EVE Echoes is finally live, and we got an opportunity to explore the void between stars a few days ahead of the rest of you capsuleers and these are our impressions of EVE Echoes.
Announced way back in the midst of times, although a little bit after the universe started cooling, and teased to the MMORPG team during EVE Vegas 2019, EVE Echoes is the massively successful space-faring MMORPG, but on the go. Best described as a small screen interpretation of the classic EVE universe, EVE Echoes is now available for Android and iOS owners to take on the stars.
Aiming for the stars, Netease initially pitched EVE Echoes back in 2015, a time when mobile gaming was just starting to show the ability to do more than just match 3. Being EVE, it’s taken some time and this instalment of CCP’s franchise certainly looks like an adequate homage to the desktop original. Unlike other gaming spin-offs, EVE Echoes seems to be galaxies apart from the pixel art, side-scrolling cash grabs that other franchises might settle for. Instead, EVE Echoes impresses its EVE cred upon new capsuleers from the word go.
Log in for the first time, and you’ll be presented with lore built on the core desktop EVE experience. EVE Echoes is set in its own distinct EVE universe, for obvious technical and narrative reasons, but anybody familiar with the franchise will instantly feel at home as you begin by attempting to save an SOE ship from the get-go. Unfortunately, this action-packed opening in the depths of space doesn’t go well for players, but thankfully you've got a clone. A central tenet of the EVE universe, cones might be a replacement for magical respawns but don’t expect too much diversity when you grow your own.
Like many mobile games, EVE Echoes provides some options for character creation but they are relatively limited. Initially allowing players to pick from one of four factions, EVE Echoes happily slots players into either the Amarr, Gallente, Caldari, or Minmatar races for this opening gambit. While each of the four races available their own flavor or citizens to choose from during character creation, the impact of these early choices is somewhat limited for new players. Each of the four races come with their own history, detailed in a section of the narrative blurb, and have slightly different technological capabilities. Beyond this, and most obviously, each race also has a distinct aesthetic and set of bloodlines for your very first EVE Echoes clone.
Assuming you are able to pick from the opening four factions, then character creation provides a little more diversity with a selection of bloodlines for each player to choose from. Every faction comes with three default bloodlines, the result of each civilization's history, and players can pick from a mix of predetermined looks in each. This comes to a total of 4 races, 3 bloodlines per race, and 8 prefab looks per bloodline. While that sounds like a large enough gene pool, I can’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by the lack of personal attachment this brings to the opening moments of EVE Echoes. Potential capsuleers might be looking for something a bit more interesting than a 2D avatar but EVE was never about the color of a pilot's hair and if I can look like an extra on Cyberpunk 2077 then that will have to do while I save up for an epic looking new ship in this new universe.
Out Into Space
Thankfully, it’s unlikely that new pilots will see this face for long as you are once again reborn and find that, after the opening moments of EVE Echoes, you've been blown up and subsequently granted a PLEX. From here on in it’s up to you to grab your new ship and fly off into the unknown, losing days to mining planets and placing your work schedule at serious risk of failure. At least, that’s what could happen after you get to know the new game. EVE Echoes might be inspired by, and take large swathes of the older desktop title to, the mobile screens but even old school players are going to have to get used to a modified interface.
As you begin to tap through the opening tutorials of EVE Echoes, it is clear the entire EVE Online UI has undergone some modifications for on the go gamers. Most evident of these is the space combat and navigation systems. While much of the initial menu modifications are presented in the game’s beginner tutorials, Netease doesn’t hold back on the interstellar action. Rather than try to replicate the big-screen experience of EVE outright, EVE Echoes strips back many of the outer space systems significantly as it quickly throws the action out an airlock.
Navigating your way into trouble is quickly introduced and can become a largely passive experience for new players, who are expected to choose destinations from a menu, pick a point of interest and then punch it to get in close. This difference in the way EVE Echoes presents flight is thoroughly present in combat too. Once near a new anomaly or taking on the odd pirate, on-screen icons allow players to auto-assign targets at the touch of a button, triggering a range of lasers, cannons, and other assorted weaponry as they see fit. There’s not a great deal of flying to be done at first and while more experienced capsuleers will find themselves uncovering extra functionality, like double tapping to navigate, or orbiting objects, there isn't really any need to do much beside manage your energy levels and keep your guns firing during those first few combat missions.
A Mobile Marvel
This talk of smaller screens and modified user interfaces might sound distinctly negative but for mobile touch screens, EVE Echoes new streamlined approach and simplified combat systems work wonders. Netease has managed a compromise that crams in a plethora of information, from character skills to weapon pods, missions, and mining, while still making sure that new players and budget-friendly phones don’t need a guide to make it out of spacedock. The core combat experience manages to find a good middle ground that seems a little hands-off at first but I suspect that when entire corporations get down to blowing stuff up, that this simplicity is going to make way for more manual control and larger tactical considerations. It might even be a blessing while your phone crawls along in the background.
While combat is busy exploding around you during the relative safety of EVE Echoes’ opening experiences there may even be an opportunity to sit back and admire the graphical prowess of EVE Echoes. Whether you end up loving or hating this new adventure, it is excruciatingly pretty. Ship models look like they would be considered cutting edge on a last-generation console and the frame rates on a distinctly mid-range Xiaomi even pipped 60FPS. The glow of your engine pulses off behind you and laser fire that flares through space feels like a light show for the magnificent backdrops that surround pilots. Nebulae, star fields, and the twisting contritions far out in Null-Sec are all an utter distraction to almost everything else you should be paying attention to.
Thankfully paying close heed to the view is unlikely to end up with you knee-deep in an asteroid belt or face first in the local sun. A great deal of EVE Echoes’ navigation and intermission movement is handled by your onboard AI if you can't be bothered or don't have the time to sit down and properly play, proving that this customizable quantum cohort should allow players on a time limited break to even get in a bit of EVE on the toilet. I never thought I'd go mining in a porcelain cockpit. While hardcore players might, again, prefer the open action of free space and manual controls hidden beneath the easy access of early EVE Echoes, this auto pathing is a common adjustment that many players and games need to make to accommodate the more casual mobile marketplace and should allow plenty of players to just pull out their phones and easily engage in the latest missions available to the news boards.
Much of EVE Echoes early leveling experience is centered around these missions and the space combat that quickly ensues. Focusing on combat and character skills, opening missions provide an exceptionally light touch look at how to approach EVE Echoes and get on the grind. Possibly balancing the mix of freedom and handholding a little far towards the experienced EVE veteran, the opening acts of EVE Echoes will vary wildly depending on your own experience with the desktop game.
Players with a good understanding of how they want to approach EVE Echoes will likely find the opening moments of EVE Echoes just as repetitive as I did but for various reasons. While the freedom to do what you want really does exist almost from the off, there are a number of character-based skills, and ship styled upgrade systems that players will need to master and unlock before making the jump up your tech tree to piloting frigates and beyond. Corporations exist in EVE Echoes, but are incredibly expensive, and it seems that getting the most out of the game’s systems will require some real money investment, at least until you can start making real money on the open markets.
The End Of The Beginning
The early stages of EVE Echoes sent me spiraling into the fathoms of space with a mix of trepidation and excitement. EVE Echoes initially looks like a huge game for such a small screen. This on the go port of the EVE universe slims down some of the complexity of CCPs desktop universe, while still leaving me feeling like the real content lies ahead of me. With everything from large scale battles to, mining, trade, and exploration all waiting in the depths of space, EVE Echoes' launch barely scrapes the surface of its potential.
As I dock for the evening and work through my first impressions of EVE Echoes, I can’t help but feel like I want to jump back into New Eden as more players populate this new mobile experience and find out what lies in wait. We’ll be back again with more of our review in progress. For now, you can come blow up my ramshackle fighter, please don't, by downloading EVE Echoes over on the Apple App Store and Android Play Store for Free.