EVE Online: The Second Genesis
With the announcement of EVE Online: The Second Genesis going gold, the NDA that had all the beta-testers tight-lipped has been lifted. So now I can give you my impressions of this very promising looking MMOG.
EVE aims to be a combat-heavy game, with PvP struggles thoroughly encouraged by the total lack of safety zones. An attacker may run the risk of police interest depending on the sector, but apart from that the developers want to make this a game where the players really decide what the laws are. While I didn’t play enough to get into any PvP scrapes this decision should ensure that players have to keep their eyes open all the time.
Another interesting aspect of EVE is the prevalence of player-owned corporations. These can be founded and joined with ease, with corps being able to set up their own space stations, take over solar systems and even become the strong arm in the sector. There will only be one game-world, which means that every single person paying to play EVE will be able to track down any other player. A further innovation, and one that perhaps may have the greatest effect on the way the game is played, is that a player’s skill takes time to advance and that time continues to tick even when they aren’t logged in and playing. This means that those who choose to dabble in the occasional snort of real-life will not be totally pathetic and outgunned when compared to the true addicts. There are a number of other ways that the player can customize their character, from illegal boosters to implants, and when these are coupled with the best looking character generation system I’ve seen should lead to universe populated by individuals.
I was playing the beta of this for a while. When I first tried it out it was laggy as hell, totally unplayable. But that was at the begining of the stress test and all those problems seemed to have been ironed out. There are still some slight lag issues, but they are not in the same league as problems that can leave a player tearing their hair out in frustration as their character blithely wanders into a pit of doom, oblivious of any attempt by their master to persuade them that that ain't such a hot idea.
The graphics are perhaps the most outstanding thing about the game. The screenshots show off how lovely the textures and models are, and how beautifully glowing the space that the developers have created is. To see them moving, and in high resolution on a reasonable computer at solid framerates, is something to behold. The warping effects that please the eye so much when players are jumping from one place to another are accompanied by a great roaring sound. The sense of speed during warping is most impressive, yet my admittedly puny ship seems to crawl under normal drive, making for some tedious waits while your ship gets into range to dock. To be fair this does have the effect of increasing the truly massive sense of scale that permeates the entire game. The soundtrack is excellent as well in my opinion, a nice variety of ambient tunes which complement the dreamy visuals. There are a few styles, from bleepy to orchestral, but unfortunately at the moment the sound format does not lend itself to the easy implementation of your own playlists.
The gameplay that I've tested is fairly standard MMO stuff; but in space. Freed from having to constantly repeat chores to increase your skills you can spend more time actually enjoying the game. From mining missions to courier missions, with some PvP bounties to pick up if you’re feeling hard enough, there’s a good deal of diversity. The interface is excellent and full of easy to find information, although the windows can get a bit cluttered. The bookmark system makes it easy to revisit previous destinations and there’s an autopilot feature to simplify multiple-jumpgate journeys. Once again the visual style impresses. There's an inbuilt browser to access help, and other players seemed pleased to offer their assistance. The revamped tutorials are near fool-proof (I only screwed up once), making this a very pleasing and gentle game to get into.
I didn't delve too deeply into the title, but I did have fun doing what I was doing, mining and some combat missions and was always impressed with just how stunning the game was to look at. Indeed, just talking about it makes me want to go back in before the beta accounts are shut down. This is really shaping up to be a classic. The gameplay and interface have no major problems, the developers have been doing a superb job getting the game ready and implementing the suggestions of the testers - although there are still some glitches that appear from time to time. Oh, and did I mention that this is without a doubt the best looking-space game ever, and one of the most beautiful games to have ever been displayed on a monitor in the entire history of gaming. Not that Elite was ever going to give it much to fear in the looks department, of course. Will EVE manage to surpass that seminal title in the freeform universe genre? Stay tuned to Ferrago to find this out in a few weeks time.