Updated Fri, May 31, 2013 by Dalmarus
Earlier this week, we brought you our review of DUST 514. But what about a perspective from someone who is less than skilled at today’s FPS games? That’s where I come in! There are times I envy the modern generation of gamers, or even those adults who were not gamers as kids. I may be able to kick your ass in Rogue Spear or Unreal Tournament, but for the love of all that's holy in this world, I cannot play a console shooter with anything resembling actual skill to save my life. Sure I grew up in the 70s with a joystick, but it was a tall stick on a square block and it only had one button. My leet PC shooter skills still refuse to translate to the console in any form.
Fortunately, I know I'm not alone in this. So what better way to put my skills to the test than to jump into EVE Online's offshoot game? Just like other console FPS game's I've purchased in the past, the concept of Dust 514 sounded far too cool to resist giving it a try. You're taking part in the ground fighting of the EVE Online universe (and I'm not speaking figuratively) as a clone warrior, able to endure extreme punishment and come back to life. This recently discovered process has brought a new level of brutality to the war raging between the four empires of EVE -- the Amarr, Caldari, Gallente, and Minmatar. The battle field, and the tactics used to control it, will never be the same.
The concept, the graphics, and the price (it's free, in case I failed to mention that previously) all add up to something that has the potential to be special. Sadly, to me, there is one glaring roadblock on the path to glory and honor and, just as with its companion game, EVE, that's the learning curve. On more than one occasion, the learning curve in EVE has been generously compared to scaling a reverse inclined cliff face. Within minutes of creating my character in Dust 514, I felt a familiar sense of dread as I was overloaded with information, all of which was critical to my success in the game.
The incomprehensible complexities of skills in EVE are present in their own forms in Dust 514 though the UI and skill trees themselves have been drastically improved. You start out with a number of skill points and ISK (money) to pick some skills right off the bat. There are far too many to give you any confidence your choices will be good ones. You earn more skill points and ISK in battle. Bonuses can be earned in matches by getting kills, headshots, etc. Whether you win or lose, you'll earn a pretty hefty amount of both, or at least it seems so relative to the early levels of any particular skill. However, you quickly find out that you are going to need a lot of skill points.
As far as I was able to tell, there is no tutorial to walk you through the battle field UI, map, and a host of other aspects of the game. There are some very brief optional lessons that can be completed in your Merc HQ to give you the barest of clues as to what you should be doing and the absolute bare basics of creating a suit of armor. Just don’t expect anything beyond a cursory glance at any of these systems.
The first battle I joined, I had absolutely no idea what was going on past the obvious. "Shoot the bad guys.... What? *sigh* Yes, I mean the players on the other team, Einstein." Anything beyond that was a complete mystery. While it sounds impressive that I got two kills within moments of entering the game, it shouldn't be. The kills were myself and a teammate as I was trying to figure out the controls and pulled out a grenade. I was unaware that when you pull it out, there is no pin and its internal timer is already counting down. Needless to say, the other members of the team gave me a wide berth after that. We won, but I still have no idea how.
Is this all a failing of the game or the player (or just me)? That's up for debate. There are those who feel players need to just take the time to get into a game and start learning the systems if they want to enjoy it. While I can appreciate that, the reality is that any game in today's market has a very short period of time to hook a player. There are far too many competing titles someone can go play if they get too frustrated with yours. I don't mind needing to learn how to become skilled at a game, but don't make me spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I shouldn't have to try and memorize a briefly seen map legend that randomly pops up while I'm waiting for a match to start to have any idea what all the icons on the screen are representing.
All that said, I'd be lying if I said the concept and intricacy of the game itself wasn't enough to keep me interested. I've stuck around for a while and, though it's true I'm still not a skilled player by any means, I have finally been able to find a certain level of comfort in my role as a sniper. The game may not quite be able to replicate the feeling of hitting your target from the 500 yard line while training (thank you, Marine Corps), but there's no doubt the satisfaction of getting a crucial headshot on a foe from what feels like halfway across the map just before he hops in a turret feels pretty good, too. Hopefully, as EVE did over time, Dust 514 will improve its tutorial so more players can enjoy the game from the beginning.
If you’ve been playing, let me know what your take is so far. If you’ve got any good tips for other readers looking to get into the game, be sure to share them as well. More players means a better experience for everyone.