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For a few sparkling seconds, the grim sky flickered with an unnatural light. Lavender rays rained down from the heavens and crashed into the planet’s surface with a thunderous explosion. I crossed my fingers and hoped that I wiped out the opposing team. Alas, the blast caught only one person.
But it still looked pretty damn cool.
Such is the sight of the Orbital Strike, an extremely powerful weapon of the mercenaries’ arsenal in the sci-fi themed free-to-play multiplayer shooter Dust 514. It’s available for all players today, complementing the launch of the PlayStation 3 exclusive’s open beta period. Anyone with a PS3 connected to the Internet can download the game and try it for themselves.
This is yet another major step for developer CCP Games in merging the worlds of Dust 514 and that of its older brother, the space-faring massively multiplayer online role-playing game Eve Online. The latter is known for its notoriously difficult learning curve and fascinating stories about its player-driven economy. Both now exist on the same server (dubbed “Tranquility”), and with today’s update, Eve players can now attack troops on the ground with the Orbital Strike.
How does it all work?
Cooperating across two different games
Requesting aid from above isn’t cheap: You need a couple thousand War Points during battle before you can use it. You earn WP for such actions like hacking enemy computers, getting kills, or supporting your teammates by healing them and dropping supplies. Ideally, you’ll want to work together with others in a four-man squad, as you’ll rack up WP faster than if you’re alone.
The Orbital Strike comes in two flavors: the A.I. controlled Warbarge and the Starships. The Warbarge is a neutral weapon that is always orbiting a planet, so even if you don’t know someone in Eve, you can still use it, albeit with a smaller and weaker blast. Starships are Eve players near the vicinity (or contacted directly if you know them through Dust 514’s voice or text chat). They’ll receive the request — complete with the coordinates you indicated on your map — and can choose to fire their cannons. It only takes a few seconds before the carnage greets you on the ground.
In some cases, the ships might get caught up in battles of their own, especially if multiple factions are vying for the same territory you’re fighting for in Dust 514. Hundreds and even thousands of ships may clash above the planet, trying to prevent the opposing side from using their Orbital Strikes altogether.
Dust 514 maps currently have towering installations that serve no practical use until the next major update. These are Orbital Artilleries, huge weapons that mercenaries will eventually be able to use to fire back at ships in space. While CCP wouldn’t specify when console players can start exacting revenge on Eve players, it did say they that this function is next on its list, and promised it’s coming “very soon.”
Another big feature for the near future is Territorial Conquest, where Dust players can start their own corporations (a major facet of the Eve Online universe). As a CEO of a corporation, you can specify where you want to go and what you want to build on the planet you’re fighting on.
“In terms of the number of milestones, we have a one year road map and we’re pretty much doing a major release every quarter or so that adds a pretty significant amount of new features into that Eve Online-Dust 514 connection,” said CCP Asia executive producer Brandon Laurino to GamesBeat. “We have a road map that goes out five years, [and another] that goes out 10 years. When you really think about it, the ideas in terms of how you can play off this concept — expand on this concept — are kind of limitless.”
To illustrate his point, Laurino teased a tantalizing feature that the team really wants to do with Dust 514. “Just to give you an example: A feature that isn’t coming this year but is something we want to do is ship boarding,” he said. “It’d be conceivable to fit an Eve ship with a giant drill-type projectile that has a bunch of Dust mercenary clones embedded in it. And it shoots into the other ship and then you can raid their ship. That feature is closer than you might think … I’ll say it’s not this year, but it’s not five plus years [away], either.”