It was at E3 2016 that Novaquark revealed their latest project, an MMO set in outer space. Titled Dual Universe, this game set out with the ambition to create a unique online experience with an expansive world defined by the players that inhabit it. Four years later, and Dual Universe is getting closer and closer to a full release. I got to attend a private virtual demo, where I watched some extensive live gameplay of the MMO, getting to witness its number of systems and features in action.
Preparing for takeoff
During the demo, the developers gave us a look at what the typical player experience is like in Dual Universe. Players can create their own spaceships from scratch, using basic materials gathered around the world. I watched as a player put together a ship, powered it, and brought it to life. It was really neat to see, and surely will set the ceiling incredibly high for players to get creative and make some truly out-of-this-world designs. One of my only concerns was in regards to learning the ins and outs of building. So much of Dual Universe’s world follows a “learn by discover” mindset, I worry that an inexperienced player like myself may be extremely confused trying to put together and power a basic ship.
One of the key focuses during the ship building was weapons and armor. Players can take the ships they’ve built into space combat to use against other players. One of the developers ran us through different weapon and armor loadouts, and how they affect a spacecraft. Well shielded, more heavily armored ships are slower and harder to maneuver, but are valuable in combat. On the other side, more nimble ships can zip around quickly, easily entering or exiting an engagement, but don’t pack the same punch as some other ships.
We then got to see some combat played live in-action. The battle was fought by a group of players from the development team. We were told that battles are a much bigger spectacle with more players, and that the demo we saw was played with limited numbers.
Among the stars
During the combat sequence, we got to see several player-built spaceships in action. While piloting an aircraft, players can pull up the “gunner’s seat” menu. Here, you can see a list of weapons and their current ammo, as well as give them different commands. On the left-hand side, there is a list of other nearby spacecraft and their current distance away. The gunner’s seat functions as the main hub during space combat.
In the demo, I watched as the player cycled through nearby ships, then selected one, thus bringing up a full diagram of the ship that included its size and current status. He then assigned a cannon to target that ship. This menu was pretty well-designed. With so much going on and to keep track of during a battle, I appreciated a menu that didn’t feel cluttered and overloaded with information.
The Kessel Run
Another highlight of the demo was the real-time damage we saw being done to ships. During the segment of the demo where the player was building his ship, we were told that these pieces would be uniquely destroyed and damaged over the course of combat. We saw this in full display as the hull of a spaceship was pretty banged up towards the end of a dogfight. There’s even a moment where the player leaves the cockpit and goes down to the lower deck of the ship, where holes can be seen in the ship’s body. After the dust has settled, we see the player repair the damage done to their ship using a handful of tools.
Novaquark’s Dual Universe is shaping up to be a fascinating MMO world. Allowing the world to be heavily influenced and shaped by player behavior, it’ll be interesting to see what directions the community takes the game. My demo was focused on PvP, which is just one of the premiere features in the sci-fi MMO. That being said, I quite enjoyed what I saw, though I am a bit concerned with less experienced players being able to learn the ropes. Dual Universe is yet to be given a release date, but the game is currently in Alpha 3, which can be accessed on the Dual Universe website.