Dust 514 is a first person shooter set within the universe of EVE Online which is a very popular sci-fi MMORPG. Dust 514 takes place in and is directly connected to Eve Online so there is direct interaction between the two. Your actions in one game affect the political and economical status of the other. In Dust 514 you will be holding all of your battles on the ground instead of in space. The idea of surface battles having an impact on the sovereignties and strategic balance of the systems that the EVE players see is certainly a unique idea and one that captured my imagination right from the get go.
Dust 514 offers various different classes to play, which are: heavy (heavy weapons), assault (machine guns), logistics (special gadgets), and scout (quick and nimble). You select what class you would like when creating your character for the first time, but you can change your class between matches or when you re-spawn. So you are never stuck with one class for very long. All classes play a little differently, and their class descriptions explain their abilities well, but I did wish the armour was a little more visually customizable. Actually, the whole character creation is very bare-bones, with only the choice of alliance and bloodline as the major differentiator. Once your character is created, you are put into your own ship quarters where you will find access panels to make changes to your skills; do some shopping in the marketplace; or fiddle with your gear. Your character skills are upgraded by gaining experience points from battles. The points can then be used on a wide range of skills that range from how you handle firearms, grenades, to electronics and more.
After a couple of matches, I managed to gain some experience points; however, it was quickly eaten up when I leveled up my character in certain areas. I also gained salvage after the matches were complete which range from weapons or drop-suit upgrades. Then I checked out the marketplace, where I found shopping quite enjoyable, with a wide array of tech mods and skills available to help my character be the best he could be. I just wish they would explain what stats you needed to use the items more clearly. I often bought something I thought I could use, but later found out I couldn’t actually equip it. You can also buy extra drop-suits or blank armor sets to create your own custom class, but you need to have higher skills to do this. I found it a little disappointing that despite offering these new suits and armor-sets, they still didn’t change the outward appearance of my character by much.
Finding a battle is rather simple, you just go to the aptly-named “find battle” option after hitting start, and then you can select one of the two battle types (Skirmish or Ambush). Once you get accepted into a battle you are put into another waiting room with your squad mates for roughly a minute or two where you are given another chance to adjust your weapon or armor layouts. The game supports up to 48 players in a battle, although the most I saw during my experiences was two teams of sixteen. Skirmish mode, where one team fights off the other from trying to sabotage a set of anti aircraft guns that is trying to shoot down your ship hovering in the atmosphere, seemed to be the more popular. However, if you are itching for a quick match and don’t care about the specifics, just go for the “Instant Battle” option and you will be put into a random match that is either just about to start or is already underway.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of the game was the option to request a vehicle-drop in game. You have three types of vehicles to use, which range from a jeep, tanks, and an airborne troop carrier. All vehicles have multiple spots for extra troops to get on, either to ride in or man the vehicles’ guns. However, I am embarrassed to admit that on a few occasions I requested a vehicle, only to have it drop on my head shortly afterwards and subsequently killing me. If you die, you have a couple options to choose from. You can either wait to call for a medic or you can choose the re-spawn option. Calling the medic may be the best choice in some cases because certain modes only let your team re-spawn a certain amount of times. Re-spawns in the game are pretty quick, and you have different re-spawn points to choose from on an overhead map that shows where the action is happening. You can even re-spawn into the troop carrier if it is around but hopefully the person using it knows how to fly it, or you might find yourself spawning into it just as it is crashing into something or being shot down.
There wasn’t a single-player campaign available which might have helped with the learning curve. This could have perhaps helped me avoid some embarrassing crashes of vehicles as one tries in the heat of battle to learn the controls. That said, the game controls are tight and the developers have provided the ability to use a mouse and keyboard or even the Move controller instead of the standard PS3 gamepad. You have the ability to chat with teammates either by headset (activated by pressing left on the directional pad), or by pressing the select button, which opens up a small screen to chat to your team or all match participants.
The visuals are very bleak looking in that they are dark and gritty. The only real colour seems to come from weapon-fire or the red on your screen when you take enemy fire. The character models are cool looking, but seem unfinished texture wise. I would have preferred a little more colour to add some more life into it as for me the drab war-torn look gets a little stale after a while. The audio department seemed rather bland too. When starting the game you are greeted to serviceable spacey tunes and looping sound effects. Once you are into the matches, the sound effects of guns and vehicles are well done but nothing special. There is a computer voice-over keeping you updated on how the match is going, which is done well.
Amongst a slew of first person shooters, you would think Dust 514 would be ‘dust in the wind’. However, after my experiences with the beta I have to say I was happy and the game is showing promise. Since Dust 514 is indeed connected to the successful MMORPG Eve Online, I am left with the opinion that Dust 514 should appeal to the Eve Online fan base and even to those who enjoy this type of gameplay. There is certainly plenty of potential here provided the developers maintain a steady stream of new content and features to keep things fresh and ultimately keep players interested.