In my previous post I mentioned that for my first real job in the game my employer sent me on a mission of certain death that ended with the destruction of my first ship. After playing all weekend, I’m still stuck on this very first newbie mission*. I’ve upgraded my ship twice and upgraded many skills, and I’m no closer to success than when I first started. I’ve experimented with different ships and weapon loadouts, messed about with different defensive configurations, and even tried doing the mission at different times of the day. No matter how I play it, the enemy fighters usually take half of my shields before I can get off my first ineffectual shot.
When I arrive at the spot where I’m supposed to kill the pirates, there are two groups of ships. One is in the distance, and one is right on top of me, so that they establish a weapons lock as soon as I drop out of warp. Perhaps the distant group is my intended target, and the other is a stronger force which is there for other reasons? My ship is now strong enough that if I’m really quick and begin warping out the moment I arrive, I can escape with only minimal damage to the structure of my ship. There is one last level of ships available to me in the demo. If I train skills for four more days, and earn another couple of million dollars (about two days of steady work) then I’ll have access to the next grade of ship. Still, I’m so far outclassed that I don’t think it would be enough. In any event, I think by that time I will have spent over two and a half million bucks beating a mission with a $67,000 reward.
Welcome to the game, newbie!
Dangit, there is a reason most games are built on top of a steady upward slope of increasing challenge instead of a mild incline followed by a sheer, smooth wall. A game which has sharp upward spikes in the danger level, and which gives the player no way to appraise that danger in advance, is a game which is more or less designed to kill characters. It’s not so much a game of stats-building as a giant, Massively Multiplayer Online Russian Roulette. (MMORR)
I’m sure I could ask for help on the rookie channel and find a high-level buddy to help me take take these guys out so I can proceed with my quests. I could start another character from another part of the galaxy, where I probably won’t get this particular mission. But I shouldn’t have to resort to this sort of thing to get past newbie mission #1. Is it bad balancing? A bug? Poorly placed bad guys? I don’t really care to diagnose the problem further. The game threw me to the wolves, and I think I’ve wasted too much time on it already. I can see in the Rookie Chat that I’m not the only person to find themselves in the deep end tied to an anchor. My problem isn’t an aberration or a one-time fluke. There seems to be a steady supply of newbies being daunted by early missions.
I was hoping to get a little further so I could talk about the more in-depth aspects of the game, but that isn’t going to happen.
Here are some final thoughts:
The mining is very lackluster. I played Earth & Beyond a few years ago. (The E&B servers shut down in 2004, and the game is now gone.) Now that game had fun mining. Asteroids had luminous crystalline formations jutting from their surface that gave you a clue as to what minerals they contained. While probably not realistic, they looked compelling and were fun to work on. You would chew on it with your mining beam for twenty seconds, then move on to the next rock. There was always the hope that the next rock would have a nugget of really valuable minerals inside. It was like opening presents, or doing scratch-off lottery tickets. There was always the hope that the next one would be a winner. Even if it wasn’t, you were still making steady progress. By contrast, all of the asteroids in Eve Online are dull grey lumps with nothing in the way of surprises. You hit it with your beam for three minutes , then fly back home and sell it. The intervals of player interaction are too far apart to keep the player interested, but too close together to let them go do something else in the meantime. It’s very dull, and there isn’t anything to do while you’re waiting for the beam to do its thing. Yawn.
The ships are dull, dull, dull. I own several now. They are all mangled pointy things painted the same industrial rust color as everyone else’s. I think each race has a single color for all of their ships, but beyond that it’s just the same crap, over and over. Again, the ability to stick a few pointy bits onto the ship or give it a custom paint job would have been really welcome.
The Market system is a portal into a realm of pure madness. It’s so powerful it’s paralyzing. You can buy items in other star systems, which you must then visit if you hope to take custody of your new purchase. There are numerous types of ammo and several sizes of each of those types, so finding an item that you need, which you can afford, and which doesn’t require forty-five minutes of flying to obtain, is a real challenge. I made lots of mistakes and bought a lot of wrong stuff. This is a classic problem in any game. You want depth to make the game compelling and offer more gameplay, but that same depth makes learning the game daunting.
I really love the graphics and music. I am going to miss that feeling of cruising through the void, embraced in a massive cloud of azure gas as the naked sun illuminates the nearby sea of silent, drifting asteroids. This part of the game was deeply satisfying. Likewise, the raw visceral speed of warp travel was a palpable thing, and it took actual effort to avoid saying “engage” when I gave the command to enter warp.
Lots of fans of the game spoke up for it, and their comments here, here, and here give a more complete view of what this game is like, long-term. Almost all of their motivations for playing are things which I would classify as drawbacks. It depends on what you’re looking for in a game, really.
As I mentioned before, you can play the game for 14 days without needing to spend a dime. You can download the client and create an account without even the promise of money changing hands. So it’s pretty risk-free from a monetary standpoint.
* For the curious, the mission is in the Abudban system. The pirates are blockading a stargate, although I couldn’t tell you which one. I’m flying a Slasher. The mission in question is called “The Blockade.” Lots and lots of people are also having trouble with the “Worlds Collide” mission. Most of the advice offered by higher-level players can be boiled down to “get a better ship” and “stop sucking so bad”.
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