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Dust 514 review

Decent
AT A GLANCE
  • Staggering amount of equipment and skills
  • Combat that’s a balance of twitch and tactics
  • An entire universe to conquer
  • Steep learning curve with limited tutorials
  • Glitchy grenade throwing
  • Sterile setting

With DUST 514, developer CCP is trying to capture lightning in a bottle on a second occasion. Taking its cues from the company’s MMO magnum opus EVE Online, DUST 514 is a sci-fi shooter that borrows the persistent character and world-control elements of MMORPGs, including equipment, skill progression, and faction warfare. The game tries to deliver an immersive, epic experience, but CCP has a long way to go. This Icelandic import is a shaky, unrefined and confusing game, but it’s also the bare-bones skeleton of a great game: the first draft of an insane intergalactic war-drama, where all of creation is yours for the taking. The price tag--free-to-play, with slower progression for non-spenders--makes this unfinished product more appealing, but doesn’t excuse its flaws.

EVE players and DUST 514 players use the same server and inhabit the same universe, able to join the same in-game corporations and chat rooms. Where EVE players are relegated to outer space, DUST 514 players take to the planets, wage war, and conquer. Under certain circumstances, DUST 514 combatants can call down orbital strikes from EVE players; these are awe-inspiring moments that remind you of just how cool CCP’s pipedream concept is, even if they’re just getting started as far as connectivity between the two titles.

"The [F2P price tag] makes this unfinished product more appealing, but doesn’t excuse its flaws."

Gameplay-wise, DUST 514 lands somewhere between Call of Duty and Halo--kills come more easily than they do for Master Chief, but not as quickly as in COD. It’s comparable to the balance found in the Battlefield series: You have time to react and counter when you get shot, but the margin of error is slight. Overall, it’s a good mix of tactics and twitch, where positioning yourself on the battlefield and focusing on attack angles can take you a long way--but in close quarters or surprise encounters, skilled players will always have the advantage. The combat commits only one unforgivable sin: sometimes, it takes two or three presses for the “throw grenade” command to register, which makes clutch, split-second tosses almost impossible. It’s infuriating.

You'll spend much of your time in the game’s menu systems, because there’s a lot more to this one than your standard FPS. DUST 514 has a way of making your specific loadout feel unique, and a lot of the fun comes from the depth and breadth of the items you have to tinker with. Puzzling out which loadout is best for you is challenging: You’re significantly limited in how much you can equip, so some concessions must be made. But experimenting with your gear feels fun and exploratory, not frustrating.

"Gameplay-wise, DUST 514 lands somewhere between Call of Duty and Halo..."

There’s also a gigantic marketplace for your perusal, and even if the gun and armor designs are bland, the stats attached to them aren't; trying out new gear is exciting and interesting. Additionally, a sprawling skill tree adds a rewarding path through the firefights and helps further differentiate your character from the pack. Unfortunately, all these rich, meaty features are entombed in a difficult UI that’s not easy on the eyes. What’s worse is that they’re not explained very well: DUST 514 provides some brief text tutorials, but they’ll only get you the basics. Learning the finer details--how everything really works--takes some trial and error.

The parts where the shooting gets particularly interesting is when that colossal item metagame comes creeping into it. For instance, each asset you’ve equipped, from weapons to armor, is lost when you die (you usually buy these in bulk for this very reason)--and that means you’ve lost money, one of the driving forces of progression through the game. This adds tension to each encounter, and a sick satisfaction when you take another player down. Another intriguing concept comes in the form of Planetary Conquest mode, where you can join a player-made corporation and dominate the universe’s planets--the same ones that EVE players are flying over--one by one. Carving out your piece of the starscape isn’t easy, but the feeling of victory is worth the effort.

"The parts where the shooting gets particularly interesting is when that colossal item metagame comes creeping into it."

With a heavy focus on gear and skill progression, new players face a significant disadvantage in this game. Going up against veteran players should remind you that have a long way to go to get to their level, but in DUST 514, it feels like being a lamb led to slaughter. Against their powerful equipment, new players are toast. This is excusable in the Planetary Conquest mode, since that’s CCP’s equivalent of an endgame. But in matchmaking? Better methods for sorting players by their experience level are a necessity, because these unfair fights produce nothing but rage quits and easy money for experts.

It’s also hard to forgive how sterile this game feels. It depicts a bleak, war-ravaged universe, so one doesn’t expect jokes and gags a la Borderlands. But some hints of personality--whether in humor or drama or something--would do wonders to make DUST 514 more engaging and lively. As it stands, this is a world devoid of character. In fact, the soldiers themselves are bland, with nary an appearance customization option to be found.

The game uses two currencies: ISK, which is earned in battle and used by both DUST 514 and EVE players alike, and AUR, which must be purchased with real world money. The game's best equipment can be purchased with either currency, but you’ll need a very large amount of ISK, and even more time to earn it all. Combine that with the fact that most items are perishable--you’ll have to buy more as you kill and be killed--and it’s easy to see how accruing a significant amount of top-tier gear will be much quicker for the paying customer. It’s not a full-on pay-to-win scheme, but there’s a discernible advantage for those who shell out cash.

"It’s not a full-on pay-to-win scheme, but there’s a discernible advantage for those who shell out cash."

Still, when you play DUST 514, you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something exciting afoot. You feel it when you look at that galaxy map and think, “This could be mine.” You feel it when an EVE player nukes your skirmish from orbit--maybe because they’re paying you to fight the battle--and eradicates an entire enemy platoon. You feel it when you grasp the sheer amount of possibilities granted by the game’s marketplace and skill trees.

CCP has a history of making their games better over time. But if you’re playing in the hopes that DUST 514 eventually delivers on the promise of a completely player-controlled galactic struggle, it’s likely to be a long wait--one tinged with equal parts frustration and fun. Like marching into battle in your most expensive loadout, that’s a risk/reward scenario you’ll have to weigh on your own.

More Info

Release date: May 14 2013 - PS3 (US)
May 14 2013 - PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Sony, CCP
Developed by: CCP
ESRB Rating:
Teen

Topics

CCP

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9 comments

  • valredfield - May 29, 2013 1:22 a.m.

    I think it's a great game. To be honest, I'm usually not into the free-to-play scheme, but this game does it right. It's fairly balanced, you don't have to pay real money for game changing gear. The skills however are various and you will need TONS of time playing to get a decent character. But it's very engrossing. It's like battlefield with RPG elements, and yes the whole skill system and dropsuits setups are very deep and takes time to apprehend, kinda like picking up armored core for the first time. However it's very rewarding once you took the time to level up your guy.
  • paul-lague - May 27, 2013 1:26 p.m.

    I played the beta from January and got so fed up I quit playing, all the glitches, the camping liitle asswipes with AUR weapons,the almost impossible to understand equipment set ups.I got sick and tired of the crap, now the PS3 clan I am in (TEAM) is looking at this game so I am downloading it again to try it again, my friend has found some high levels willing to teach us how to play and understand stuff, which is fine, BUT THE DEVS SHOULD HAVE SORTED THAT OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE! Basically my hopes are not too high here.
  • Sinsational - June 3, 2013 2:45 a.m.

    Just because you got fed up playing the BETA, which are prone to bugs and glitches (hence the status - BETA), doesn't mean the official release will be the same.
  • paul-lague - June 3, 2013 7:24 a.m.

    Well have played a fair bit now, its not bad but it is still glitchy and unbalanced. (revives not working, being killed by a single shot from a miltia pistol from 200 meteres for example. its better then beta but still needs work.
  • PatHan-bHai - May 27, 2013 8:11 a.m.

    Well, it beats the crap outta BF3 for me.
  • PlainLikeVanilla - May 25, 2013 11:31 p.m.

    That score is spot on.
  • Bloodstorm - May 25, 2013 7:48 p.m.

    A 3 out of 5? I don't quite agree. I've been playing Dust since January, and it has been a fun experience. I can get behind the sterile environments, my biggest gripe with it is the battlefields get repetitive fast, but what FPS doesn't? I have no clue what your are talking about when it comes to glitchy grenade throwing, I use them with no issue (as long as I don't accidentally bump the trigger on something), which leads me to believe that the reviewer just sucks with grenades. I've got friends who almost exclusively use grenades and explosives. The learning curve I can understand, but also refute. Militia gear offers an easy way to test out many different combinations of gear before committing to anything. Even then, it is fairly easy to change to something else, outside of drop suits. It breaks down to what you want to do on the battlefield, like any game.
  • Shayz - May 25, 2013 7:07 a.m.

    https://forums.dust514.com/default.aspx?g=posts&m=852431&#post852431 Please read this you guys...I made it so that hopefully more people would understand what this game is really about, and how amazing and exciting it can become. As for the Aurum items, most players don't use them, and the isk gained from battle outweighs the cost of your fittings lost most of the time. You also didn't mention how skills are earned over time, and that you can come back a week or two later and have enough points to use better weapons without actually playing the game constantly. Lastly, the game is very much team oriented. A group of organized players in basic gear can easily win against a group of unorganized players with the best gear. Still, death is a MAJOR part of this game. I use fairly decent equipment and die at least 4-5 times per match because of random grenades, snipers or LAV's. It takes about 2 weeks to be able to use the best type of a certain weapon, about 6 weeks to use a really good dropsuit, and another month or so to get enough sp for good passive skills. That's 3 months to be able to use some of the best stuff in the game, only playing for about 1-2 hours per day. Compared to other RPG's, this game does not take long to become really good and start competing with the best players. Compared to other FPS games, this game takes about the same time to use the best equipment. Players with more skill points are only slightly better and/or are able to use different types of loadouts.
  • Shayz - May 25, 2013 7:12 a.m.

    The heck? My post turned into a giant wall of text... Wonderful.

Showing 1-9 of 9 comments

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