"Imagine a sprawling universe at your fingertips: thousands of space stations ringing thousands of stars that await your presence. Beyond that, imagine that enterprising people with the necessary materials and know-how would be able to colonize, police, and otherwise run entire sectors of space, completely free of influence by outside forces. A refreshing sci-fi setting makes for an attractive alternative to any of the dime-a-dozen sword and sorcery MMOs out there. Furthering this strong sense of..."
Imagine a sprawling universe at your fingertips: thousands of space stations ringing thousands of stars that await your presence. Beyond that, imagine that enterprising people with the necessary materials and know-how would be able to colonize, police, and otherwise run entire sectors of space, completely free of influence by outside forces. A refreshing sci-fi setting makes for an attractive alternative to any of the dime-a-dozen sword and sorcery MMOs out there. Furthering this strong sense of self is a skill system unlike any other, where your character learns skills in real time, whether you're playing or not! This is EVE Online, and it looks good on paper. Then again, so does Communism.
The in-game tutorial which comprises your opening hours describes learning skills as a method for uploading data directly into your brain -- like in The Matrix! (Yes, it actually references The Matrix.) Unfortunately, whereas learning a skill in the Matrix took a matter of seconds, in EVE, it can take months. And there's nothing you can do about it. When you start training a skill, a countdown is initiated, and this countdown functions in real time. At first, skills take less than 10 minutes to earn, and while you're getting used to the controls, this fits in well. Just when you finish learning how your warp drive works, you learn how to use missile turrets, giving you something to tinker with while you learn how to fit armor upgrades. Soon enough, though, your next skill is more than a month from finishing, and no matter how hard you work, you can't speed it up. The flaws in this system become more apparent once you realize that everything requires a new skill. Find new engine parts on a wrecked ship? You have to learn the skills to use them. Want a new chassis? You have to learn how to fly it. Better guns? Maybe in a week. Mercifully, the countdown continues even while you're offline, but this does little to alleviate the fact that you don't get even a bit of progression in the interim.
Instead, you get to make money! In fact, making money is the only thing you can really do throughout the game. The upside of this is that there a numerous ways to earn your keep; the downside is that they all largely involve watching your ship do everything for you. Perhaps you want to mine some valuable ore, for example. After undocking from the space station of your choice, you locate some nearby mineral asteroids and take a quick jaunt over to them. Warping is a simple action: you select the place you want to go and hit the go button. Your ship then travels automatically to that point with no further input. Once you're there, you select an asteroid and flick on your mining laser. Your ship then mines any useful material and places it in your cargo hold with no further input. Now that you have a hold full of valuable minerals, you want to sell them at a station which will pay the highest price possible for them, sometimes even traveling several star systems to find the best bidders. To get there, you open your commerce menu, select the station paying the highest price, and hit the autopilot button. Your ship will travel to that system with no further input.
Input is something of a rarity in the EVE universe.
Even combat consists entirely of selecting a target, turning on your weapons, and waiting for your ship to destroy whatever you're fighting. It's possible that at some point you may decide to flee, but that is just a flick of the warp switch away. In many respects, EVE plays like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Certainly, you get limited control over what you do and where you go, but you can't help but wish there was more.
As all you do is watch it anyway, it's at least a little comforting that EVE makes the void of space beautiful. It's sometimes said that space is the easiest setting to render, and while that may be true, EVE's artful representations of colorful nebulae and glowing stars go a long way towards making the slow travel less oppressive. Your ship's engines blaze a glowing trail through the starlight void, and its weapons swivel in independent firing arcs, tracking multiple targets while swarms of combat drones buzz about your enemies like a massive cloud. The art direction is really something to see, but even that lends itself to the feeling that you're watching a movie more than playing a game.
What really defines EVE isn't it's marvelous concept, its sprawling universe, or its dazzling locales. It's the mindless doldrum of watching your game play itself. You make the momentary button press and then lapse into a vegetative state as still more of your life is whittled away with all the grace of a chainsaw. What's worse is that the game presents you with a counter, proudly showing just how much time you can look forward to wasting before you see anything change. If you've ever heard anyone mention the waiting game, they were probably talking about EVE.
Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (July 27, 2006)
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