Review: EVE Online: Dominion

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Our own Jeffrey Philipp sits down to take EVE Online’s latest expansion pack, Dominion, for a test drive. Did he like what he saw? You’ll have to read on to find out!

Recently I have been given the opportunity to tackle the rather sizable task of reviewing one of the most expansive games on the market today.

Make no mistake, EVE Online takes the massive from MMORPG and runs with it like Forrest Gump.

I would like to make it clear that I certainly did my best to experience as much of the game as possible, but there was a great deal that was simply not possible with my relatively limited time with the game.

I suppose a reasonable place to start would be the technical aspects of the game, and the most noticeable part of that is the visuals. EVE Online, being set in space which doesn’t require an extensive amount of environment detail, instead places that detail in the ship and station visuals.

The graphics are impressive to say the least, the four races each have a visually distinct style for their ships from the practical and industrial looking Caldari, to a much more sci-fi theme with the Amarr.

While the ships and stations do look quite breathtaking flying past bright stars and nebulae one aspect of the visuals that I personally would have liked to see a little more detail was in combat. There is very little visual indication of your ship’s “health” while fighting.

Hardly a game-breaking problem to be sure, but something that I imagine would improve the character of the game, even something as simple as some shield flash on impact would draw me into the space combat a great deal.

The other half of the presentation equation, the sound, is in my humble opinion, the weakest part of the game. Now we all know that in space no one can hear you scream, but a little bit of audio can be a very powerful aspect of a games presentation, and EVE is a very quiet game compared to many.

All of the sound design that is there is very well done, missile impacts are visceral and the firing of beams and cannons are pleasantly destructive sounding, but I would have liked to hear more.

As far as the music goes, EVE comes with a jukebox with a rather expansive list of tracks you can listen to, but they play without regard to the situation you happen to be in, and there are situations where you find yourself in a rather intense fleet battle with a slow, soft piece playing in the background that can lead to a slight sense of dissonance.

While I did mention the sound being the weakest aspect, I would like to reiterate that it is in no ways bad, rather that when this is the largest gripe I have with the game, it must be doing something right.

While a game with splendid presentation can be impressive, it’s rarely fun without some content to back it up.

ANow I am normally a proponent of well written, highly story driven content, but in this case I will happily eat my words and say that EVE Online, especially with the new changes made in Dominion, delivers some of the highest quality player driven gaming of this or any other decade.

It does this by masterfully combining two related, but subtly distinct systems. In fact one might say that EVE Online provides two games for the price of one.

The first of the two meta games, and I would imagine by far the more niche, is the economy.

Now, many games have “economies”, but every other one that I’ve seen to date has paled in comparison to the amount of work that has gone into the market system in EVE Online.

Price histories, market reports, an incredible number of tools are all built into the market screen you can access at any time. As far as I can figure this is one of the most unique aspects of EVE, in that everything that can be purchased and is routinely used by the large player run corporations and alliances is created by players.

As I said above, this certainly does sound, at least to me, like the far more niche part of the game, but the depth possible makes it very fun if you happen to have an interest in it.

The other major thing to do, and the one that has received some rather major changes with the Dominion update, is Sovereignty.

I have to speculate here, as I’m not sure there’s really a definitive answer to this question, but I would imagine that this is the reason that EVE Online is the only particularly successful PvP focused MMO to date. This, to me, is the heart of the PvP game.

Essentially, this is a complex system of territorial control that player alliances and corporations partake in, conquering and holding their various galactic empires, and reaping the benefits of natural resources in those systems. The most recent changes were made with the goal of addressing some of the less entertaining parts of the territorial control game previously.

To my mind it certainly is very entertaining, even though to say that I participated is something of an overstatement. Rather you might say that I arrived and was promptly relegated to observer status. Watching though was an incredibly rewarding experience, with massive fleets of ships firing on another, and debris floating everywhere.

Having said all that, EVE Online is a difficult game to write a generic review for, because it’s non-standard in so many ways.

From the real-time skill training to the unique setting, it certainly will not be for everyone. In my opinion developer CCP understands that they are providing a niche title and are cultivating that outlook. One thing that can be said for any player is that this game is one that will require a rather sizable investment of time to get the most from the experience.

In an attempt to make a definitive review statement, I will say that technically the game is as close to flawless as I’ve seen, and it does what it attempts to do better than nearly every other title I’ve had the opportunity to play.

If you are looking for an epic experience in a sprawling galaxy; being a dashing space pirate, a mover-and-,shaker in the world of finance and industry, or an emperor of a vast galactic empire, EVE Online is currently the absolute best option.

Score: A solid 5 of 5.

Disclosure: A review copy and press account were provided by LEWIS PR on behalf of CCP Games.

Comments

  1. Good Review, but to be fair: There are some technical problems in Sov Warfare, and the most extreme is the lag. At the moment, the one who is on the field first will win the epic 1000+ Player Battles. But CCP is working on it and I hope they will manage to solve it soon.

  2. The music is not really an issue as you can play your own music though the game client "jukebox" or simply mute it!
    Such a short review of such a huge and complex game cannot do it justice. Have a look at some the CCP videos, especially "the butterfly effect" to get a small idea of what the game looks like and can be about. Even then, there is SOOO much more.
    I've been playing for 5 years and still learning stuff.
    Looking forward to the next 5 years+ of Eve!!

  3. well most of the time when your in a fleet, the music ends up getting mutted anyway because it gets difficult to focus on the F.C. and the other 20+ ships trying to beat the crap out of you. also what else yould you add in terms of sound?

    i agree some effects in the shields and armor when you get hit would be awsome

  4. Eve has sound?

    Also, this is a terrible review. I suggest you actually go experience what you call 'the heart of the game' instead of just speculate on it. when you're in a system with 1200 people, the game is unplayable. Unless, of course, you like staring at a black screen for hours upon hours.

  5. Quote: While the ships and stations do look quite breathtaking flying past bright stars and nebulae one aspect of the visuals that I personally would have liked to see a little more detail was in combat. There is very little visual indication of your ship’s “health” while fighting.

    - Now how could someone miss the white bars in the center of the screen going red when you get shot at?

    • Quote: The other half of the presentation equation, the sound, is in my humble opinion, the weakest part of the game.

      - Does eve have sound??

      Quote: If you are looking for an epic experience in a sprawling galaxy; being a dashing space pirate, a mover-and-,shaker in the world of finance and industry, or an emperor of a vast galactic empire, EVE Online is currently the absolute best option.

      -Bless him.. :)

    • I think he means visual damage to the ship model.

      One thing not mentioned is that If you are financially successful the game effectively becomes free because you can use your in game money (isk) to buy subscription time.

  6. Such a short review of such a huge and complex game cannot do it justice. Have a look at some the CCP videos, especially “the butterfly effect” to get a small idea of what the game looks like and can be about.

  7. Christopher says:

    I am giving Eve Online a rating of 1, as a deserved rating of 0 would be petty, but a rating of 1 is right, for the following reason.

    Eve Online has spectacular looking graphics, with amazing looking planets, and metalic effects on the various spaceships and planets, but it is totally let down by the font size on the games User Interface when you play the game at high resolution on large screen size monitors. Coupled with this is the total indifference of the CCP dev team to this issue despite numerous complaints in the Eve Online forum.

    You can only enlarge the UI font to 12 points, which makes the lower case letters at 1920 x 1200 2mm high, and no more.

    If you have a 17 inch monitor you'll be fine at its default resolution of 1024 x 768, as the lower case letters are 3mm high, and the icons on the left of the screen ar a comfortable 10mm high, but if you have a now standard 24 inch monitor or larger at its default resolution of 1920 x 1200 or higher then your eyes will not be happy as you squint and try to read the tiny text on the UI when you are sat at a comfortable distance from the screen. The same effect is if you play at HD resolution or 1920 x 1080.

    Note: On 30 inch monitors at their default resolution of 2560 x 1600 it gets worse, as the lower case letters are now just 1 millimeter high, and the icons on the left of the UI are now a mere 5 millimeters high.

    You can have a comfortable text size that can be read at 1024 x 768, or you can play the game with HD graphics, but you cannot do both at the same time…yet.

    • Thumber says:

      I run it on a 28" monitor at 1920×1200 with no issues. If the only reason you give EVE a 1 is because you are stupic enuff to run a resolution of 1920×1200 on a piss ant 22" monitor that you should be running at a resolution of 1680×1050 then you sir rate a big fat 0 in my book.

    • This is the first I've even heard of a text size problem, and I'm playing everyday. Maybe you should get your eyes checked, the font size is just fine as is

    • Baledain says:

      I play at a 24" monitor with 1920×1200 and my eyes are not great, but I have absolutely no problem reading anything. Maybe buy glasses or don't sit 5 feet or further from your screen.

    • Gunakillya says:

      Amen! Christopher, I agree with you 100%! I have been searching through countless forums for a solution to the small text problem, and found absolutely no solution–except that CCP needs to do something. Of course there were always lengthy lists of concerns about the small-text regard, but no solution offered. Infact, the only answer to people not being able to read text in game is the few people that have found some hidden motivation for being asses by saying "people need glasses", "stop whining", or my favorite, "join our world of cheap computers, little monitors, and low resolutions."

    • Gunakillya says:

      You hit it on the head! I'm proud to say that I've added to the pool of petitions toward needing some resolve to the problem, but sad to say it will at best be ignored. FYI: I have a 50" monitor (my TV), and it is perfectly computer capable in EVERY other program/video-editting-software/3d-Design with readable text at full resolution. But, then there's EVE where suddenly everything is wrong. Now, I could lower the resolution drastically so that I can read the in game text–basically, give in to people telling me to play the game THEIR way; however, let's not forget that there is a visual appeal to the game that we ALL want to see in better detail and in greater size. Also, I love the game and no one in this post is saying the game sucks, but there is a programming fault that is failing a lot of people. If it's not an issue for you, don't post.

    • I have no problems with the font size. You should get your eyes checked at the optometrist.

  8. Christopher says:

    on the various spaceships and stations

  9. I have always been on the search for the perfect game. Eve sounded like an exciting prospect, but when something requires a commitment level that is only appreciated by the "few" it is not a good game. Yes complexity is a good thing. I enjoy being able to mold empires and corporations to my will, nonetheless a game should not take months, even years to reach a point where it is actually playable. If a company prides itself on developing a product that frustrates half its consumer base in the tutorial, then I don't care how good it is going to be fours years down the line.
    I am beginning to realize that words like a "steep learning curve" or just deluded excuses devoted players use to hide a game like Eve Online's flaws. The game may have decent graphics and an awesomely huge array of choices presented to the player, but it has a fundamental problem. (Before die hard Eve Online fans types in they're standard defenses, keep in mind that I am not addressing the amount of time it takes to level up a character, complete missions, obtain money, or the cutthroat PvP atmosphere.) The main problem with Eve Online and all other games that try to achieve its level of customization is that the game itself is too small for such a big idea.
    Eve is meant to simulate the universe. And whenever a game takes on a role designed to mirror reality it is destined to fail. In a game such as Eve: I want action. I want customization. I want to be able to perform espionage on a star ship. Build secret armies. Elevate life forms to sentient capabilities. And the more I search for this perfect game, the more I realize that it will never exist. No matter how many features a game possesses, it will never be able to replaces a players real life. Unfortunately, this is the game all gamers are searching for and can never find. So when a new player stumbles upon Eve Online, hoping to discover the wonders of a new universe, all they find is frustration after many wasted hours of pointing and clicking at some dot on the screen.
    P.S. For those of you that toughened it out to discovered a world they truly enjoy- good for you. And if it helps, bash my article. Say Eve online has a steep learning curve that I failed to comprehend. Say I wasn't devoted enough to the game. That I should have spent less time writing this comment and more time trying to appreciate the many options Eve Online has to offer. Say good one less annoying player to clog up the screen. Say I would respond, but I am not going to because you’re such a tool (or some other cop out like that). But deep down you know that I am right. So say whatever you want, because I don't check comments on the things I post.

    • Thumper says:

      Holy wall of text batman!

    • "No matter how many features a game possesses, it will never be able to replaces a players real life."

      Hmmm complaining that a game where you fly internet space ships isn't properly replacing your real life doesn't really sound like a valid complaint. Oh, and Eve is a hard core game for hard core gamers. Eve has an average player age of 27 not because it is easy for any casual gamer who likes to imagine themselves building "secret armies" in a few hours.

    • Pandamonium Rises says:

      I care about EVE. It is the only MMO which ever scratched my itch. So I actually took the time to read what you wrote and break down your complaints, which are as follows:

      1. You feel that EVE takes too long to get into.
      2. The game is too small.
      3. You want to perform espionage on a starship, and feel you can't.
      4. You want to build secret armies, and feel you can't.
      5. You want to elevate life forms to sentience, and feel you can't.
      6. You feel frustrated after hours of clicking at some dot on the screen.

      Now, I shall address these concerns one by one, in brief.

      1. EVE is the only MMO I know of where the only barrier between you and <insert whatever you want to do> is knowledge. A corp-mate of mine created an alt for espionage a few months ago and before the alt was 30 days old had racked up over a billion isk of assets destroyed and stolen. That said, EVE *does* have a steep learning curve. The first character you ever create you will fumble around in for awhile figuring things out. Just realize that it's not the character holding you back. It's mostly just your own experience and knowledge.

      2. EVE is the largest game universe in existence. It also has the widest range of player options and the least restrictions on player actions. It has the largest, most complex economy and… well, I suppose my point is this… when you say the game is "too small" what on earth are you comparing it to?

      3. You can do this. Plenty of pilots basically do *only* this.

      4. You can do this. Hell, I already have one in the works.

      5. I'll let you know when computer AI achieves this, but for now you'll just have to wait.

      6. Ask in the Help channel how to use your overview.

      I'm not bashing you here. I know that EVE is overwhelming to new players sometimes, and it does not tend to be a forgiving world. If you make mistakes, you will pay for them.

      But it is precisely this aspect that makes any triumph in EVE worth having. To succeed in EVE gives you bragging rights understood by more people than you might think.

      I know at least two people who don't play, but who follow the game's politics, tournaments and wars like a national sport nonetheless.

      • *sigh* Honestly why do eve fans always come with the old "You only need knowledge, the old players aren't automatically stronger than new ones you can do everything as a noob". That is bullshit, yes a new player can participate in things like espionage with a new character, because that is a matter of human interactions and not game mechanics. If you manage to manipulate and scam others you can do that in many games without having a maxed out character. But do you really want to say that a new character has any chance in pvp?(note:acting as a few axtra ewar slots for other players isn't having a chance) A 1 month old character will have half (or less than half) raw dps an old charactar with the same fitting has (and that doesn't take other skills in account like better tracking, better range and things like that which improve the real dps+ the old player could use better modules), so any pvp taktik which involves dealing damage will be more than twice as effective with better skills (and that ignores better tanking skills etc.).
        The skillsystem in eve isn't just for show. You will need to pay subscriptions fees for a long time (oh and log in from time to time to fill you skill queue) to compete with an older player who doesn't play very very bad. Saying that you just need knowledge is simply not true.

    • You should have spent less time writing this comment and more time trying to appreciate the many options Eve Online has to offer. EVE is a niche game that would only appeal to certain types of personalities. It is not "good" or "bad", but simply "compatible" or "incompatible" with a gamer's interests. If you don't like EVE, chances are you prefer games with strategic and detailed combat controls, quick character progression, and simplistic controls related to "mundane" activities like equipment purchase, skill training, and resource generation. Which is fine, not everyone has the time or inclination to essentially learn a new language, but saying EVE is bad because it lacks instant gratification is like saying a bicycle is better than a car because it is easier to build: your reward for spending extra time learning EVE is a level of depth and detail unknown in the MMO universe.

  10. I played EvE for a month or so but found the lack on linearity and story made me lose interest. I eventually got bored of running repetitive missions and hauling ore back and forth for my corporation. The only thing I had to look forward too was getting a bigger better ship, but eventually even that got boring. I want so badly for EvE to appeal to me more because it is an incredible game. I love the open player controlled world and I'd never thought Id see myself asking for a game to be MORE linear and story driven. But quite frankly it got to the point where I stopped playing because I couldn't think of anything interesting to do besides float around and make more ISK. However, with each expansion EvE seems to be getting more and more to a point where it is the sort of game I may come back to . . . who knows. One can only hope.

    • Baledain says:

      Well eve online story is mostly written by the players. You make your story. But if you mean you want to roleplay, eve is bringing that back into the game:http://www.massively.com/2010/05/11/eve-online-br
      Personally I find scripted events boring. But each their own. WoW is good in letting you do exactly what they write, without giving you any option, maybe try that?

  11. Carebear says:

    There are several holes in the game this article doesn't cover. For instance, I found it while trying to figure out, after four months of playing, what a certain graphic effect around a ship means. No docs anywhere. The user interface is primitive to say the least, with things like an active button being different from an inactive button by only a few points of grayscale, and nearly every action has to be done through pulldown menus, making misclicks a huge problem. When being webbed or jammed, the only way to tell which ship is doing it is to find the tiny icons amidst the clutter of characters on the overview list. Moreover, the game designers go out of their way to nerf any system (eg. warp core stabilizers) or tactic that might give someone who is getting ganked by even a single ship a chance to escape while making the tools pirates use (eg cargo scanners) infallible, making everyone who is not a ganker an easy victim.

    • The great thing about online games is that you can interact with other people. Maybe you should have asked someone what the effect meant? Also, the ui is not easy to use for beginners but with hotkeys and good settings it's really not that hard. It only seems primitive beacuse you have no idea what you're doing.

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    Read @jeffreyphilipp's review of EVE Online: Dominion over at http://bit.ly/c7zfnF (via @TheMMOGamer)

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