Dust 514 – First Impressions

A preview of Dust 514 I wrote for the website www.square-go.com

When you’re talking about online multiplayer games the talk seems to centre around a couple of names, well, mainly World of Warcraft if we’re honest. But space trading sim EVE Online is a big player that seems to fly under the radar. Populated by hundreds of thousands of players, some of whom actually work with the developers to run the game, it has an economy as complex as in the real world. Now the world of EVE is expanding into another slightly more competitive arena; the first person shooter with Dust 514.

Dust 514 will be an online competitive FPS game, a genre that is again dominated by a few bigs names. For a market to move into you couldn’t pick one more crowded, especially as the franchise isn’t in the usual modern day military mould that goes down so well with the majority of people. EVE is set 21,000 years into the future as humanity colonises another galaxy. The game is about space exploration in giant ships up at a macro scale whereas Dust 514 will focus in planet based conflicts as corporations battle for control of them. This naturally opens the door for all kinds of laser spewing death rays and other fancy items.

Is this a setting that will bring in an audience? This is a tricky one, especially as the game will be free to play; this is on the idea that the majority of the income of the game will be generated by a minority buying in game items. Normally this is for slightly lower budget games, but Dust 514 doesn’t look like it’ll cut back on the eye candy. The worlds look full of detail and with plenty of other players able to run around shooting each other. The items you buy in the game are also said to not be of the game changing type; they will be cosmetics items so the best players won’t be the ones who have dumped the most money into buying the best weapons.

While this sounds fairly generic, Dust 514 is breaking new ground in some areas, the main one being the connection to EVE Online. The two games won’t just share the same setting, they will actually affect the game world of each other. The main example is that players in their ships in EVE will be able to bombard planets from orbit whilst players in Dust 514 will be on the ground as the carnage explodes around them. Players in Dust 514 will be part of EVE corporations so as factions take over planets in that game, the corporation will get the economic benefits in EVE. It all sounds pretty impressive, but the rub will be when the game is actually out in the real world and in the hands of the gaming public.

Another issue might be with the game being exclusive to PlayStation 3; EVE is a game that is played on the PC/Mac and whilst it has an audience it’s nothing compared to the size of World of Warcraft. Will the game be able to generate enough interest on the console to fully utilise the potential of these big impressive ideas? You could make an argument that the Xbox 360 is the natural home for this kind of game, however the game has already had several closed betas on Sony’s machine with a decent marketing push behind it so it looks promising.

That’s the main thing to take from Dust 514; it’s all very promising. The world that the game can draw on is deep and rich, along with a very loyal audience who have been playing EVE for a long time. It’s a very bold step for CCP, the developers of EVE, and one that could backfire spectacularly. But people do like to shoot each other online so Dust 514 has always got a chance.

Originally published November 22nd 2012

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