I have had the pleasure of taking part in the beta for Dust 514 over the past couple of weeks, the PlayStation 3 shooter which is tied in with the EVE Online universe and which will one day see co-operation between players from both titles. It is a very exciting idea, but one that is clearly going to take a while to come to completion. The beta for Dust is very much that, an early version of the game which is undergoing many changes and updates as it progresses. As such, these are just some early impressions of a still relatively low-level grunt.
The idea behind Dust is brilliant in that whatever happens in Eve impacts on Dust as they share the same universe. I can only assume this means that all the Alliances and Corps found in the PC title will eventually be found in Dust, and that the economies of both will be interlinked with chaos in one game causing chaos in the other. If everything works out, developers CCP could be onto a major winner. Though I do wonder what will happen when the PlayStation 4 eventually gets announced and released, will Dust just transfer over there leaving the PS3 version behind? These are questions for another time though.
When you start Dust you get to create a character by choosing a race and bloodline which currently don’t seem to have any great impact on how you play as you get thrown into battles with entirely mixed teams. In the character creation you also select a profession, these a tailored to some basic play-style ideas and as such they determine what skills you have on starting the game. Things might appear confusing when you get into your hub, you can walk around and enter different screens, or you can access them from the menu brought up with L1. I like the idea of having your own hub, but it currently seems slightly unnecessary as you can access the different screens directly from the menu.
These screens let you customise your various loadouts for your dropsuit or vehicles, access the market, find a battle and look in on your characters skills. There are other options for Corporations, Employment History and more which are currently unavailable, but there presence amongst the menus and sub-menus shows the depth that is possible with a game like Dust which is hooked up to something like Eve.
When I started it was difficult to know where to start, I went head first into an instant battle which pitched me directly into a Skirmish match. I was able to choose from one of four loadouts, Heavy, Scout, Assault and Logistics, each of which do as they say on the tin, though Logistics combines the typical medic and engineer roles found in other shooters. My first reaction when getting into the action was that the game looked…unappealing. Though after a bit of digging around on the forum, it seems like CCP have scaled back on the graphics in the game to focus on other aspects of development.
The Skirmish mode is objective based where each team tries to control cap points, controlling these leads to some massive cannons slowly knocking health off the other team’s mothership. It really isn’t that clear what is happening and why, fortunately you might get thrown into an Ambush match which is pretty much team deathmatch. Combat currently seems quite rough around the edges, hitboxes feel out of sync and weapons can feel a bit floaty. Of course this is a proper Beta where things really are changing over time, so I don’t expect to be reporting the same issues a few months down the line. But be warned, if you do get into the Beta, persevere with the combat despite whatever flaws you might find, after playing a few rounds you start to get used to the feel of things and things become a bit easier.
Outside of the battles you will certainly want to play around with the default loadouts, while these Mercenary profiles allow you unlimited uses, they use low-level weapons and add-ins. A quick trip to the market is essential where you can spend the ISK (in-game currency) you earn from your battles. This is where Dust starts to come into its own, you can’t use every weapon you see from the off, you have to have the required skills for it. This is the RPG element of the game, and one which is quite fun to play around with.
You start with some skills based on the choices you made at character creation, and you can upgrade these as you wish if you have enough skill points spare. Or, you can completely re-work how your character is based by buying new skill books and learning a different skill which will lead to other upgrade routes opening up. It seems a very broad and open system, and it certainly appeals to me at the moment. I will say that right now the market is still in its early stages when it comes to currency balance between ISK and the real-world bought currency. There is a certain satisfaction to looking at some new tools for your dropsuit and planning what skill upgrades you need in order to use it.
I don’t know what the future holds long-term for Dust and how it might impact on Eve, but the Beta is very promising right now. There is a lot of work to bring the combat up to the high standard that many will expect, but everything lying at the heart of the character development system feels spot on. I will certainly be dropping in on this every now and again and will bring back word of any major updates.
Dust 514 is currently in a Beta test on the PlayStation 3. It is open to PS+ subscribers.