DUST 614

One month has passed since DUST 514 made its official debut on the PlayStation Network as the PlayStation 3’s first free-to-play shooter, and I figured it would be an interesting idea to take a step back and see how the industry has received what many have touted as a groundbreaking shooter.

Player reactions to the game have been as mixed as any game of this sort can get, ranging from those who have panned it outright to those who have dedicated themselves to it so much they’ve joined the Council of Planetary Management. However DUST 514 is a console game, and the importance (however misguided) of games industry reviewers has a significant impact on new player interest and uptake. To that end, lets see how DUST is doing in the eyes of the industry by using one of the most popular — and infamous — review aggregation sites: Metacritic.


At the time of this writing, DUST’s overall score by critic reviews is 59 out of a possible 100. This isn’t as fantastic as CCP would hope to have seen, I imagine.  But as with most serious game reviews, staring at a number is the tiniest part of the story; the devil is in the details. Note that I’m going to be cherry-picking from each review, obviously for the full context I encourage you to visit each site and see their complete opinion.


The Escapist is a pretty reputable reviewer, they tend to give fair assessments of games, providing good descriptions to back up their numeric scores.

Some choppy framerate or the occasionally bit of wonky terrain geometry still hasn’t been completely smoothed out, and along the same line the textures are optimized for quantity not necessarily quality. Not everything looks that great up-close. However, the game has improved substantially over the years that I’ve seen it, and CCP is known for the constant iteration.

If you’re willing to really delve into all the facets of Dust 514, and a few technical issues, there’s a satisfying shooter with some stakes for you and your corporation mates to be found. If you’d rather not get that invested, then Dust 514 might not be for you.

Pretty even I’d say, and generally mimics my own feelings on the game so far.  There’s fun to be had, but it’s not a perfect experience.


Oh IGN. Not one of my personal favorite sites to go for …well anything.  However, it’s also extremely popular, so much so that CCP has gone out of their way to provide new trailers to IGN as timed exclusives.

For context, lets see what IGN had to say about DUST when it was previewing it back in March 2012:

But now that we’ve seen it in action and know that it actually DOES work, it’s safe to say that this is a game worth getting excited about for a whole array of different reasons. I now have confidence that CCP can actually pull this off

With that in mind, some highlights from their review:

Like a mad scientist, Dust 514 seeks to merge a free-to-play multiplayer first-person shooter with a skill system more robust than most modern RPGs, and battles that decide the fate of a vast MMO universe that exists on an entirely different platform. While it sounds amazing on paper, there’s a reason most games aren’t so ambitious: because so much can go wrong.

…such ambition is in vain if you don’t have a solid foundation, and Dust’s crumbles almost from the get-go. Its wonky mechanics, weak graphics, and microtransaction fueled grind make it numbing to play long enough to explore its depth, and its persistent elements are completely lost on anyone who doesn’t already have a foot down in the EVE universe.

The contrast is striking.  This is by no means a unique thing in the industry; previews are often all roses and bubblegum while the review showcases the real opinion. I tend to find IGN one of the worst offenders for this.  I’m not saying their opinion on DUST is wrong, as they do raise some valid points. It’s the two-facedness that annoys me.


It’s interesting that the lowest of the larger reviewers comes from EDGE Magazine, arguably a well respected source of game news and reviews.

Divorced from its ambitious, cross-game context, Dust is a lacklustre shooter that provides little more than the bare-minimum framework for large, objective-based battles. The functional visuals reduce a galaxy’s worth of planets to a series of smearily textured rocky surfaces that seem to have rolled off the production line next to the one making Dust’s prefabricated industrial buildings.

Combat has about as much personality as the bleak, dust-blown worlds. There’s none of Halo’s gently exaggerated physics, Shootmania’s relentless velocity or Call Of Duty’s immediacy. There’s just shooting people with guns, albeit while battling against some suspect hit detection and sludgy controls.

Now I don’t agree with the score nor do I agree with some of the points being made. The reason for this is that in some cases it seems like the reviewer may not have spent a significant time investigating some of issues noted, which may have given some more perspective on why certain choices were made with the designs.

To conclude, one has to take any professional reviewer’s opinion with a grain of salt. These folks usually don’t spend as much time with individual games as I’m sure they’d like, and there’s always the usual controversy of the practice of shilling for developers and publishers. Scores alone never tell the whole story, and even low scoring reviews will have some excellent points to make on what works with DUST 514.

So, why should we care about this at all? Well, EVE Online’s done really well for itself since its release, and I would have no problem saying the majority of that success was due to word of mouth advertising. Contrasting this, bad reviews are murderous to games like DUST 514. Lets face it, there’s a lot of competition out there for first person shooters on consoles, and the average shooter player is going to stick with franchises they’re both familiar with and can play with their friends. DUST being free to play lowers that barrier to entry significantly, but everyone can agree that there is a significant grind involved that can eventually degrade long term interest. Potential new players are much more likely to read a review and decide the game’s not worth their time.

After a month I was hoping for much more positive reviews for the bigger names that people tend to pay attention to. With luck, DUST 514 will be something they will stick with on their personal time and get the itch to revisit it later as CCP continues to support the game. It has a lot going for it with regards to long term play, not the least of which is the support of a developer who actively listen to what the players want and need.


EVE and DUST Back After Downtime

For a lot of folks, Sunday’s a great day to kick back and relax, to fly some internet spaceships or play internet space army. Unfortunately, the EVE Universe’s servers came under a massive distributed denial-of-service attack and traumatically forced everyone to interact with the real world for hours.

The good news: things are working fine again, CCP has plugged the security hole with space spackle, and reports that no customer data was compromised in the process.


CCP have released the following statement about the downtime experienced by both EVE Online and DUST 514 this weekend:

At 02:05 UTC June 2nd, CCP became aware of a significant and sustained distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) against the Tranquility cluster (which houses EVE Online and DUST 514) and web servers.

Our policy in such cases is to mobilize a taskforce of internal and external experts to evaluate the situation. At 03:07 UTC, that group concluded that our best course of action was to go completely offline while we put in place mitigation plans.

While we initially reopened EVE Online and DUST 514, at 14:51 UTC we became aware of additional information that led us to re-evaluate our decision. With the highest sense of precaution we took the decision to take Tranquility and associated websites back down for further investigation and an exhaustive scan of our entire infrastructure.

What we can now confirm is that a person was able to utilize a vulnerability in one of the back-end services that support the operation of the Tranquility server. This vulnerability has now been secured and thoroughly tested.

We would like to stress that at no time was customer data compromised or accessible in any way.

The effort of returning the complex server structure of the EVE Universe and associated websites to service in a methodical and highly-scrutinized fashion began hours ago and Tranquility has now been brought online (at 10:13 UTC). Our teams will monitor the situation carefully in the coming hours to ensure that our services are accessible and that all customer data remains secure.

We will be looking at ways to compensate players in both EVE and DUST for the outage and expect to announce what that compensation will be very soon.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of our players on EVE Online and DUST 514 for their patience and understanding during this unexpected downtime and the investigation. We are grateful for your support, as always.

Jón Hörðdal Jónasson,
Chief Operating Officer

With the recent attacks against gaming sites resulting in customer and billing data being lost and certificates being stolen for use in the proliferation of malware, I can only applaud CCP for their approach of shutting it all down in order to properly assess the situation.  Sure unplanned downtime like this is annoying, but at least the right steps were taken in time to prevent something more serious.

The Odyssey patch appears to still be on target for release tomorrow on June 4th, however CCP have already stated they have delayed the signups for the next Alliance Tournament by one day due to the downtime.


The Monster DUST 514 Uprising Review

In a previous post entitled “The Monster DUST 514 Beta Review”, I wrote at length about the features, shortcomings, and promises of DUST 514 in its initial open beta state. At that time the game was extremely rough and unfinished by “open beta” standards, giving cause for concern that CCP might have been biting off more than it could chew. With this article, I hope to revisit many of the points in my last post, and give an indication of the current released state of DUST 514. If you haven’t already read that previous blog it may not be a bad idea to take a moment and do so. And as before, I apologize for the screenshots having a weird grain to them, that’s the fault of my TV’s phone app screenshot function.


CCP unveiled changes to DUST 514 during its Fanfest this year, showcasing massive improvements to almost every aspect of the game. With this week’s release of the Uprising 1.0 patch, a lot of these anticipated improvements have been applied, and with the game shedding its beta clothes we should finally be able to experience it the way it was meant to be experienced.

The Upgrade

To say this is “a patch” is a tremendous understatement. The patch notes for Uprising 1.0 would probably be blank if they pointed out things they didn’t update, so you’re pretty much re-downloading the entire game over again. For me, this process was exacerbated by a patch for my PS3 itself, so I ended up with a painful trifecta of PS3 patch, DUST 514 patch, and DUST 514 content update when the client finally did launch.


This isn’t really CCP’s fault, it’s more of an issue with the PS3 update architecture, however it’s worth noting in case you think you’re going to be playing in five minutes. In the end, they’re able to push out content updates to make changes rather than deal with the onerous console patching process, and that means quick responses to most issues with the game. This is a good thing.


Initial patching aside, one of the things announced at Fanfest — to much applause from the audience — was a faster launch time to actually just get into DUST. I could fold a load of laundry in the time it took for the DUST 514 beta to boot up. With Uprising this time has been cut down to a fraction of what it was before, so you’ll go from the PS3 menu to standing around in your quarters queuing up for battle in no time. My own timing showed that from the moment the ESRB logo shows up on screen to when I was in my quarters took around 1m08s. To say that’s a massive improvement from before is an understatement.

Renovations All Around

Once you get your way past the silly unskippable PlayStation Move instructions (seriously, Sony?), one thing is immediately apparent: attention has been paid to almost every single aspect of DUST 514’s user interface. The basic artwork and layout of all the UI is totally overhauled, and is all much more intuitive.


If you were playing before Uprising, all your skills and fittings will have been removed and you will have a giant pile of money and skill points to apply to your character. Special vanity and officer items are exempt from this, so don’t panic if you’ve dropped some real world cash or won something cool; they will still be there for you after the patch.


Where before there was just a spreadsheet of skills to scroll around in, you now have a skill tree. This tree gives an excellent sense of how your character can be developed that simply want there before. No matter which category of skill you’re looking at, the progression is clear and concise. You can purchase and/or train each skill from the tree, decide immediately how you want to specialize your mercenary and figure out what skills you should be looking at in order to accomplish your goal.

The Neocom itself has had a few changes, mostly centered around usability. The overall design is still the same, but they’ve corrected font sizing so things are less cramped. This also means that you don’t need to be an owl to read the text, and the developers have had to be more smart with organizing their content.

Crisp New Suits

Prior to Uprising, there were four suit types that were evenly spread among the four factions in EVE. This time around, each race has four suit types of their own with special bonus for each race and role (Edit: currently only Amarr has a Heavy dropsuit). The result is a much more balanced set of blank canvases to work with when fitting up your characters.


Racial variants are present for weapons and vehicles as well, so if you’re a die hard fan of a particular faction you can deck yourself out in the appropriate gear. This is awesome in cases such as when you want to do some logistics for your team, but prefer to not dress in Minmatar Duct-Tape Chic to do it.

I’ll take a moment here to tip my hat to the character modelers for DUST: the suits look great. Looking at the different races’ suits with their role variants and other variations, they’ve managed to capture the design language of those races from EVE while having the designs make sense for their intended roles. that’s a real challenge to do, and they pulled it off while making them all look completely badass.

The Map

There used to be a map in DUST at one point, but it was removed because well… it was terrible. They didn’t just bring it back, they’ve introduced a spectacular new way to look at the EVE cluster.


The new map presents the user with a top-down, flattened, minimalist view of the regions of EVE. This is perfect for console users to be able to pan around and explore the cluster, seeing where conflicts are situated and for what reason. Filters are available to highlight systems which are embroiled in Faction Warfare or Corporation based conflicts.

Selecting a single region zooms in to show the constellations present within.


Continuing into a constellation displays all the systems within that constellation.


Finally, selecting a specific system twirls out an abstract view of the celestials present there.


Selecting any planet that is capable of supporting ground-based combat shows the districts present there and what state of conflict each is at. Along the way, you’re told if there are any active conflicts occurring in those areas, and can join them in progress after choosing what side to go with.


It’s all really slick, and for DUST players who may not be familiar with the layout of EVE it’s a cool way for them to get familiar with it. I’m sure there’s plenty of folks playing EVE Online that wouldn’t mind the ingame map to include a similarly slick style of interface.

Joining The Fight

It’s at this point that Uprising starts to really show its most impressive stuff. The general feel of combat in DUST 514’s beta was one of the major gripes I had with the game, and I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case.


Finding a match to join hasn’t changed much, other than having the option to drop in to one in progress via the map. The usual three categories of matches are present, however there are now three match types instead of just the previous two: Skirmish, Ambush, and Ambush OMS (Off Map Support). The latter variant is new to the game, and is basically identical to the Ambush type with one key difference. Periodically, resources such as supply depots and turrets are dropped in for either side to capture and use against the others.


The user interface improvements are apparent almost immediately. The extremely basic, clunky deployment screen has been replaced with a much more intuitive version. You don’t see your full list of fittings unless you want to change it, you can see match statistics and observe the map. It’s faster, cleaner, tells you what you need to know without being a sluggish mess.


When your boots hit the ground one thing’s apparent: CCP has been hard at work on making combat feel right.

If one were to compare this to the first day of beta release, I’m almost entirely confident that all the things you can equip and fire at someone have had significant tweaks for balance and use. Guns have distinct feels to even same-class weapons, grenades aren’t the mini-nukes they first originally were (thankfully CCP patched those a little while into beta), and the vehicles no longer feel like your neighbor’s DualShock just accidentally synced with your console somehow.

I found there was less of the “getting killed by the uber gun of the week” effect that was present prior to the weapon tweaking, and grenade spam is almost non-existent. Even with basic starter gear I was still relatively effective in combat, and moving up into higher tiers of gear helped, but didn’t guarantee I’d be steamrolling the other team. This is exactly what it needs to be like.


I still find that team support in random matches is rare, there’s not a lot of people who bother to revive you and there’s little incentive to go after someone else, since they tend to just respawn rather than wait. For a team-based shooter, this is still an issue, however I’m almost 100% positive that joining a player corporation and working with them in matches will resolve this issue. It’s really just the random player matches where it’s every man for himself.

The great part is that the previous respawn snore fest has been cut down to a much shorter wait. Instead of nodding off for 20 seconds to respawn, your downtime will be probably more like five or six seconds, occasionally longer. Shorter respawns mean less downtime, and that means more time spent on the ground taking place in the battle. The result is a game that’s more enjoyable to play.


Controls have also been tuned significantly, and the result is a much more mature feel to the game. I still have a general disliking for the PS3’s controller for this kind of shooter, however CCP has done the best job they could have done so far with it. There’s still the mouse and keyboard option, but truthfully the majority of players aren’t going to go that route. At least they’ve done their best to manage the DualShock’s horrid deadzone, and that’s no small feat. There are coming enhancements to this that have been discussed by the developers to help aid aiming more, beyond just simplistic aim assist models. As a PC gamer, nothing makes me want to vomit more than aim assists, however on the console this is a necessary evil that can offset many issues with controller accuracy.


At the end of every match, a new statistics reporting screen tells you how you did.  Beyond just a simple leaderboard for the match, you’re treated to all sorts of statistics about you performance. Some similar statistics screens are presented after each death as well, which is actually quite handy. Just like EVE Online, knowing how you died benefits you later when you’re trying to avoid it. CCP has already stated they have any statistics you can imagine, and that community suggestions will drive how these screens evolve.


The real catch is whether this all improves the overall combat experience. All of the updates from beta have significantly improved things, and its worth at least a revisit if you totally disliked the original combat concept of DUST. The controls are definitely improved, though still not up to PC mouse and keyboard level. I feel that they are close enough to other console FPS games that the issues will work themselves out over time via tweaking by CCP. As you play it more and get used to the fact that you are effectively in a spacesuit on the ground, you start to understand why movement feels stiff.

So overall I have to say yes, combat has definitely been improved and is far more enjoyable than before. You’re rewarded when you spend some time to learn the nuances, but not penalized severely if you can only play casually. I just wish there was more incentive to team play with random groups, especially in the objective based modes. Its not all perfect, but it all feels considerably less clunky and amateur and more like a shooter you want to spend time with.

Presentation 2.0

DUST 514 looks like a totally different game compared to its beta. UI improvements aside, the graphics engine looks like it’s been completely overhauled. Even standing around in your quarters, there’s a lot more detail on the environment and your character models.


The match environments…. oh wow. Beta DUST looks like amateur hour by comparison. The environments here now actually have a lighting model, allowing the artists to give each map unique character. Couple that with vastly improved textures across the board, more detailed ground and building geometry, and foliage… well, this is now something that’s competitive with other popular console shooters. Everything is crisp and clear, as if Uprising came with a new set of contact lenses for everyone.


The change reminds of EVE Online’s Trinity expansion, when considerable work was done to improve the visual quality of the game’s ships and stations. CCP made an interesting statement at the time, that finally their original vision for the EVE universe could be realized with the detail and art they always wanted to be present. I think a similar transformation has happened here as they pushed their way out of beta, whereby the game now really nails the intended vision of immersion in the world of EVE.

Overall the visual side really impressed, especially when you get all the improvements coming together. Watching the new orbital strike effect hit in the direction of sunrise, with sun rays burning through the impact of the strike with its dust and debris particles was awesome.


With a massive increase in graphics fidelity like this, one would think that the crummy framerate present in the beta would be even worse here. In fact the opposite is true, with what appears to be a slightly better framerate. Mind you we’re not talking 60 fps here, and I’d be surprised if 30 fps is achieved solidly, but it’s impressive with all things the engine is now doing. Most importantly, the framerate appears to be much more consistent than before, maintaining a solid rate without dipping into flipbook territory. I can only expect they will improve this going forward as they continue to tweak and evolve the game.


The audio side is a different beast as well. One of my major gripes was how horrid the beta sounded, from the basic audio of the UI to the totally hilarious combat noises. I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case. Assault rifles no longer sound like they were made by AirSoft, with solid use of bass to really give you the feeling that you’re firing a gun from the future. Grenades pack the appropriate audio punch as well. I caught part of a flux grenade detonation and thought my home theater slipped into some weird sound diagnostic.

The music no longer consists of placeholder tracks, with new music unique to DUST that is more befitting of a game where you drop from the sky in suits and shoot people with enormous space rifles. There’s some great incidental stuff that plays in the loading screens and deployment menus, and it all works well to set the mood for the player.


In a way I find it difficult to call Uprising an improvement, when to me this is what the game should have been released to the public as in the first place. This is truly the first impression DUST needed to give to consumers, and I honestly worry that people put off by the first beta release won’t come back to retry this when they should definitely reconsider their opinion of it.


Fresh coat of awesome paint aside, Uprising represents something much more: the result of a developer actually listening to consumer input, and paying attention to the things their players are saying. Almost every single major gripe I’ve read online has had some service paid to it in Uprising, and that’s no coincidence. CCP is not the kind of developer to toss a game out and not support it for the long haul, and their experiences with the EVE Online community have taught them hard lessons about keeping a finger on its pulse.

It’s going to get harder and harder to compare this to other games on the market, simply because nobody’s doing anything quite so ambitious. Going forward, CCP is planning a lot of new and interesting additions to the game such as cooperative PVE content against rogue drones, resource gathering through district capturing, and even more compelling war economy linkages to EVE Online. All of this puts them in a genre of their own that goes beyond just simply being a good free-to-play shooter.

In my last DUST 514 blog I stated: “I have very little faith the game can and will be brought to a state that it needs to be in order to worth a long term investment of your time.” Well, apparently a little faith goes a long way.

Upgrading the Universe

CCP unveiled some pretty profound changes to DUST 514 this year, and the first major step along that road is coming to us today. EVE Online gets patched to Retribution 1.2, and DUST 514 can finally be called released with Uprising 1.0.

On the EVE side of things, we have mostly a set of quality of life  updates. Drones get a graphics overhaul, and some UI issues have been tweaked.  I have a sneaky suspicion that there’s a ton of behind-the-scenes server work going on as well in order to support future client updates with regards to DUST 514.

If you spend a lot of time in station, your experience will be a lot prettier as all the hangars have been upgraded with new visuals.

I hesitate to refer to DUST 514’s update list as “patch notes” since this is basically going to be a totally different game with this and near-future updates.  The entire UI is being revamped (thank god), and the level of detail in matches will be jaw-dropping compared to what it was. That’s not a terribly high bar to shoot for, but if the screenshots are to be believed they’re now at least on par with some of the more impressive console shooters out there.

The amazing new universe map shown at Fanfest this year is also making its appearance in DUST with this patch, and I don’t know many EVE folks who aren’t a bit jealous about some of its features. It was never difficult to find matches in DUST, but the new map lets you see how it all fits in to the big picture of EVE and it does so in a damn pretty way.

I plan on revisiting DUST for a new analysis post soon, similar to my beta impressions from earlier this year.

For now I’d love them to put in a feature in EVE to let me easily find active DUST battles, so I can terrorizesupport them from orbit. I mean, just look at that pristine vista in the image above; doesn’t it just need a few volleys of blaster rounds delivered from space, to compliment a massive ground war taking place there?  I think so.


The Monster DUST 514 Beta Review

The promise of a first person shooter set in the EVE universe intrigued the hell out of me when I first heard hints of it being developed. While the EVE story is currently told through the adventures and shenanigans of its players, there is always the backdrop of the universe the game is set. Players now have a way to walk around in that backdrop, and do what EVE players do best: find some like minded folks, and go kick over the sand castles built by others.

Important Notes: This writeup is about my own experiences in the beta period of DUST 514.  Also, I don’t have a capture rig for my console, but luckily my spanky new TV has a mobile app that lets you scrape off screenshots. They’re highly compressed, so sorry about the screenshot quality. Better than a wall of just text, though. 

Rising to the Challenge

Lets get this out of the way right now: if you’re used to console shooters like Call of Duty or Halo, this is a game that is half shooter and half micro-economy. You will lose your assets and have to earn them back. Winning nets you greater rewards than losing, and both outcomes have effects in the worlds of both DUST 514 and EVE Online.

It’s compelling and ambitious, so lets get into it and see if there is is finally payoff to be had. This will be a pretty descriptive article on DUST 514, one from the perspective of someone who has been playing EVE Online since its beta and as someone who is both a PC and console gamer (though the PC is where my gaming heart always lies). I hope everyone can get something out of this and be able to make the decision of whether you want to try out DUST 514.

The Install

DUST 514 is a free-to-play PlayStation 3 exclusive, which means you will be having to download it from the PlayStation Store. PSN download performance has never been stellar, so expect to walk away from your console while you gobble this one down (currently DUST 514 clocks in at over two gigabytes). Once this is done the game will probably update its data files after launching, and I think this is CCP’s way of getting around massive client updates.

It’s all pretty painless for the most part. And free.

Getting Your Bearings

Character Creation

Assuming you’re patched and ready to go, character creation is nowhere near as complex as EVE’s, but it doesn’t really need to be. This will become apparent as we get more into skills later. Choosing your race, sex, and profession yields you an initial set of skills and a specialized starter fitting, so its probably best to read the descriptions. That being said, your gameplay path is not set in stone here, not by a long shot.

Mercenary Quarters

After some introductory videos you will be dumped in to your mercenary quarters. This is your home base, with various physical implements to shop, play with your gear, etc. This is entirely window dressing on all the features that are on the Neocom, accessible via the start button, which you will probably use exclusively rather than the terminals in your quarters. It’s just faster and easier.

The Neocom is your one-button access to features that help you find battles, manage your character and gear, find a corporation to join, and more. It allows for quick access to all of these features without forcing you to mess around with a giant pile of nested menu options.


The equipment you can use in DUST affect your role in combat, and skills affect what things you can use. If you want to use a shotgun, you need to have the shotgun skill trained. The skills Neocom menu item lets you browse what skills you have on hand and upgrade them to a maximum of five levels each. To start out you will have enough skills and infinitely reusable gear to get you into combat right away, but it pays to plan your route a bit by taking time to manage your skills.  You acquire skill points passively (around one point every four or five seconds), and get a few thousand each match you complete. You can then spend your acquired skill points to increase the level of skills you own, making gear more effective or unlocking your ability to use more things. Each skill level is progressively more costly to upgrade than the previous one.

This can seem initially a bit complicated if you’re not used to EVE Online’s way of doing things, but the concepts here are straightforward. You level up prerequisite skills to enable other more specialized ones, which opens the door for more powerful gear and abilities. It’s simple, and works well here.

Shiny New Things

If you’re looking to spend some of your initial cash on new items, the Market browser lets you do just that.  I found it useful to hit the Market first and see what’s out there, in order to help plan what skills I would eventually level up. there are several categories of items to choose from, including weapons and dropsuits, modules for your dropsuits such as armor and shields, and various support items like grenades, repair guns, and the like.

Market Main

It’s worth noting right away that if you’re looking to try things out without investing skill points, the Militia section of the market has a pile of mediocre gear that requires no skill levels to use. It was handy to buy a few different variations on equipment types so I could settle on a particular path with little or no investment, other than the game’s common currency ISK which is rewarded upon completion of battles. In this way, playing the different combat roles is accessible and cheap for the starting player. You won’t be as effective as someone who’s invested skill points and cash, but you can at least see if something’s right for you.

The Market browser contains a ton of hardware. Often, a category of items will include advanced and experimental versions which cost more ISK or even Aurum (AU), the game’s spacebucks you buy with real world money through the PSN store. If you spot a blueprint version of an item, that means you effectively have infinite numbers of that item in your inventory. Otherwise, everything will have to be bought individually for you to use.

Keep this particular fact in mind. If you want to use something you have to buy it with currency of some kind, in-game or otherwise. Replacing items you’ve lost in combat will cost you.

As with any free-to-play game, microtransactions are here.  You can exchange real world money for Aurum and use that to purchase some items that may give you an advantage in some situations. It’s not really pay to win though, and some of the paid dropsuits look really neat. Nothings terribly overpriced, so if you’ve dropped a few bucks in games like Planetside 2, expect the same style of purchase prices here.

Suiting Up

The Fittings menu item in your Neocom is the place to go to get your gear ready for fighting. Each fitting starts with a dropsuit, providing the base statistics platform you will work off of. Dropsuits provide high, medium and low slots for equipment, powergrid and CPU to run those equipment, as well as weapons and utility slots for guns and gear. The Fittings section lets you throw together the gear you own into what are effectively templates, which you can name what you wish for quick identification later.

The dropsuits generally follow the racial specialization formula that is present in EVE, though this does not always preclude you from mixing suit types with weapon types:

  • Caldari Assault – generic trooper, usually uses assault rifles
  • Gallente Scout – squishy trooper, usually uses sniper rifles
  • Minmatar Logistics – de-squishes other troopers through heals and revives
  • Amarr Heavy – non-squishy trooper fond of weapons the size of other players

Dropsuit Fitting

This is also the place you come to restock your fittings, spending your hard earned ISK to make sure you have enough gear lined up to fight with. Again, dying in combat means losing your stuff. If you’re investing in expensive dropsuits and expensive gear to go along with it, expect to lose a lot of your match earnings on replacing them.

No matter how you went through the character creation process, you will end up with several starter fittings.  These will cover off some basic combat roles, and also don’t deplete in combat. Consider these your go-to fits when you don’t want to risk purchased equipment.

Getting a new dropsuit ready for combat is a straightforward affair once you get used to it.  Remember that you need to actually have an item in your possession in order to fit it the first time, so you may find yourself running back and forth between the fittings and market areas to buy various items and experiment with fitting them. If you find your dropsuit just barely doesn’t cover the powergrid or CPU requirements for something, the market sells items which boost those stats, as well as skills that reduce the requirements of items. There’s definitely some complexity here that should keep you busy once you start delving in to your own customized dropsuits.

Along with dropsuits, this is also the area to manage your vehicle fittings.  Similar mechanisms apply to vehicle fittings, which are configurable with a plethora of turrets to blast at your enemies with.

Lets Fight

Ok, we’ve danced around this long enough, time to go shoot some things. Heading to your Neocom you will find the Battle Finder, where you will be able to pick a battle type to take part in. At the time of this writing only Ambush and Skirmish types to choose from, the former being basically team deathmatch, and the latter being what we normally see in other shooters as conquest mode.

Battle Finder

Skirmish is by far the most interesting of the two, where each team drops to the surface from a Mobile Command Center (MCC) hovering over the surface of the battlefield. They then fight over capturing control points on the map.

After picking a match you won’t have long to wait, I’ve never had to wait longer than 30 seconds to get into a match. Sometimes you’ll join one in progress, but that’s fine since it keeps you from waiting around. You’ll usually end up in a kind of briefing deck in orbit of the planet you’re about to fight on.

Waiting Room

It’s a nice touch, letting you check out the armor of your compatriots and get some last minute fitting tweaks done before the fight starts.

You start by picking a spawn point to show up at — to start you’ll usually have one or maybe two. This is where you will select one of those fittings you worked on earlier, and head to the nearest control point.  Holding down the circle button starts a hacking timer, eventually flipping the control point to your side and it will begin firing cruise missiles at the enemy MCC.

The enemy team is doing the same thing of course, and thus begins conflict where you win by one of two ways: kill all the enemies depleting their clone reserves or keeping control of the majority of control points, blowing their MCC out of the sky.

Orbital Strike

Speaking of the sky, it frequently becomes your enemy in DUST.  The much touted orbital bombardment shows up from time to time, and being on the receiving end results in a very brief demise. It’s an awesome area denial tool, and if timed right can pave the way for a well timed assault to follow.

I was expecting more of an epic sense of occasion when one of these happens, but sadly all you get a strange tone (the louder it is the closer the strike will be to your location) and suddenly things start exploding. Now I’m not saying there has to be some sort of insane effect like a Final Fantasy Bahamut summon, but for all intents and purposes this is basically like a hugely powerful bunch of grenades going off. Given it represents the purest sort of EVE Online vs DUST 514 player vs player interaction, I was expecting something more epic — more Michael Bay, less Stephen Soderbergh.

If you’ve played deathmatch modes in pretty much any other game, you won’t be surprised about what’s on offer for DUST’s Ambush mode. It’s as generic as it gets, with a shorter respawn time than Skirmish, and semi-random respawn locations that you can’t pick from. It’s faster than the Skirmish mode, but nowhere near as enjoyable.

On Combat

Combat in DUST is fairly unique to the shooter genre, but not completely for positive reasons. Dual stick controls have always been janky, and most of the big games out there like the two I mentioned earlier go to great lengths to force the game to operate well with the tools you’re given. DUST tries its best, and even gives you some adjustable settings to help with the sensitivity of each control axis, but the reality is this: you will be fighting the controls the majority of the time you play this game.

You will find you are either adjusting your too slowly to be effective at close or medium range, or far too rapidly to be able to finesse the sniper rifles. I’ve seen two teams of six empty clip after clip at each other and achieve nothing measurable, mostly because the casualties ended up being the sky, walls, and ground.

A keyboard and mouse would help here, and DUST 514 certainly supports the addition of those as controllers. But lets be real here, the vast majority of PS3 players are more likely to charge up their Move controllers than plug in a keyboard and mouse. I can’t fault CCP for giving the options for controller options, it’s certainly a plus.


I also hope you like grenade spam and bunny-hopping, there’s tons of both of those here even though most modern shooters have found some way to mitigate both in some capacity. With DUST 514, both techniques are effective, and thus widespread enough to make your eyes roll.

It’s also becoming apparent that certain weapons are becoming extremely popular due to their deadliness, and I think these problems with the combat controls are helping with that.  Heavy machine guns turn the wearer into a walking minigun, eschewing actual accuracy for dumping a wall of metal at enemies. If you don’t have one, you’ll need two extra buddies to soak up the incoming rounds with you and pray you can out-damage him. And if I had a nickel for each time I’ve been killed by a GEK-38 assault rifle I’d be able to retire — hell, it’s #5 on the top list of PSN store purchase for DUST, if you don’t have one good luck soloing a player who does. Lets not mention getting one-shot-killed at range by a shotgun.


There’s a couple of reasons why this kind of stuff matters with DUST.  Death means a few things for you here. First, you’ve just lost your entire fitting — dropsuit, guns, modules, you name it. If you’re not using one of those starter fits, that death just cost you an entire fitting you will now have to restock when you’re back at your mercenary hideout. Second, As your character lays on the ground listening to his dying heart beat slower and slower you realize you could be doing something right now — oh yeah, respawning.

You could wait around for a team member with a nanite injector to come along to revive you, but it’s a crap shoot whether anyone will even notice your revive icon on the map and bother to help you out. I frequently play as a medic, and nine times out of ten someone choose to respawn when I’m two feet away with nanite injector in hand. A revive won’t cost your team a clone so if you see the little blue dots on the minimap winning over the red ones you should probably wait around and save yourself some time and in-game money.

Respawning is an unacceptably long experience with DUST 514: you’re looking at around a minimum of 20 seconds (yes, I’ve timed it) between that bullet that put you down and stepping back on the Skirmish battlefield as a new you. The sequence goes like this (times approximate, of course):

  1. you get shot
  2. you fall to the ground
  3. the option to respawn comes up
  4. you pick to respawn, whiny music plays, the game fades to black
  5. the game loads the big map for you to select a spawn point
  6. you pick one, and get a ten second spawn timer (at this point you’ve already been out of the action at least that long anyway)
  7. the game slowly loads you back in and if you’re lucky you weren’t just killed before you could move your ass to cover

What will really make you laugh is when you’re down to one second on that ten second spawn timer and someone successfully hacks the control point you were trying to spawn at: because that cancels your spawn and you have to pick a new spawn point, with a new ten second countdown. I can see why they chose to do this, since capturing a control point makes you a complete sitting duck and having the entire enemy force spawning around you is sub-ideal. Even with that being said, the pacing seems way off the mark.

Vehicle combat is present here as well, which you summon to the battlefield by pressing one of the D-pad buttons and selecting one of your premade vehicle fits. Coming up against a battle tank alone with your assault rifle results in a quick death, which is as it should be. Dropships can be used to deal aerial death with your friends manning turrets, and quick light buggies can be summoned up to get you around the maps faster.  Vehicles don’t seem overly off balance, since a few smart folks with swarm launchers can end any serious threat.


When the stars do align and you find yourself with a group of like minded individuals, you can pull off some great moments of assaulting and capturing, but overall these are pretty rare unless you show up with a premade squad of friends. What would help for this is a system whereby you can designate attack/defend orders for your squad members, which give bonuses to XP when performing actions in that area.  This is actually in the game, but I’ve only ever seen it used twice and in both cases the individual set a defend order on himself. The 256-player shooter monstrosity that was MAG pulled this concept off much better than DUST does, resulting in gameplay that is far less like chaotic gang brawls and more like an organized ground war.


When one side wins, the game tallies up the rewards. You’re given a bunch of skill points to go into your unused skill point pool for later spending, and a pile of ISK as well. How much you’re given depends on how much you participated in the battle. Damaging enemy assets, shooting enemy soldiers, capturing control points, etc. all go towards giving you extra rewards. If you do really well, you may also be rewarded with items such as vehicles, guns, etc. that you can use later. Some of these are rare, and I think only come as battle rewards.


If this seems like an overwhelmingly negative review of the combat in DUST, consider that as a free-to-play shooter the only reason for you to continue playing it is the combat experience.  There’s a lot of rough edges here which I hope are smoothed out as the game progresses out of beta.

The Presentation

I have to talk about the framerate first, because this is one of the biggest gripes I have with DUST 514. There are times when things are smooth, but those times are usually when my mercenary is alone in the corner of his quarters doing nothing but staring at the wall. In combat, the game has a horribly inconsistent framerate, dropping well below 30fps frequently. This is absolutely horrible for a first person shooter, and is worth getting out there for those expecting to immerse themselves  a butter smooth EVE FPS with a high level of graphical fidelity. Count on it affecting your performance in fights.


It’s not for lack of trying, though. Level designs are monstrous and open, making good use of terrain and buildings to encourage flanking or distance-based tactics while others go in for close range. Ambient light is reflected in surfaces well, and one fight I had on a world with a deep red sun had a great ominous feel as our armor all took on the extra sinister color. But the grand scope of the environments comes at a cost of overall fidelity, and close scrutiny will reveal that.

Dropsuit and vehicle designs are pure EVE Online, drawing effectively on the racial design language developed over the years. They’re almost impossible to discern at a distance, but up close the designs are distinct.

The sound design of DUST has some excellent moments. The voiceover work of the female announcer adds some really cool sci-fi ambiance to any moment of the game. It can get incredibly repetitive during fights where a lot of captures are happening as each attempt  and success/failure is announced, but it sounds cool and helps with situational awareness. Most battle sounds are good, but a lot of the gun sounds are incredibly limp. The assault rifles sound like slowly pouring a pack of toothpicks onto a tiled floor, and even though sniper rifles are the size of a cell phone tower they sound about as powerful as a Nerf dart gun.

There’s actually so little oomph to the game’s audio that my subwoofer went to sleep. I’m not kidding at all, it basically gave up waiting on there being enough bass to trigger, and went into power saving mode.

It has already been announced that an update to the game’s audio is planned that will improve upon the sounds that are currently in the beta version. I’m hoping CCP delivers for those of us LFE junkies out there that invested in their home theater audio hardware.

Overhead Map

Overall, the presentation disappoints in a lot of critical areas. The framerate is a critical issue, and it’s entirely obvious that some concessions have been made in order to realize CCP’s grand vision.  The platform is most likely the issue, as the PS3 takes considerable know-how to be able to crank out high quality visuals.  Even the most knowledgeable developers often end up with a final product with sub-HD internal rendering resolutions or godawful textures.


It goes without saying that even though the NDA is just now being lifted the game is still in beta. All of the above is likely to be balanced, improved, tweaked, etc. However, having owned a PS3 since its launch, I have very little faith the game can and will be brought to a state that it needs to be in order to worth a long term investment of your time. This whole business isn’t meant to bash the game or the efforts put into it, I’ve been itching for DUST to be a quality experience since day 1. In its current beta state, the game has serious flaws, and resolving those is going to take considerable effort.

Marketing screenshots for the game show a hell of a lot more detail than is present in the game we’ve been playing thus far. I have a sneaky suspicion that CCP is, as usual, not putting its eggs in one basket. A move to the PC would be one that most EVE players would be interested in, and games like Planetside 2 have shown there is a market for a capable sci-fi free-to-play shooter. With new consoles just around the corner, CCP will have to migrate DUST to a new platform soon, or the game is destined to be a ghost town by this time next year.

If you’re looking for a different way to experience the worlds of the EVE cluster, then by all means give this a whirl. EVE lore doesn’t quite feel as alive here as I’d prefer, and the experience certainly suffers for the choice in platform, but the technological achievement of linking the PlayStation Network with EVE Online is compelling. For me to wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone though, I feel that CCP has a lot of work ahead of it to get the whole experience streamlined enough.

As the worlds of both games are brought more in step with each other there will be interesting financial and combat opportunities for EVE players, and DUST players will be able to plan active role in what is arguably one of the most complex and fascinating universes in gaming.