Updated Tue, Mar 27, 2012 by Ethec
Players have a number of choices related to drop suits. Not unlike ship choice and fitting equivalents in EVE Online, drop suits come in the usual categories - Assault, Scout, Heavy, and the engineer-like Logistics type - but can be heavily modified to fit multiple roles. Brandon noted that through training and according to power grid and CPU requirements, a Scout drop suit specialized in sniping can accommodate heavy armor rather than light.
Your mileage may vary with the default control scheme. My fierce preference for PC shooters will show in high relief here, but really, in a shooter, controls are fairly simple. You need to move, shoot, change weapons, reload, and maybe to zoom in to snipe or get in a vehicle. Moving wasn't a problem, a prompt to press the circle button appeared when I got in boarding range. But shooting, changing weapons, and reload was mapped to L1, L2, and square, respectively, which confused the hell out of me for the first few deaths. Further fuddling the issue was the anti-vehicle missile launcher I'd equipped by default, which must be charged to full before it can be fired and would only target vehicles.
All that said, Brandon confirmed the rumors that we’d see full keyboard and mouse support for the game, even on PS3. As for how this might imbalance the game, Brandon noted that players would be able to filter matches based on controls in high security space. As for low sec and null sec space, the wild west will remain the wild west.
Feeling fairly useless in a purely infantry role, I ordered up an HAV. Player controller vehicles come in three flavors in DUST 514, the HAV (a multi-turret tank), the LAV (a dune buggy-like single turret scout vehicle), and a dropship, an air transport that has very limited close support capacity. The RDV (rapid deployment vehicle) nearly dropped my tank on my head just outside the facility (yes, you can be killed by falling tanks – it happened to Brandon in the press demo).
Tanks were much more my style. I blistered an enemy’s Marauder tank and several grunts before finding two HAVs around a blind corner. The proper move would have been to jump out of the tank as it began taking heavy fire, using it as temporary cover while I found some kind of barricade that wouldn’t despawn, but instead I tried to push the enemy tanks into cover to allow our ground troops to get within anti-vehicle range. It didn’t work, but at least our infantry battle had turned into an armor battle.
Time ticked down, and the other team won on clone counts (as described above). All in all, the shooter gameplay felt solid if a little claustrophobic when the tanks started rolling. Though the tanks could steamroll through the center of the facility, they could be easily ambushed from cover and elevated positions inside the facility.
Thankfully, dropships were never really a threat inside the outpost due to the ample cover and ceiling limitations (I’d prefer to see dropships remain an anti-tank vehicle in the great rock-paper-scissors matchup of open terrain combat) but the game actually looked good from above (never a given for an Unreal 3 game).
It’s one District on one planet out of a proposed 7,000 planets worth of content, but the Caldari Biomass Facility didn’t play or look like a procedurally created map. Plus, the EVE tie-ins are robust enough to be instantly recognizable for EVE players, yet fairly unique for those who have never seen the neocom.
We do have some concerns about the current state of DUST 514 (and its EVE tie-ins). The textures, shaders, most particle effects, etc. weren’t final in the demo, which means we unfortunately saw a game that already looks graphically dated by today’s AAA standards. DUST 514 is also a game at war with its sheer size and the constraints of its platform, so the PS3 will always put an artificial cap on how gorgeous and full-featured CCP can make the game.
Also, EVE Online’s Destiny physics engine doesn’t currently allow spaceships to orbit planets and Atli confirmed that it’s not an easy feature to create. That being the case, those vaunted orbital strikes might require a little suspension of belief in practice, especially during longer planetary engagements.
We also have a number of unknowns, which is not uncommon for a game with this size, scope, and level of integration. For example, how DUST 514 will incentivize FPS players beyond ISK and skill points? During the DUST 514 Battlefield Roles panel, Atli noted that planet sovereignty will be established by both OCC (orbital command centers) and SCC (the surface variant), so DUST 514 players can control territory - they’re not just cannon fodder for EVE players – but what’s the balance, and how adept will DUST players be at playing the political side of the game (since they can’t directly attack EVE players to settle disputes)?
Atli also explained that planetside artillery can drive off or destroy orbiting attackers (and vice versa), but we didn’t see this feature in action, and aren’t sure who foots the bill for such defenses. We know that FIS and SIF corps can partner up to take control of a planet, but it’s unclear how sharing costs for military operations and surface infrastructure might work.
Those and dozens of other questions surround DUST 514. To be fair to CCP, their intent for Fanfest was to show the core shooter gameplay and gather feedback about the game, and mission accomplished on that front. But with beta beginning in April, less than a month away, we hope to have more answers soon. Our thanks to Brandon Laurino, Atli Már Sveinsson, and the CCP crew running the demos for their time and wish them luck on DUST 514’s 2012 release.