Please Note: This review is based on Eve Incursion 1.0. Additionally, the score given to the story has not been used in the process of determining the overall score.
Occasionally, people talk about MMOs as if they were a second job. In other words, the amount of time, effort, and organisation that goes into playing an MMO is roughly equivalent to what you put into the job you have to pay the bills. Except that you pay to play it rather than the other way around. Honestly, I'd never really given this a lot of thought. I have played MMOs of all different types over the years, and regardless of the effort that was required, I definitely had fun playing them. Unfortunately, Eve has shown me that sometimes this genre truly does feel more like work than entertainment.
This sci-fi MMO is set more than twenty-thousand years in the future. Humans have used all of Earth's resources and set out exploring the rest of the Milky Way. During these expeditions, they discovered a wormhole that led to a previously unknown galaxy, which they named New Eden. However, as you might expect, space travel has many dangers. In this case, the wormhole deteriorated and most of humanity was cut off from their origins in the Milky Way. They were forced to colonize this new galaxy, and after many generations, they entirely forgot Earth. It's not a bad setting, but the story is thrown aside for most of the game, and even though there are a few story-related quests, they're not particularly inspiring.
As you may have guessed, Eve is as much a space simulation game as it is an RPG. Its main focus is on making money, and there are a number of different ways you can bring in the moolah. The first method you encounter is through quests. By completing almost identical, mind-numbingly boring quests you can make a good nest egg to get yourself started. Your first character is stuck doing these quests for quite some time, so it's unfortunate that quests almost exclusively fall into the categories of repetitive skirmishes or delivery missions. Quests are mostly accepted from inside space stations, where you can dock your ship to repair and check your items, among a ton of other things. Sadly, this is all done through a very bland menu system that doesn't even try to create interesting NPCs or make quest text easily readable. Eventually, you are able to mine natural resources and do business as other forms of income, but they're just as repetitive.
Combat is largely automated, as it is in many MMORPGs; click, attack, kill. In Eve, once you set your sights on an enemy unit, you'll need to approach them and lock on before you can start shooting. The problem with this is that it forces you to go through a number of drop-down menus or click a number of buttons along with working out technical details such as orbital range before the fight can start. Once the battle actually begins, you can alternate between weapons with an easy click to find one that best suits the situation, and then you just sit and watch while your ship and the enemy orbit one another and auto-shoot. You're usually so far away from your enemy that you don't even get a good look at them. Blowing them up feels like accidently stepping on an ant – it's just not very exciting.
Though combat with the AI is dull, there is something to be said for the player vs. player content. In extreme cases, you could be involved in a battle between hundreds of players at once. All players in Eve are on just one server, which is a wonderful and unique mechanic. This is extremely exciting, and assuming that your PC doesn't lag through the whole fight, those massive encounters look pretty awesome. You also find that you actually have to think during these fights, as you constantly change targets, strategies and weapons. On the down side, these battles don't occur all that frequently and they're usually organised beforehand by player-run corporations. So unless you're part of one of the involved groups, the odds that you'll be in the one star system out of five thousand where the battle is taking place are slim at best. The community is fairly typical for an online game. There are plenty of people willing to help out, but there are also a lot who spend their time trolling and trying to make everyone else's life more difficult. That said, in my time playing Eve, I generally found the community more tolerable than my other online experiences.
The biggest issue that I, and many others, have with Eve is that it is needlessly complicated. As I mentioned before, Eve is not newbie friendly on any level. The tutorial does a pretty good job of giving you the basics and teaching you how the world of Eve works, but you're on your own after that. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be too much of an issue, but as the screenshots to the right will show you, the interface is one of the least intuitive in recent memory. There are stacks of menus and information, most of which are not of any use to you for a long time, if ever. It took me days to even remember where everything on the HUD was and what each item did. Having to then figure out how to train skills, outfit my ship, and take on quests was an absolute nightmare. There is simply too much information thrown at you from the get-go. In fact, I created a second character just so I could go through the tutorial a second time, which did help. When it comes down to it, having to navigate through so many menus makes you feel more like a bureaucrat than a futuristic space pilot.
The second major problem with Eve is that it is virtually impossible to ever catch up to the top players if you're just starting out now. There are only two ways to be awesome in Eve: have money or train your skills. But it's mostly have money. There are literally hundreds of skills for everything imaginable. It's quite obvious what some do, such as Cloaking, Gunnery, Mining, Hull Upgrades and so on, and deciding to train these is an easy decision. But how about Thermic Shield Compensation? Or Cynosural Field Theory? Skills can be accessed through your character sheet, and each level takes a certain amount of real-world time to train. This becomes a problem when you realise that if someone started playing Eve, say, a year before you did, you are never going to catch them. Ever. Well, unless they stop playing. Skills continue to train when you don't have the game open, so even if you're playing regularly, you're still not going to catch someone who started playing before you did.
If you enjoy Eve enough that you really do want to play a significant part in the player-driven world and economy, then you'll need to join a player-run corporation. These are pretty similar to the guilds you see in other MMORPGs, but are generally larger and have a much more significant effect on gameplay. Corporations can actually own parts of the universe. It makes for some interesting gameplay mechanics, but it ultimately results in a couple of huge corporations simply dominating the smaller ones. Nevertheless, it's pretty cool to be a part of the larger ones and feel like you have an effect on the galaxy.
Graphically, the game is quite pretty at first sight. The ships have some great design and are animated fairly well. The effect of the stars and nebulas in the distance is a delight to view as you speed through the galaxy. Sadly, this joy wears off when you realise that most star systems look almost exactly the same. Given, a lot of real space looks the same too, but considering there isn't much to work with, you'd think the developers could have spent more time working on variation. There is definitely a sense of excitement as you pilot your ship, but the lack of difference in locations definitely takes away from the experience. Something I personally enjoy in MMOs is exploring new areas, taking in the environment and seeing what the game has to offer. There is none of that in Eve. You simply auto-fly from system to system and station to station, and everything looks almost exactly the same. On the bright side, the graphics have come a long way since the game was first released. There have been some significant improvements in texture and model quality, which is rare for any MMO development team to bother with.
I never like to be super-critical, but in the case of Eve's sound, I have no choice. For the most part, the background music is dull and uninteresting. Luckily, there is actually a built-in jukebox (along with a web browser and calculator!) so you can pick and choose the music you like. A few of the tracks did convey a sense of the great vastness of space, but they were few enough that I usually chose to listen to my own music instead. Sound effects aren't a whole lot better. Everything from the firing of a laser to the sound of the warp drive kicking in is generic and uninspired. The sound isn't flat out bad, but it's not particularly good either.
Like any MMO, Eve has tons of value. You do have to pay every month to play, but if you're enjoying it then you'll get your money's worth. The content is essentially limitless, and Eve makes use of player involvement more than any other game I have seen in the genre. Buying and being awarded new ships fills you with a sense of pride, and outfitting your new ride for the first time is a lot of fun, especially if you have a lot of parts to work with. If only each star system had something unique about it or something that made it worth exploring, then Eve could have been so much more.
The hardest part of Eve is getting started. If you can overcome the initial complications and repetitive quests, then there is a fairly decent gameplay experience to be had. If you absolutely love space exploration and simulators then you might find something to enjoy. There are a significant number of people currently playing Eve, so there's clearly an appreciative audience out there, but it's not the game for everyone. Of course, if you are interested but not sure that Eve's the game for you, then you can give the free 14 day trial a go and see what you think. Ultimately, I'm not going to be overly positive about a game where I actually have to insure my spaceship against damages.
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