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I played AoC got bored and left. I started Eve about 64 days ago when I bought the retail box with a 60 day timecode inside. The boxes have now dropped in price and can be found for 14.99 UK Pounds. I am enjoying Eve , just joined a guild and had war declared on us. PvP can be solo but is more often groups of ships. If you get shot down you lose the ship and all fittings. You can buy insurance but its best to not fly anything you cannot afford to lose. The skill training can get a bit annoying after the newbie 100% skill boost and my last skill took 8 days to level. The skill timer also works while offline so Eve is a game you do not have to play 24/7. The learning curve for all new games is hard but the one for Eve is vey steep and complex.
I would suggest getting the boxed game for the new cheap price and play for the 60 days. You should know by then if its the game for you. One word of advice pick your character race according to your play style ie Drones, lasers, missiles, turrets as different race ships have different bonus.
I bought the special edition box and the manual is very poor its about 20 pages in English ,and a few basic pages in Swedish , Finnish Portuguse. There is a downloadable PDF on Careers about 50 Meg in size.
The days of the large manual/Maps went out with the small DVD boxes. The game has a good starting tutorial but the learning curve is very steep.
One word of warning you can only get the special edition ship and instant war access if you use the time card to make a new account. If you use the card to update a trial account then you do not get the items.
Thier is also a 1300 meg update to download before you can play. It took me about 2 hours to install the game, download the updates and get to character creation. I think finding a name that had not been used was the hardest part :)