Dust 514 could be revolutionary, provided CCP can follow through on some big ideas.
Dust 514 aims to do something no game has ever done: create one central community across two entirely different games on two separate platforms. It’s a bold goal, but everything is riding on the execution. Matthew and Josh got a chance to go hands on with the game to see how it’s coming along. The consensus? Dust 514 probably won’t turn any heads on gameplay alone, but it might well change the face of gaming with its unique cross-platform integration.
Josh Harmon, Contributing Editor: I’ve been cautiously optimistic about Dust 514 ever since it was announced. The core concept—using a standalone FPS to expand the world of MMO EVE Online—is just about as ambitious as they come, and I wasn’t sure CCP would be able to pull it off. After going hands on for the first time, I’m… still not sure. Exciting, I know, but it feels like so many of the things that will make or break the game—community integration, the free-to-play economy, weapon balance—are still up in the air, and that makes this a hard game to peg down. Do you feel like you got much out of playing it?
Matthew Bennett, Associate Editor: When it comes to the core gameplay, no. Based on my time with Dust, it felt the same as any mediocre first-person shooter. In fact if anything the balance of the guns felt really off, I know it’s still an early build, but in an FPS these sorts of things are worrying. The real gem of this title, though, is in what’s going on in the background. There’s a lot of community integration—like you said—and the whole EVE connectivity idea is a really interesting concept.
Josh: Yeah, I agree that the gameplay felt fairly generic, though I’m certain there’s plenty of nuance we didn’t pick up in few rounds we played. I know I made a ton of gaffes, like the time I tried to fire an anti-tank weapon at an enemy at point blank range, only to have the rockets go swirling off in every direction but the one I aimed. Even taking my awfulness into account, though, some things in the controls just felt ever so slightly off. It was almost like they’d cribbed about 95% of the controls from Call of Duty, and that just made the other 5% stick out like a sore thumb.
Matthew: Yes, that was a sight to behold as you tried to stab an enemy to death before blowing yourself up. Smooth, man. My main issue was a lack of any feeling behind the guns. They didn’t seem to carry any weight. It was like firing rubber bands. It’s hard to immerse yourself in a game that offers little in the way of feedback. Half the time, I wasn’t even aware of what was going on. But I think we’ve talked about the game’s downfalls in gameplay long enough. How about we talk about some of the good things that we saw?
Josh: Oh, you Brits with your relentless optimism. Niggling aside, I was fairly impressed by the scale of the battles, and the maps we played were just a small slice of the massive arenas that’ll open up in 48-player matches. There’s something awe-inspiring about riding into the battle on a drop ship and seeing it all spread out before you, even if it was a little too next-gen brown for my tastes. I’m also fairly impressed with the skill system CCP has implemented. I like the idea that you can invest in weapon proficiencies to increase your damage, and I love that you earn skill points over time, even when you’re not playing. What about you? What tickled your fancy?
Matthew: The battles were impressive, however on that small map it still seemed that players were spread out quite thin. Hopefully when there’s 48 on the map things will seem a little more hectic. I really loved the ability to spawn in vehicles to aid you in battle just a simple click drops a tank ready for action whether you are. Now that’s service. I actually liked the look of the player shop. There are a ton of weapons on offer that are all easily attainable with some effort. The fact that weapons get destroyed upon death is also a nice touch, as it forces players to be more tactical instead of just charging without any fear of death.
Josh: I agree, though a part of me thinks that buying another set of fifty-odd blueprints for your weapon after every dozen matches could get a bit tedious after a while. Maybe I wouldn’t be so worried if I stayed alive for more than 30 seconds at a time. On the whole though, I could see myself having quite a bit of fun with Dust, provided it can draw me into the world. I think a lot of that’s going to be up to the integration with EVE, really. I’ve never played, but I read all these stories of epic space piracy and corporate warfare, and I’m excited that I’ll get to participate in that craziness in a genre that’s more my speed.
Matthew: I feel that Dust will become an elitist’s playground after a few months. EVE players will only want the most skilled players fighting their battles and only the best will get the big contracts, leaving others unable to afford to re-buy weapon blueprints and eventually getting bored. Hopefully the NPC contracts that CCP talked about will help give normal players the same thrill as the elites. Only then will the game hold any interest. The EVE community are a fickle bunch who hate having their world messed with. They’re not going to stand for a bunch of noobs running around the battlefield firing anti-tank missiles at people. This game’s success hinges on how they receive it.
Josh: I’m going to ignore your thinly veiled shot at my tactical prowess and move on. Pissing off the EVE community is really part of the appeal for me. I like knowing that every headshot I get takes a chunk out of some schmuck’s meticulously amassed digital fortune. Online shooters are usually so meaningless and repetitive, but if every match of Dust 514 feels like part of a larger, user-driven narrative, it’ll make the experience far more rewarding for me. NPC contracts are all well and good, but I really hope CCP incentivizes the cross-platform play enough that the big EVE corps will play along with everyone. If they can pull that off, I’m sold.
Matthew: It seems like CCP has a solid base to build on. The cross-platform functionality with EVE gives them an edge that other games in the market simply don’t have. If they can take some time to shore up the mediocre gameplay then there’s a lot of potential. It all comes down to offering the right features to incentivize players. If they can manage that then I feel that Dust should do pretty well.