” Space- The final frontier” Ever since I heard those words uttered by who is quite possibly the coolest white man in outer space, (Captain James T. Kirk for those that didn’t know) I have been fascinated with the subject of space. Mind you, I actually never wanted to be an astronaut, but It captivated my imagination enough for me to read, play, and watch anything science fiction I could get my hands on. For the longest time I have searched for a space sim that allowed me to explore new races, and planets, or join a large star war (hehehe) so when I heard about Eve Online I was pretty excited. When it first launched in 2003, I played it for a while, but never really could get into it like I wanted to. But this year they have added what is quite possibly their biggest expansion to date with Eve Online: Apocrypha, and let me tell you that this was worth the wait.
The story of EVE Online is a simple one. Basically the main races of the game all comes from what was once Earth and humankind had begun to explore the universe, but an apocalyptic event thousands of years ago cut off these civilizations and now with advances in technology allowing them to interact, things have begun to get interesting. There is a fragile peace in place but how long it lasts is anyone’s guess. See what I mean, plain and simple. This is actually a good thing because the developers for Eve built this game to be run by the players. So while you will see the military or NPC running different corporations, the real meat comes from the players building their own empire and telling their own story.
Starting right off, the opening cinema in this game is breathtaking. Gorgeous scenes, sweeping space vistas, and provocative suggestions at the scope of the world you’re about to enter. Eve has always strived to be an open world driven by the players, and this intro really backs this up. It also really gives you a sense of the size and scope of this game you are about to dive into.
With four different races and about seven bloodlines a piece you can spend quite a while on the character creation screen. I for one was very impressed with character creation; each race has its own intro movie giving you their background in full cinema style. You can then read further into each race, and then into each bloodline to find the role-play angle that’s right for you. Each race has its own background and feels to them, but as of recently, they have all got the same statistics. I personally feel this is good and bad, but to be brief, players can now choose a race and bloodline for role-play reasons, rather than everyone choosing the best statistic.
One of the advances made with Apocrypha is the ability to advance your character through the game by choosing a path, such as research and manufacturing, and then sticking to a long term goal by training skills consistently. You CAN also be a “jack of all trades” if you want, and train many low level skills from many disciplines, but you’ll fall behind the specialists.
While I’m talking about skill training I should tell you that the developers have added a training “queue”, which lets you put 24 hours worth of skills into the order of your choosing. From what I have heard from talking with the other players in the world before the update you had to manually choose a new skill each time you wanted to start training, and of course every time you went to bed that night you’d need to log in to train long skills that took more than eight hours! So now your avatar will train in skills while you sleep. This of course is nice, but also adds to the fact that you are playing a game that never sleeps.
Another big plus for new players is the totally redone tutorial system. In fact people who are considering returning will be glad to hear the tutorial system has been cut down to a much more streamlined “crash course”, and then new tutorials appear as you explore new areas of the game. For example, you get shown exactly how to do the basics right at the start. Here’s how to fly, shoot, dock, warp, etc. Then, as you need to use, say, the galaxy map, you open the map screen, and then the tutorial pops and tells you what’s what.
The tutorial system seamlessly carries into the game via what are called “agents”. Agents are simply NPC’s, or “computer players” who give you missions important to your faction. Your first agent mission will be selected from mining, trading, or a combat agent. Each of these agents slowly brings you up to speed with the essentials of what you need to know about the role, and gives you a good warm up to the game. After completing the missions for the combat chain, I felt very comfortable with the controls, and with this new world that I had joined.
Graphically speaking, Eve has always been an impressive game. Having said that, the new Apocrypha expansion has put in some nice new effects since the last time I played and I have say, I loved the added touches. They added a shield effect for when you are recharging energy, there is also some varied and pretty awesome looking new asteroids. Even the combat, and of course the ships, and battle cruisers received a graphical overhaul. As well as new effects for warping and jumping to a new system, all of these just help to immerse you in this rich and colorful universe.
I just can’t express how much this game mirrors real life. Once you are ready you can join Eve’s version of guilds which are called “corporations” Like most games getting in one of these groups is not easy, I was questioned for a long time by the leader of one I was interested in. The players really take this game seriously and they want to make sure that anyone that they invite into their organization is taking it just as seriously.
But once you are a part of one of these groups, the real fun begins. Your corporation may want to take over a star system and make it your new home base, well the problem is that another “corporation” already owns the system. So what does the mean? PVP baby, Star Wars! I had a blast in the PVP on this game, much more than I have enjoyed WoW’s, or Conan’s. The truly fun part for me came from the strategy of it. Space is not 2D, so you have to plan out attacks because you can be hit from all sides if you’re not careful. But if war isn’t your thing the game also offers mining, or just exploring as options for you. What you want to do in this world is completely up to you, the options are almost limitless.
The only real problem from Eve is its learning curve. The game is very complex and because of this you will find a tutorial for everything you need to know. You can’t just run up to a bandit and right click it, and you’re on your way. Again from speaking to members in my group, I have found that the tutorial is much improved over other iterations, but it can still be a tad bit overwhelming for some people. The best way to get involved in Eve and learn it quick is to join a “corporation”. They can pass along experience and knowledge you don’t get in the tutorial files, stuff like what it was like to participate in huge “corporation” wars, or the absolute best way to outfit a ship for speed so you’ll never get hit by a battleships guns, or the best place to mine for minerals. As I said above this game is meant to be run by the players, so don’t expect to play it like WoW and “solo” for the first few hours before teaming up. If you do you won’t get very far in the game, and you won’t get to experience all that this rich world has to offer.
This game is a little bit hard to score, just because it is definitely not for everyone. If you prefer to play solo like in WoW, or WAR, then this is not going to be the game for you. But if you enjoy PVP, and grouping up with a team to take down another team then this game is meant for you. But be warned, it is very easy to lose track of time in this game as the universe is so big you will quickly find yourself saying “Just one more planet to explore-then I’ll go to bed”