What you won’t like
While diving into battles by yourself is a great way to earn ISK and skill points when your corporation isn’t scheduled to fight, doing so can feel a little hollow, especially if you’re not communicating with anyone. I felt disconnected from the political story lines when playing this way, and the sparse music and dull sound effects certainly don’t help. Since battles can last up to 20 minutes, I ended up playing podcasts in the background just to have something to listen to while I ran across the huge maps on foot.
I’d see some moments of brilliance — a random teammate driving over an enemy who was about to kill me or the few times I flanked enemy tanks and destroyed them with anti-vehicle grenades — but most of the time, it’s not very exciting. Dust 514 isn’t the type of shooter that you play for instant gratification. Getting more ISK and skill points is a painfully slow process, and you have to think more long-term when it comes to saving them for better fittings. Fighting battles just for the sake of earning more points isn’t very fun at all.
Managing the menus
Anyone familiar with Eve will feel right at home with Dust 514’s extensive amount of menu screens. If you’re not, it’s easy to feel lost. You’ll spend a good chunk of your time looking at your character, the Marketplace, chat rooms, and the skill books screen. Accessibility isn’t the problem. You can bring up the menus at any time via the start and select buttons on your controller. The problem is that you have so many to go through in the first place. But it doesn’t start this way.
You’re given unlimited “Militia” fittings filled with basic equipment to familiarize yourself with the gameplay, so you can just head over to the Battle Finder and hop into a match right away. But as you purchase new suits and items to create custom fittings — mandatory if you want to keep up with advanced players — the difficulty in tracking them multiplies.
Here’s my typical process of restocking equipment for a particular fitting: I go to the fitting menu, scroll down to the one I’m looking for, find which of the items I need to buy more of, bring up the Marketplace, restock that item, and go back to my fitting to see if I have to replenish anything else. You can restock entire fittings at once to avoid some of that micromanagement (I like to change my items a lot, so I didn’t do this), but the barriers you must overcome before jumping into battle are still there.
Dust 514 does a poor job of explaining the Dust-Eve connection
Unless you dive deep into CCP Games’ forums and developer blogs, it’s difficult to see evidence of the company’s greatest technical accomplishment with Dust 514: merging the shooter with the same server as Eve Online. The best representation of this is the Orbital Bombardment, a special attack from an Eve player who locks on to the battlefield from virtual space. But as far as I could tell, I never came across a battle with an actual Eve ship stationed above. The bombardments I saw came from the A.I.-controlled Warbarge, which sends down a similar but weaker strike.
Dust 514 also has a color-coded overview of the contested planets and the districts neatly laid out in a star map [see below], but the in-game tutorial doesn’t tell you what those percentages mean in the larger context of Eve Online, where ships and factions fight for the star systems that these planets are a part of. I have a feeling that most Dust 514 players will simply ignore these connections because the game does a poor job of explaining what they mean.
If it weren’t for OSG answering a ton of my questions, I would’ve done the same.
After playing Dust 514 for 27 hours, I feel like I haven’t made a dent. I spent most of it jumping into battles alone just so I could collect more money and skill points, which is Dust’s equivalent of fighting random battles over and over in RPGs for experience. It’s only when I fought with a corporation that I truly feel like a part of the Dust 514 narrative. I fear that many players may never even get that far due to how overwhelming the menu-heavy interface can seem.
I’m still planning to keep an eye on Dust 514, though. It’s more accessible than Eve Online’s brutal learning curve, and the real-world stories that the MMO generates are also present — and thriving — on the PlayStation 3. If Eve is anything to go by, Dust 514 can only get better with age as CCP updates it with new content.
Dust 514 is out now for free on PlayStation 3. The publisher provided GamesBeat with the Veteran Pack add-on for the purpose of this review.