Dust to dust
DUST 514 draws you into the vast, living world of EVE Online, an ever-evolving universe brimming with explosive conflict.
The action centres on New Eden, a cluster of star systems warred over by four powerful factions. Centuries of bloodshed and brutality have reduced peace to a distant dream, and the competing powers will stop at nothing to defeat their rivals and ensure their own domination.
On one side of the ideological divide stand the Amarr Empire and its allies, the Caldari State. Led by a beautiful but ruthless empress, the Amarr control the largest of New Eden's territories, and are characterised by their devotion to religion and reliance on slave labour. With the greedy, corporate Caldari State at their side, they seem all but unstoppable.
Set against the Amarr and Caldari is the Gallente Federation, a league of lesser states fighting for democracy, freedom and the common good. The Gallente Federation possesses vast military and economic might, and is allied to the Minmatar Republic, which has thrown off the shackles of slavery and now seeks the complete destruction of its former masters, the Amarr.
Opening with a colossally atmospheric intro movie that sets up the struggle for New Eden in true cinematic style, DUST 514 makes a huge impression at every turn.
Visually, the game is fantastic, its war-torn worlds filled with gargantuan architecture, awe-inspiring spacecraft, extreme ground vehicles and thousands of fluidly animated, heavily armoured combatants. Every electrical bolt or explosive bullet has incredible impact, and the sonic design only amplifies the action, with superb sound effects that draw you ever deeper into the chaos and confusion of battle.
The game is teeming with customisation and configuration options, all of which are clearly and quickly explained the first time you play. Launching your character's Neocom menu provides access to all of these options as well as the game's Marketplace, so it won't be long before you're whizzing through screen after screen, upgrading skills and adding new weapons to your arsenal.
What's striking is how the developer has created a menu system of both clarity and depth, brilliantly attuned to the potentially complex strategic aspects of the game. And when you've chosen your weapons and are ready to fight, the battlefield controls are superbly streamlined – so you can dish out death with no delays...
DUST 514 throws you into the thick of the war for New Eden, allowing you to fight for whichever faction you desire. What's more, you can join or create organised bands of mercenary troops – known as corporations – to grow your reputation and carve out a name for yourself as one of the galaxy's major players. It's a nice touch, and a great incentive to build your skills, play strategically and look for long-term rewards. What could be better than rising from a solo rookie renegade to being commander of one of the universe's most famous and feared battalions?
As a mercenary soldier from one of the four main races, you begin your military career as an Arbiter, an Enforcer, an Artificer or a Sentinel. Each character class has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, all of which can be trained, tweaked and tailored as you progress. One of the best things about DUST 514 is the fact that almost every detail of your character can be customised, and the bespoke nature of the experience is evident from the outset.
You're free to choose everything from your merc's race, name and gender to his or her abilities, equipment and vehicle preferences. Most upgrades or enhancements must be bought using skill points earned in battle, and when you're ready to cash in your credits, the range of wild weaponry and special skills available is jaw-droppingly huge.
One thing to remember is that you're not the only hired gun with a hunger for huge rewards. Every other combatant on every battlefield across New Eden is seeking the same end – wealth, power and prestige... and only the truly dedicated have a hope of achieving it.
Having a blast
DUST 514 mixes strategic planning with explosive firepower in a massively multiplayer first person shooter that never lets up for a minute. With hundreds of competing corporations and four powerful factions fighting over every scrap of territory in New Eden, the battle is everywhere, all the time – and remember: DUST 514 is free to download and play. This is cosmic combat for absolutely everyone.
Scale is one of the game's many strong points. With countless battles going on across various vast, sweeping alien landscapes, plus hundreds of different weapons, items of equipment, skill upgrades and vehicles to collect, even the most naturally gifted starship trooper will find enough here to last them a lifetime. And while the game offers loads to learn and discover, it never lets the enormous number of options and items distract from the action at its core.
Of course, the multiplayer teamwork aspect of DUST 514 is central to the experience. The presence of up to 31 fellow fans ensures every battle is adrenaline-fuelled and unpredictable, and communication with your allies gives you a real edge over your opponents. After all, next time you're alone on the ground and fleeing enemy fire, that starship pilot you met last week might be just the friend you need...