When news first filtered through about CCP's highly ambitious second project, I was excited. The concept for Dust 514 is groundbreaking, unheard of, and never before attempted. Linking two separate games with an MMORPG acting as an overarching hub is cause enough for anyone to jiggle ever so slightly with anticipation: which is why the wait has been excruciating. Three years and an Eve Fan Fest later, finally we are inching ever closer to Dust 514. While CCP have remained tight lipped on the project's eventual release, there were murmurs towards a Q4 release date earlier this year. Sucks to be those murmurs.
D514 now resides firmly within the "done when it's done" category, as stated by the developer's CMO David Reid, he continues "we're taking our time, listening to feedback, and doing this one right." So unfortunately we won't be orbital striking planets just yet, but auspiciously for a select few, the closed beta is now in full swing: and boy is it kicking.
Without getting into the Eve Online integration side of things just yet, CCP are proving just what a solid game they have been studiously toiling away on. At a glance, D514 is reminiscent of Battlefield, with its huge maps, abundance of vehicles, and focus on large skirmishes - but that would be doing it a great disservice.
This planet-bound MMO is ultimately very PC in nature. Rather than nodding and winking towards your favourite console shooters, it draws from the same well spring as Tribes and Planetside. There's an air of spectacle to it all: whether that's from the overhead battles taking place high above in Eve Online, or watching a Prometheus air ship crash to the ground amidst a chaotic battle.
Logging into CCP's shooter will have you harking back to the glory days of PC shooters. There's a heart and a head behind it all. Player aren't mindlessly gunning for achievements or merit badges, but instead scrapping tooth and nail for a certain patch of land that actually means something.
And there's just so many ways to play D514, and I'm not taking about the usual choice of scout, assault, and recon. The striving character creation model allows for masses of customization, allowing a player to forge their own niche somewhere in the midst of war, whether that's by dashing up close with combat daggers, or settling by dusty outcrops picking a perfect shot.
Even taking yourself out of the action reveals a very well-though and independent game. Rather than settle for a menu system, D514 gives players their own crew quarters in which they can shuffle around, and interact with items in real time. Whether this is searching for battles, outfitting, or marketing, terminals litter the location giving that all important sense of immersion imported fresh from Eve Online. That PC spirit I was talking about? It permeates somewhere within that.
David Reid once again summed up the entire ethos of the game by branding D514 as "different in every respect to other shooters" and that is mostly true. Sure, it hints towards its FPS peers, but the substance behind it all is so rich with thought, complexity, and that gooey matter known as longevity.
Complimenting all of this hyperbole of gameplay is thankfully a very solid shooter. While you dash around the map, the RPG stuff, the dice rolls, the mitigating factors, melt somewhere towards the back. You never feel completely outclassed within D514, so while someone may have better skills and equipment, you can still get the drop on them with a well placed grenade. It just feels all so satisfying.
One of the D514's more touted features, the orbital strike, is also starting to make an appearance. Currently used as a special ability, with the absence of Eve Online players floating high above, the element lacks the gravitas it will eventually have, but still provides a spectacular event to witness as death showers from high above, obliterating everyone in sight.
But we are still a long way from a finished product, and D514 is very much the listening exercise as outlined by CCP. The current build, "Codex", is just starting to integrate Corporation features, as well as juggling the existing mechanics. Other vanity projects such as the addition of women avatars are starting to take place - proving that in a gaming world largely built upon burly men shooting burly weaponry, women can too have a place in that bloody mess.
So it's still very much a construction site that surrounds D514, with the eventual Eve Online additions promising to heighten the already promising experience. There are still a few kinks to be worked out, and a few textures that aren't looking too sharp, but this is to be expected in a self-proclaimed "work in progress."
With no release date as of yet, other than "sometime next year" the future for CCP, Eve Online, and Dust 514 is looking very bright. We can all exhale and relax in the knowledge that this is a great game in its own right - the bells and whistles of MMORPG integration will be an extra thick topping of sugary bonus. I can't wait.