very beginning of its first beta phase. Graphically there’s still a lot of work to be done with the textures, particle effects and physics, but they’ve still got time to work out the kinks. Most of the graphical work that needs done is to do with the top down view that players see when spawning into the game, as it’s currently fairly pixelated.
The game plays well, and almost feels like a hybrid between Halo and Battlefield, inheriting Halo’s futuristic feel and space orientated story, and mixing it with some of the gameplay element of the Battlefield series, such as selecting your combat role and the need for teamwork.
It really is a lot easier to win if you work as a team/squad rather than going out as a lone wolf. However, it’s worth noting that it’s not utterly impossible if you decide to work alone, and having a few guys going solo and flanking is a highly effective tactic (as the opposing team found out, much to my pleasure).
As for replayability I can see myself having hours and hours of fun-filled action, mixing up the play with different kinds of upgrades to player and weaponry, and due to it being free-to-play there will no doubt be some form of expansion much later to keep players interested. These expansions will hopefully follow what CCP have done with EVE Online and make them free with your subscription, unlike Blizzard and World of Warcraft for example.
After playing DUST I had the opportunity to talk to one of the developers who asked for my opinions on the game and if I had any questions about it. My first question was if it was in fact truly free-to-play and not following a pay-to-win route. He reassured that the game would be entirely free-to-play and download, and made reference to the subscription model noted earlier.
A huge thing that made me want to play DUST 514 was the fact he told me it will have full keyboard and mouse support for those who want to use it. Now this may not appeal to the masses but, for someone like me, having the option to use keyboard and mouse is a real bonus.
So, to round up this preview, if you’re into science fiction/futuristic warfare styled games DUST 514 is definitely worth looking into. It’s not every day that a great developer like CCP comes along dangling a Triple-A worthy title for free, and with it being free to download as well, there really is no reason for you not to give it a go.
Whilst there is no firm date in place, the announcement of new EVE Online DLC in December, coupled with a PS3 Sale Bundle, suggests that DUST 514 will be released or at least given a release date around the Holiday season, if not early 2013.