Recently I decided to try out EVE Online. This is not an effort to unjustly review a game I’ve only spent an hour or two playing, but an attempt to rationalize the conflicting initial impressions I got from it.
I love the whole space, sci-fi theme. It lends itself to ambient bliss. Even though I’ve never finished Homeworld, I still have fond memories of gently floating in space with the chorus of a tranquil song playing in the background. The mere act of being present in the game was an immersive experience. Quickly submersing you in, “the zone”. This was the bait to reel an atmosphere loving sucker like me into installing EVE Online, and starting a 14 day free trial.
Graphically, Eve delivers enough to satisfy. I was pleased to watch the shimmering light of a sun reveal the intricate details of my humble ship. The vibrant sun flare effects, bursting from behind every interstice of my hull. However, these visual feasts were occasionally jaded by blurry, low-detail textures on some planets and moons.
Not long after, you’re hit with a litany of tutorials and once you do a couple, you realize it’s not going to be over quickly, and it’s easy to get disappointed. But I knew going in, that Eve was an insanely complicated game and in its defence, it suits the genre. Unfortunately for me, I had a migraine, and as much as I love reading text the size of a grain of sand, however stylistically appropriate, felt like jabbing pins into my retinas followed by repeated swings to the temples with a hammer. Quickly looking for an option to change the font size — which I found — didn’t do squat. Instead, what it did was instill a false sense of hope and quickly shatter said hope before I could even finish my sigh of relief.
The real worrying aspect for me was the point I realized the game was essentially comprised of three elements. Flying through space in third person, being docked at a spacestation, and the interface menus where you’ll spend most your time. The reason it’s so disappointing, is because the ability to fly through space, roaming through the wonders of the universe, bares hardly any gameplay value. You don’t have direct control — not surprising — and instead, issue commands to your ship. Alarmingly the player control is even more abstracted and distant than World of Warcraft. From what I’ve seen, you spend most your time clicking from point to point and watching the game take over. Everything else, is managed via the menus. From trading, getting jobs from agents, to expanding your characters extensive skillset. I don’t really consider this gameplay, much like I don’t consider working with Microsoft Excel gameplay. In spite of all that, I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out why I found this so disappointing. After all, I absolutely adored Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares, and it didn’t have any fancy third person perspective view. Instead, it was turn based, and like Eve, your time was mainly spent in menus clicking buttons and watching numbers change. The fact that Eve sells you this 3D aspect, to find out it’s really just fluff, is probably what bummed me out. Unlike Master of Orion II, it feels like it’s marketing itself as something it’s not.
Lastly, and probably one of my biggest gripes, is the fact that there is no dogfighting. For this you would need more direct control than is currently available. But it feels so silly for a game to be so thematically accurate, but not have such a fundamental element of epic Science fiction such as dogfighting. The frentic, fast-paced action between spaceships, like that seen in Star Wars.