DUST 514 preview

With its deep ties to EVE Online, DUST 514 is drawing from a "massive, persistent" online world containing "hundreds of thousands" of players, spanning "thousands of solar systems and individual planets. But does any of that matter? Can this intricate and dense world be relevant to PS3 gamers? Turns out, DUST is more than okay for non-EVE players. It doesn't require any knowledge of the EVE universe and is "designed to provide great moment-to-moment shooter gameplay."

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I admit to knowing next to nothing about EVE Online--and that will be the case for many of the new players being introduced to the universe via the PlayStation Network. For console gamers, DUST 514 is simply a free-to-play online FPS supporting 24v24 battles over territories and resources.

DUST's ambitious cross-platform integration with EVE Online means nothing if the game isn't enticing as a shooter. CCP is well aware of this. While this is their first foray into the realm of the FPS, CCP has hired industry veterans (such as alumni from the Battlefield series) for its development.

I had a chance to play a standard team deathmatch. Each match begins in the lobby area where you can view a 3D map with data from previous matches, meant to help players plan their strategy. Although the map I played in was adequately large, I was told the maps go up to several square miles in size. You'll be able to summon vehicles, such as a tank, by spending ISK or Aurum--the two different in-game currencies.

Ensuring the game isn't "pay-to-win" is of great emphasis to the development team. You'll be able to buy Aurum, which lets you buy better weapons and equipment. However, CCP promises that nothing will stop a player from grinding their way to buy items of the same caliber with ISK, the free in-game currency.

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And there will be a lot of equipment to purchase. There are an overwhelming number of options across armor, weapons, damage modifies, and grenades. Classes (or dropsuits as they are called in DUST) allow players to choose their role after each respawn. They can spawn as a various familiar loadouts you’ve seen in other games such as gunner, sniper unit, an anti-vehicle unit, etc. CCP wants you to specialize in one field, because apparently, it will take years if players want to max out stats across every class.

Matches and respawns deplete equipment each time, which need to be replaced by purchasing them in the marketplace with in-game currency in order to continue playing. The continuous need for ISK will drive DUST 514 players to connect with EVE players. On the PC, EVE players will manifest as corporations who put up contracts for DUST players. Those contracts offer the lucrative in-game currency as reward. EVE players can even affect DUST matches directly with an Orbital Bombardment--aerial strikes EVE players can call upon with their resources "to bombard the opposing faction." This level of cross-platform and cross-genre interaction is unprecedented, and certainly exciting.

The nerd inside me revels in all the potential DUST brings, but realist in me knows none of it will be easy to pull off. After my short time with it, I remain optimistic that CCP can make good on their grand vision.