It is time once again for an intrepid explorer to jump inside a goo-filled sphere and take a fresh look at the world of EVE Online. It's a step not taken lightly though, as the life of a pod pilot is filled with danger, challenge and hopefully a wallet full of ISK. There are no promises of wealth and power, but with determination and skill you can make your mark on the galaxy, weather or not that mark is a kill stamp on a pirate's hull or not is up to you.
Since the last review quite a bit has been added to the EVE universe in the form of three major content expansions called Exodus, Cold War and Red Moon Rising. Exodus added tons of new ships, modules and skills, but also added the capability for groups of Corporations to form Alliances to control their territory and defend it from others with Starbases. These allowed for entirely new level of galactic conquest and many great player empires had risen and fallen in the two years since.
Cold War and Red Moon Rising continue the overall escalation of tension and mistrust among the four major empires. As they move to the brink of war, the pod pilot empires grow stronger with access to giant capital ships that are specifically designed to engage and destroy entire starbases. The changes are giving more power to the player factions as they battle for supremacy of zero space. Now on to the review!
IT'S FULL OF STARS!
Graphically, the EVE universe is stunning to say the least. Sure there aren't a lot of things to render in the frozen voids of space, but everything that is there is extremely well done. The ship designs are creative and cool looking and they get extra kudos for being mostly original despite the staggering amount of existing space vehicle designs out there.
The planets, moons and other celestial objects all appear well modeled and complete. All the planets rotate and have minute details like little pinpricks of light representing entire cities. Other assorted objects are sometimes interactive like the omnipresent billboards where you can read the latest news on the server and in-game events as well as see the most wanted player criminals. Even the ones that serve no purpose at all other than background objects are interesting, amusing and my favorite, completely destroyable.
My only gripes in this category are the strange ability for you to be able to see the sun though completely solid matter like planets, moons or your own ship. Some of the backgrounds, while beautiful also interfere with your ability to see which modules are active. They glow faintly green when active but against certain stellar backdrops I found myself rotating the view around to make sure my module was really off. These minor faults aside, all of the art and graphics are polished and pretty to look at.
Graphics score a 9 out of 10.
FUTURE TECHNO: JON HALLUR STYLE
I must confess to not being a big fan of techno, but the ambient music in EVE is a very nice complement to the game. Jon Hallur's funky tunes blend well into the background and a couple tracks will only play in certain circumstances, like a moderately heavy guitar interlude when jumping into a mission area.
Overall the music fits the setting and there is a handy jukebox on the menu to change tracks or volume whenever you like. Most gamers I know play very little attention to this area unless it is glaringly bad. In this case, the fact that the sounds are unobtrusive and generally pleasing is a sign of success more than anything else I could say in this category. The only thing it is really missing is a simple way to play my own music without a third-party program.
I give the sound an 8 out of 10.
FREEDOM AND ROLEPLAY
Judging the roleplaying content of any modern MMORPG is tricky at best. Every game has its hardcore crew of dedicated role players, but as far as I'm concerned the real test is how easily the game makes it for you to assume an alternate persona.
In the case of EVE, your avatar in the galaxy is a spaceship so your options for the typical roleplaying options are virtually nil. Having an interface based around the ship instead of a person is odd at first, but CCP created other methods that make it easier to be 'in character'.
First off, despite the misconceptions that there are only a couple ways to make money in the game, there is an incredible level of freedom to choose your profession and lifestyle. There are no set classes that limit your ability to play a certain type of character aside from the starting stats and skills you begin with. Everyone has the potential to do whatever they like. This freedom is what really provides the opportunity for roleplaying in my eyes.
The world does feel somewhat cold and impersonal for those used to bright and colorful landscapes full of humanoid characters, but they have done an adequate job of creating opportunities for roleplaying despite the lack of typical environments.
For role-playing, it gets 7 out of 10.
BANTAMS, MOAS AND KESTRELS! OH MY!
Starting the game as a new player can be quite intimidating considering the scope, complexity and depth of the game. It doesn't help much that there is no real manual to speak of aside from the starter guide on the website and the dozens of detailed breakdowns scattered across the forums. The tutorial has improved in some ways over the previous incarnations, but sadly it is about as much fun as a Windows Support learning video and the voice of Aura, the ship computer, is more likely to put me to sleep than teach me how to fly my ship.
They start you out in the help channel and even though everyone I met on it was knowledgeable and friendly, there is so much detail to the game that even asking the right questions can be a challenge. Much work remains on the aspect of working players into the system and guiding them toward their goals. With so much freedom it's hard to know where to go or what to do next.
Everyone has different views of fun and EVE appeals to the sandbox type of gamer. Instead of linear level grinds, you simply have to point your skill training in the right direction. The time it takes to train the more advanced skills gives you time to learn the ins and outs of your current capabilities. I've found that the system favors foresight and guile as opposed to brute force. If you charge into a mission with a Battlecruiser armed to the teeth, but forgot your drones at the station, even a group of NPC frigates can make you pay at close range.