EVE Echoes is ambitious. It aims to encapsulate all the intrigue, drama, and player-driven stories we’ve come to expect from New Eden, while offering the experience on your mobile platform. I had a chance to go hands on at EVE Vegas 2019, and so far, the MMO feels natural on hand-held devices.
Co-developed by CCP Game and Chinese giant NetEase, EVE Echoes is set in an alternative version of New Eden, the universe that is the playground for all of EVE’s players. Everything is intact - from the reaches of Nullsec space to the ports that make up Jita. Additionally, the team has full access to CCP’s source files (and CCP has access to NetEase’s) and as a result the visuals look almost identical to the PC client of EVE Online. While a more discerning eye may spot the differences, at a distance I found myself watching footage on a screen and being shocked when it was revealed to be EVE Echoes.
But the experience would be nothing if it didn’t handle well. And thankfully, even though I only had a few hands-on sessions on both an iPhone and an Android tablet, I can say that movement and controlling your vessel feels incredibly natural. Simply tapping on the section of space you want to go moves your ship, and while the process to warp doesn’t differ much from the PC version, the whole affair feels less convoluted, as if the team behind the mobile game removed the unnecessary clicks that make some of EVE’s processes feel too complicated.
However, it’s combat that is greatly simplified, and it’s an area where I’m hoping we see improvement on the PC version of the title. Targeting multiple clients can be a hassle for newer players still learning how to pilot their ship. EVE Echoes includes a Smart Target feature that automatically targets each enemy ship in the vicinity.
Additionally, once targeted, your ship will automatically approach and start to orbit the closest enemy in range. While you don’t always want to orbit an enemy in combat, it’s a nice addition as, again, it take away unnecessary clicks. More advanced players will know the situations where you want to just turn and burn to keep at a safe range from an enemy, or other advanced maneuvers depending on the ship you’re piloting. However, it worked beautifully in the demo as my ship auto attacked one ship till it was destroyed and then immediately moved onto the next.
I set out in search of enemies to kill and easily found them at an anomaly in the system I started my session within. I previously had swapped my ship to an Armageddon, and this gave me a chance to check out the changes made to the fitting and inventory windows while in a station.
Fitting is easier than on PC. There are significantly fewer fitting slots in Echoes versus EVE Online. While some ships in EVE might have eight separate high slots, EVE Echoes seemingly has that limited to three. Whether that’s to simplify the fitting process or a technical limitation, I’m not sure, but it does mean that fittings will need to be approached differently in Echoes versus the PC client.
The market and inventory screens are a marked improvement over the PC client, and it’s another aspect I hope the dev team takes into account at CCP. Each item is clearly displayed with a large icon so there is no missing it, whereas now it in EVE I find myself glossing over items the way the inventory is displayed and sorted by default. While the UI on display screams mobile, CCP can take some cues from the design to make EVE’s existing UI feel less convoluted.
As I was fighting in my Armageddon, I found that some of the features in combat — specifically ammo – are clearly missing. Each weapon doesn’t take ammo in EVE Echoes – again whether it’s a technical limitation or a way to make the experience simpler for mobile players is something we’ll have to find out. But it was nice to just warp in and start shooting versus ensuring I had the right type of ammo slotted for my weapons and range.
I focused a little too hard on the NPCs, though, as I found myself starting to take damage from another vessel. As I took out the NPCs, I thought it was just an overzealous pirate that I needed to focus on. It turns out it was another media member – Brendan from MassivelyOP – who ended my EVE Echoes career logging a PvP kill during our play session. I realized my error too late as well and wasn’t able to escape. Remember when I mentioned you don’t want to always orbit your enemy?
Well I orbited the wrong enemy, and he made my pod and me pay with our Iives.
As I respawned in a new clone body back at our starting station, it made me wonder whether or not EVE Echoes will have the legs CCP is hoping it’ll have. NetEase have a ton of experience with mobile MMORPGs – and CCP Games has done an admirable job cultivating a sandbox environment where any player can go from being an F1 jockey to living out their own Cold War-esque spy novel. Will the install base of EVE Echoes have enough direction to replicate the type of amazing stories EVE has produced?
Also, how many EVE Vets will make the jump from PC to mobile? Will EVE Echoes be compelling enough to vets to enjoy their favorite game, but on the go? The bet will be coming in December, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens then. And while New Eden will be wiped before the game officially “launches,” if CCP and NetEase can recapture that formula that has worked so well on PC, EVE Echoes may just take over the mobile space as the premiere MMORPG on the platform.
Again, though, only time will tell.