Saturday, May 26, 2012

Random Review - In Progress: Dust 514 (NDA Compliant!)

So I'm in the Dust 514 beta, and the non-disclosure agreement is pretty draconian for a semi-public beta.

Nonetheless!  I have a few things I want to record as I slog my way through this thing.  Here is the NDA; I've read the confidentiality agreement and an confident that nothing here violates if.  If anyone wants me to take this post down just let me know.

Let's start with some background.  Dust 514 is the "ground side" compliment to the zealously-love-it-or-rabidly-hate-it EVE Online.  EVE is an a "massively multiplayer" game contained entirely within a single persistent universe where hundreds of thousands of players (though there are usually only 20-40 thousand on at a time) engage in pretty much anything you can imagine, from working the player-driven markets for a quick (and fake, this isn't Diablo 3 with its insane "real world money" mechanics) buck or fighting in 1000+ person battles for control of large sections of space.

It's kind of hard to explain, but I love it.

All of the action in EVE Online takes place flying in spaceships for the most part (you spend an unfortunate amount of time staring at menus in space stations though).  Dust 514 is an attempt to add planet-side warfare to the macro-strategic elements of EVE.  While EVE is a PC/MAC exclusive game, Dust 514 is only on PS3.  There is no space combat in Dust, instead you get a FPS in the vein of the Halo/CoD/Battlefield series.  Right now there isn't any real connection to EVE other than thematically, so I can't really comment on how well it integrates into EVE's radically different style of gameplay, but that will change as the beta test progresses.

Impressions after about an hour of gameplay, including dead-time sifting through menus:
  • I play on a standard-definition television, and CCP (the creators of EVE and Dust) unfortunately hasn't taken into account the effect of HD-text on a proletarian's TV.  I literally can't read half of the things written on the screen.  This isn't a unique problem to Dust, but there are plenty of contemporary games that don't have this problem and I hope CCP addresses it soon.
  • The visuals in general seem low-resolution and ugly.  The battlefields are rather large, but the lack of visual fidelity is alarming.
  • It is way too frustrating to tell the difference between allies and enemies.  The low-quality visuals and the lack of easy identifiers means you often can't pick out who is who in a firefight, and will inevitably waste some ammo on team mates.
  • Overall it is still fun, and character customization does feel a lot like spaceship 'fitting' in EVE.

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