Dust 514 is the free to play (PS3) recent addition to the EVE Online universe developed by CCP Games. Rather than taking to ships in interstellar warfare and politics, Dust is a FPS that revolves around a galactic tug-of-war of planets between the standing factions in the EVE universe.
As most people who are at least familiar with MMO’s can tell you, EVE Online is arguably the most advanced MMO’s to date in terms of game play and choice, allowing player’s to do everything from ship to ship combat, to corporate construction and advanced marketing, creating virtually limitless options for a player to choose from. Dust 514 is merely an addition to that realm of possibilities.
I played a bit of EVE back in the day and off and on over the years, occasionally picking it up to only be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and putting it away after a few weeks, scared that I will never resurface and see my family again as I’m sucked into a secondary life. This assault of information is no different with Dust 514. Upon creating your first character you are immediately left with a feeling of abandonment as the mini-interface tutorial does little to assist you in the grand scheme of things. Just like with EVE, in order to learn what the hell is going on (it helps to have played EVE in the past) you must read the overviews on everything, making the game really slow to start at first, and feeling more like you are studying for a class than about to play a game. I guess one could consider this an “adult” way to approach a serious game, but I don’t agree with that. I have no problem learning through reading in a game, but a more active way to learn the various mechanics would have been appreciated.
On the surface, Dust isn’t much more than your average shooter game. The combat mechanics are kind of finicky (though still very playable), and the gameplay isn’t groundbreaking (on its own). However, what Dust does in relation to the EVE Online universe and more importantly, what it represents, is what makes this a game worth talking about.
Dust integrates components of EVE into the gameplay, and the consequences of the Dust battles affect what is going on in the EVE Online universe. Piloting players in the EVE universe can be called upon in the midst of combat to rain hell down onto the opposing faction while you fight for control of a planet that can benefit your faction or corporation. We’re talking about cross-platform gameplay for two separate games that affect the gameplay and outcome of one another! That’s fucking incredible. Words can not express how awesome that is. Can you imagine what this can lead too? Most companies aren’t even attempting cross-platform gaming between PC to Console, Console A to Console B, and all in between for the same game, let alone for two different ones.
It is hard to imagine a game currently that can provide the same sort of possibility. Imagine playing Halo 4 and having your battles affect and be affected by its RTS Halo Wars (but it doesn’t completely blow); or playing Starcraft II and being able to have your armies compose of players that are playing a Starcraft FPS. The possibilities are pretty incredible when you think about it and allow for fairly limitless imagination in gameplay combinations.
The problem Dust 514 has in relation to EVE is I didn’t really see much of that interaction. I’m not involved in any sort of corporations or devoted to the MMO, so maybe that is different, but my battles within the game were never affected by any outside source. I believe a lot of that has to do with, like I said, my lack of personal integration with EVE, but also a limited number of players within Dust. In trailers, the map is filled with players, vehicles, and a variety of external forces playing onto the gameplay, but I have not seen that come to fruition. CCP released the game as a free to play in what I am assuming is an attempt to draw in the console players (it worked for me). It is actually a pretty smart marketing move if it will work to draw in players. Get the FPS enthusiasts and non-EVE players to fill the ranks of Dust in order to see their cross-platform vision a stronger reality, and maybe even hook some new players into the MMO if they get invested.
What I believe that problem is, at least from what I’ve seen, in the lack of this cross-platform gameplay showing, is the lack of a relationship between console players and PC players, respectively Dust to EVE. Most of us tend to stick to friends who play on the same platform as us and, unless you have multiple systems, you aren’t going to have that relationship with the players needed to pull this off. If I’m playing Dust with a party of my friends, who am I personally going to be able to call in a orbital strike from the EVE players? I would have to rely on random chance that someone took notice or a player in my faction happens to have a friend who plays. Though this might not seem like that big of a deal, this lack of a relationship kind of throws a wrench into the gears that would make this transition work properly. Hopefully time will resolve this as players become more invested in the game, and the ramifications in the EVE universe (i’m not sure the extent that EVE Online is affected by Dust) is more affective on the gameplay.
Dust 514 continues to update and I have only scratched the surface of gameplay, so I’m hoping it gets better. A success would not only mean a pretty fun game, but also really open up the flood gates for future games to compete with one another in who can create a stronger cross-platform/genre game. Give it a shot if FPS are your thing, it’s free, so why not?
– Nick Thompson