Dust 514 Beta Impressions

It’s been some time since the release of the Dust 514 beta, one of the most innovative and ambitious projects in the industry. We here at Glitch Cat wanted to let you know what our initial impressions are on this very unique concept. One, that if successful, promises to change how we see and play games from a one genre and input perspective, to one where games of different genres, consoles, and forms of input come together.

The first and most impressive thing to notice is the many options available for Dust 514┬áin its control scheme. Traditional controllers will obviously make an appearance, and the use of the often forgotten Playstation Move is a sight for sore eyes, but most surprising is the available option to also play with a Mouse and Keyboard, something I hadn’t seen before on the PS3. This will make it more easily accessible to PC players who prefer this scheme over more traditional ones. Granted, this could also create an unfair advantage, as a Mouse and Keyboard are far more accurate than traditional controllers. It should be interesting to see whether CCP will address this in the future, or will it have players adapt and begin using a scheme unfamiliar to many other console players.

Trying to attract PC players is one of the best moves CCP could do when designing Dust 514, yet the game itself suffers from one major design issue: it is not easy to understand. Once you create your character, you will be placed in your room, which is essentially your command center where you can work on your load outs, access the store, work on the vehicle you can request during gameplay, and deal with all the technical details of the game. This can be pretty daunting. For PC player’s who are more used to this kind of set up, especially for those who play EVE Online, this won’t be surprising and will even be embraced. For console players, however, whose experiences tend to be designed with an initial phase intended to ease players into a game, they won’t know what to do with themselves.

It’s one of the biggest problems for Dust 514. There are so many menus to go through (and that’s considering a lot of them aren’t available yet) that many players, as I even did initially, will skip to the Instant Battle option and won’t bother looking through them. I completely avoided the hassle of learning Skills and Augmentations. And like I stated before, this only covers the available menus dealing with your character alone; other menus that there’s no access to include: Decorations, Clones, Bio, Employment History, Standing, Combat, and Roles. These only deal with your character, and there are other sections to explore within the menus.

Most players will see these and ignore them if they’re not immediately turned off by it. Most likely the majority will simply head into battle without any clue of what to do, beyond shooting at the other guys. It’s a pity that this has the possibility of creating such a reaction from players, because gameplay-wise, there’s something really interesting here.

Gameplay is comparable to that of 2010’s MAG. You initially land on a field with an objective, instead of the regular set of multiplayer modes. Keep in mind that in Dust 514 you are aiding in the campaigns of players of EVE Online. This will eventually evolve into a game in which EVE Online players see and interact with the playing field like an RTS, issuing commands and objectives to their units, but those units are the Dust 514 players who view and play from a first person perspective. These elements don’t seem to be fully in play as of time of the Beta. The rounds, none the less, are objective based, with teams working toward certain goals.

Its visual aesthetics are nothing to rave about either. As it stands, it all looks very generic, with a color palette that is reminiscent of the early days of this console generation, concentrating on the browns and grays. It’s very boring to look at, to put it simply. The issue isn’t helped by the fact that the beta doesn’t even look like the same game as in the screenshots. The screenshots show off a sleek and sharp looking game, while the beta is blurry and muddled. You get texture pop-ins, but they never look close to as good as they look on the screenshots. I honestly didn’t think the game looked that bad, just not polished yet. Taking a glance at any screenshot though actually reveals how terrible it looks at the moment. This may be on purpose, however, as it is a beta, and they slowly roll out more and more of the game, perhaps to not overload the system.

It’s unfortunate that such a unique project as Dust 514 is bogged by these types of problems, as the game does play well, and is fun. Sure, there are a few texture pop-ups and other visual flaws, but those are to be expected and once in play they can be overlooked since the game itself is still in beta. Everything beyond this, nevertheless, is so daunting that it I fear it will hold Dust 514 back from success by limiting its initial appeal or eventually scaring off those interested. It’s my hope that players don’t react this way, though, and that they take this game toward success, as its potential to change the way we play video games with its unique interaction with a PC MMORPG could innovate the video game landscape in new, unforeseeable ways.

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Daryl Sanchez

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