On top of the space simulation elements are the classical MMO tenets of experience, loot, and advancement. Your avatar is your ship, which you can outfit with the finest weaponry, shields and tactical equipment, or even buy brand-new ships to move your equipment across to. Advancement is controlled both by your familiar experience bar (with a reward of experience with every kill) missions, and the as-yet-unspecified Licensing system. From what we’ve been told, it’s there to control both twinking (buying high-level gear for lower-level players) and gold-sellers by using a Gran Turismo-style limit on what ships you can use until you’ve completed a certain amount of quests.
While the repetition of the MMO model threatens to bore the heart out of any genre, it works somewhat invisibly within Jumpgate: Evolution. Your missions involve the killing of X number of Y, but the immediacy of the combat covers it up, transforming even a mundane kill-shit foray into an elaborate space opera. Later missions even involve you taking on gigantic battle cruisers, sniping out turrets and then taking out a shield core, which is a damn sight more dramatic than tapping your 1 through 4 keys.
The class system has yet to be announced, but NetDevil say that elements, such as crafting, will not only have their own separate leveling curves, but will also allow players to level up, much like in Star Wars Galaxies, on their own. Potentially, you could make it to the highest level by doing a great deal of mining, or through the inevitable ship builder option. However, if you’re beavering away in the wrong place there’s the threat of Jumpgate’s PvP system, which is currently being planned as part of every server, but, like EVE, is based in particularly dangerous sections of space. These sections will be free-for-all environs with objectives and missions that send you into them with experience and loot for the victor. While they promise that players will never have to enter these sectors if they don’t want to, the rewards will be there - as well as the danger of getting left as a filthy smear across the cosmos by a 14 year-old called D34TH_VADER.
The words “space” and “MMO” make you think “EVE” and “grind”, but Jumpgate: Evolution appears to be the yin to CCP’s yang. NetDevil are emphasising that the game will be about slick, fast-paced combat rather than routine repetition of hotkeys. From what we’ve played, Jumpgate: Evolution feels like its expanding the genre in a direction nobody seems to have noticed was there. Purely as a game, without the online elements included, Jumpgate would be something to get excited about, but the MMORPG parts make it a red hot pepper in our exhausts. We advise wholeheartedly that you sign up for the beta at NetDevil’s website, or plug your ears and wait until later in the year for the game’s release.
May 14, 2008