Monday, September 03, 2012

First Impressions: Dust 514 closed beta

I had to keep reminding myself that this was a very early build, otherwise my first impressions of Dust 514 would of been overpowered by negativity. Set in the galaxy of MMORPG space shooter EVE Online, Dust is CCP Games’ first non-simulator foray into gaming, and it’s pretty rough at the moment. But that’s not to say that the game itself isn’t fun.

Despite being a free-to-play title, Dust has been put together with no small amount of love and care – although non-EVE Online players might find the dizzying network of corporate and political alliances that form the games’ base plot a little difficult to take in. 

Dust itself is essentially a first-person shooter along the lines of Halo or Tribes, and plays as you would expect – left trigger is aim, right trigger is shoot etc. The player has the ability to call in vehicles such as a not-at-all-like-a-Warthog, or a very futuristic looking tank, which are air-dropped nearby (or occasionally on) the player. The player can also call down orbital strikes from battleships up in space – with the interesting twist that these shots are actually being fired by vessels controlled by online gamers playing EVE Online, which receive calls for air support through their battleships’ communication arrays. 

Unfortunately, at this early stage the more traditional hand-held weapons seem to be polarized as either too powerful or too weak, the vehicles handle like a shopping trolley on an ice rink, and enemy troopers are tough as nails – seriously, they can take tank rounds without noticing! Then there’s the interface. Between battles your futuristic soldier guy kind of wanders around space station docks or command centres or the like, as you poke at numerous statistics screens which detail your XP advancement. 

Like many other modern shooters, you can tweak your loadout to match your particular play style, but Dust takes this to extremes, allowing the gamer to customise five or six loadouts to a silly degree.

While it’s nice to have this variety, the UI needs a once over – even with my 32-inch screen, I found it rather difficult to see the tiny text detailing my latest unlocks without getting up and leaning in to see it. Despite this, the game is graphically very pretty, with lots of colourful textures and a nicely designed map (just the one at the moment), so plenty to enjoy for a free-to-play title. 

The downloads are horrific, however – as is typical on the PS3, so don’t think this will be a quick process... That said, and despite my concerns, there’s a lot to like about Dust. 

Once the game starts to reach completion, I can see it being a fun, addictive shooter with some clever ideas and fun maps. Sure, a fair amount of the game has been ripped off from other shooters (with the mode involving shooting down an enemy’s floating fortress taken wholesale from Battlefield 2142), but for a free-to-play game, there’s a lot of potential. I look forward to rejoining the war soon, as the game continues to develop.


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