How is CCP’s ambitious F2P shooter coming along?
I recently had a chance to check out CCP’s upcoming EVE Online tie-in shooter, Dust 514, as it entered the Precursor 1.0 phase of beta testing. If you’re not familiar with the concept at play here, Dust 514 is a free to play, first person, shooter for the PS3 that ties directly into the game world of the popular MMO, EVE Online. Since EVE Online is all about financial supremacy, Dust 514 was designed to be all about battlefield supremacy.
When the game launches, players in the EVE Online universe will be able to put up contracts for players playing Dust 514 to accept. Since EVE Online takes place mostly in outer space, players will hire Dust mercenaries to perform ground operations to further the EVE Online player’s conquests. On the flip side, Dust 514 players can hire EVE Online players, who are orbiting the planet they are fighting on, to send down a nuclear strike. I’ve seen this, in action, during a presentation and it was, in short, really friggin’ cool.
When you drop into your first battle in Dust 514 you’re probably going to feel a little under powered, and even a little goofy. This is because, as a free to play game, Dust is all about the gear. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to get yourself some better gear within a few matches due to the way Dust 514 handles it’s items. The way it works is that every time you spawn in a match you use up one of everything in your loadout. That’s one drop suit, one primary gun, one of every armor mod and so on. What you need to do is maintain a stockpile of items instead of having to sit around saving up for your next big armor or gun purchase. Each loadout also has a basic, free, version so you’re never stuck without money, being unable to drop and unless you die fifty times per match you will have more than enough money to restock after each round.
You can, conveniently, restock a whole loadout with one click so once you find a set of gear you like you can just keep replenishing it wholesale. Dust also keeps things even by implementing a skill point system. Higher level gear can’t simply be saved for, and purchased, you’ll need to spend skill points on the corresponding skills to be able to use it. On the other side of that coin is Aurum, where CCP make their money. Most gear can be purchased with ISK, the in game currency that is awarded for playing but some gear can be purchased with the free to play currency Aurum, which you purchase with real money in the real world. You’ll still need the skills to equip Aurum purchased items, but the skill requirements for these are usually much lower. This is a decent balance, if you ask me, as I was able to get the next level of assault rifle, using ISK and skill points, after five or six matches.
It isn’t just guns and armor you’ll be upgrading though, there are a ton of drop suit enhancements, personal augments and most importantly, vehicles to be purchased. Like the rest of your gear, vehicles have a basic version that can be dropped in at no cost but you can purchase a plethora of light, heavy and flying vehicles once you rack up some cash.
As far as the gameplay goes, Dust 514 is much more Battlefield than it is Halo. The maps can be absolutely huge, at times, and a lot of combat takes place at a distance. You would think this would lend itself to a lot of sniping, but things are balanced out by weather effects that reduce visibility at long ranges and the fact that snipers have to crouch to get off a good shot. There are more compact maps, for the deathmatch game types, but even these are quite large by a lot of game’s standards to accommodate the vehicles. Overall this is a tactical shooter, more than a twitch shooter, but there’s still plenty of chaos when half of the players in the game call in a tank drop or when somebody calls in an orbital strike.
After playing it for a while, I can definitely say that Dust 514 is still quite rough around the edges, some maps are barren, the terrain is often a little too uneven for vehicles, and there is a bit of lag. CCP have the right idea with the progression and store system though, so I have high hopes for Dust 514 when it is finally released later in the year.