The Thinking Man's Shooter - Hands-on with DUST 514
Do you have friends who play EVE? Do they tell you they love how ruthless, challenging, calculating, and rewarding EVE is? If all of that sounds interesting to you, but you wont play EVE because 1) you dont think flying around in a space ship would be fun, or 2) because you dont want to pay a monthly subscription, perhaps an FPS with the same rules and principles is just what you need. Enter DUST 514, CCPs free-to-play PlayStation 3 exclusive.
Over the last few weeks, Ive spent a good chunk of my time getting my mercenary hands dirty in DUST 514. My experiences might help you decide whether this is the game for you.
The Calm Before the Storm
When you first load up DUST 514 you find yourself in your own mercenary quarters which change in appearance depending on what space station in the EVE universe youre located in. Mine was a modern and sleek room representing a space station belonging to the Gallente Federation. Your quarters serve as a hub for you to manage everything you need, such as purchasing and managing equipment, weapons, vehicles, skills and other fun things to help give you that edge in combat. All of this managing can be a little overwhelming and, if youre new to the EVE universe, as I was, you may not understand some of the terminology. Luckily there are helpful tutorials to help non EVE players figure out what everything means and what you should be spending your hard earned isk (DUST and EVEs in-game currency) on.
If you have played EVE before you will be happy to find that the UI is very much like EVEs, so adapting should feel very natural. I spent the small sum of skill points that I started with on a skill that improved my ability to use my armors shield systems and then checked out the various pre-made fittings that were already provided to me.
I decided I didnt like any of already made fittings so I decided to make my own. I went into a section of the marketplace titled Militia Gear which has cheap permanent gear for new players like me to utilize. I bought an assault rifle and a module which could slowly repair my armor over time. I then made a custom fitting using a militia grade assault rifle, a militia scout dropsuit, as a module that increased my armors shields, and the repair-over-time module. After suiting up I went to my Battle Finder to enter into my first match and do what mercenaries do best--shoot stuff.
Send in the Clones!
When you find a battle youll be transported to a lobby area were you can walk around and make a few last minute adjustments to skills, your fitting, and a few other things before the fighting begins. Or, if the battle has already begun you will be immediately sent to a map of the battlefield were you may choose to spawn at any available spawn points.
When I got into my first battle, multiple points were listed on my map for me to go and capture. This told me that this is DUST 514s skirmish mode. Basically there are two mobile command centers (MCCs for short) flying over the battlefield. There are multiple points marked on your screen representing huge ground to air cannons capable of doing some serious damage to the enemy MCC. You need to capture and control these cannons to destroy the enemys MCC before they destroy yours. Of course you can damage the MCC in other ways, but the most effective is by capturing the points marked on your map.
I started running to point B, which was relatively close to me and needed capture. I looked at my map and saw a large amount of fighting going on in that area. I was running, in my light and agile scout dropsuit, when my character instantly dropped to the ground...dead. An enemy sniper saw me running across the open field and took me out with a high grade rifle.
I tried to cut across the field using cover, but there was little cover to be found so I was destined to take more dirt naps. Finally I wised up and made the decision to use the more covered areas to sneak up behind the sniper. When I found him roosting on top of a rock formation I went into my scope and started firing my automatic assault rifle at him, he didnt last long and I marked his demise with a celebratory, Booyah! (Especially since he was equipped in slightly expensive gear, but well get into that later.)
Before we move on I would also like to mention that it is pretty much impossible to quick scope in DUST 514. Sorry, Call of Duty players, DUST will not cater to your fetish. CCP made things more realistic. It will take some time for you to adjust your rifle so that you actually have a steady aim--things will wobble at first, and itll take you a moment to adjust. Its not just something you can do on the fly. Sniping in this game takes careful timing and precision.
With the sniper disposed of, I finally managed to make my way to point B where a sizeable fire fight was taking place. Things were going good for my team; they had started to hack the point and opposition was pretty much gone. And then the tank cometh, fully equipped with turrets that mowed down a chunk of the players at point B. The rest of us scrambled for cover and peaked out to lob a grenade or two at it. Almost everyone, including me, was taken out by that tank and the small amount of infantry that accompanied it. We kept rushing back to point B, but we were quickly defeated.
Our salvation arrived when some players with missile launchers started to open fire on the tank. The rest of us saw our chance and we hit it with everything we had. The machine guns opened fire and the grenades flew. Then, gloriously, one last shot from a missile launcher blew up the tank. Im sure we all cheered a little, from our separate living rooms, when that metal beast went up in smoke. We took control of the point and managed to defend it up until the match ended. Overall, our team lost the match, but nonetheless the players at point B preformed admirably and, even better, yet we still got paid a fair sum of isk as well as a few salvaged items. It was a good day to be an immortal mercenary, because everyday in DUST 514 is good day to die.
Mommy, Where Do Dropsuits Come From?
Remember when I mentioned being excited about taking down a sniper with expensive gear? (Well, fancier than mine, anyway.) Thats because DUST 514 is very much like EVE in every way, except instead of being in a space ship youre an immortal clone soldier with a gun and military vehicles. That means a few things. For one, everything has resources behind it. Gear doesnt just materialize the next time you spawn. So, when you die and go into a new clone the dropsuit you were wearing as well as anything else you had equipped was lost. Sorry, thats EVE - I mean, DUST 514 - for ya. You can, and are expected to buy your custom fittings in bulk once you move on from using militia tier gear, but if you run out of armor, lose all your money, and cant afford higher grade armor you always have good ol militia gear to fall back to.
Another feature in DUST 514 that makes it similar to EVE is that it takes a long time to max out your skills. Having a skill maxed out is definitely worth celebrating and is something to be proud of. Also, unlike other games where everyone can drive a tank or fly a ship, DUST 514 forces you to have a character that has trained up the necessary skills to drive that vehicle. For example, I called in my drop ship that I had put together and found out that one does not simply pilot a drop ship. I got in it and, after about thirty seconds of hovering around the ground, crashed and exploded. Let this be a cautionary tale--do not fly drop ships without the proper training; you will crash and it will most likely end in a fiery mess.
The most important thing that DUST 514 takes from EVE is its ruthless spirit. With every kill you are hurting someones check book. This will be even doubly true when the game is fully connected to EVE Online in the future.
The DUST 514 beta has been, and continues to be great. Even without the application of its key feature, connectivity to the EVE Universe, DUST 514 stands out as a great shooter in its own right. The game is tailored for smart people who like to plan and use tactics and teamwork rather than run and gun around the map. Youll find a mind boggling amount of customization available so you can make a class that fits your own unique play style perfectly.
DUST 514 is a unique shooter with a lot of potential and possibilities, and Im not only eager to see what the game will be like when its fully connected to EVE, but I cant wait to experience what CCP does to expand upon this already engaging shooter.