EVE Online Review

EVE Online is a massively multiplayer game that creates a vast universe for you to explore and seek your fortune in. While certainly one of the best looking space games to date, the gameplay is a little too much like space – there’s a lot of opportunity for the very patient and persistent but it’s primarily vacuous and filled with a lot of empty space.

It takes some work to figure out the complex interface.

EVE certainly starts off well. The character creation process gives you a lot of control over the look and background of your character. You can shape your character’s face, set the skin tone, select hair style, clothing, and more, all using high definition 3D graphics. You probably have more control in creating your character’s look than in any online game to date, and the character models really bring your creation to life. Once you finish creating your look, you pose your character just right, take a headshot, and then … freeze that look for the rest of the game. For all the great graphics and control the game gives you in creating your character, from this point forward your character will only appear as a small portrait. And that’s how you’ll see yourself – other players will see a tiny thumbnail image of your face (“pinkynail” would be a more appropriate term) and only if they specifically choose to download your portrait. In fact, you’ll spend little actual game time seeing other players at all. When in a base you see your ship parked in an otherwise empty bay, and in space you’re never really close enough to other players to gawk at their ship. Even if you make an effort to get up close there’s no real payoff as ships of the same class are essentially all look the same save for some armament graphics depending on what the ship’s owner has installed.

As for the background for your character, you have a surprising number of choices in this department. You select your race and faction, and even your school and major, and each choice has some interesting text associated with it that gives you a little background on each selection. Your choices are primarily used to specify your starting location and skill set, but how your choices affect these factors is not made clear. Be prepared to create a “starter character” to get a feel for the skill set that you need and then to go back and create the character that you really wanted.

Once in the game you’re really on your own. There is a short text tutorial on the game’s interface, but you’ll still need to spend some time playing around with it and consulting other players and the game’s online help to figure it out. The complicated menu system has its strong points but being intuitive is not one of them. Once you get a feel for the layout you’ll be faced with the big question, “OK, now what?” The game provides little direction for new players – there is no initial set of goals, no story arc, and no sense of where you fit in the universe and what you’re supposed to be doing there. You can take on missions provided via email-like messages from NPC contacts, but these usually involve fetch and deliver type of missions which serve to give you something to pass the immediate time but not to give you a purpose in the universe. Whether you learn it from other players or from the realization that you won’t be able to do much without money, eventually you’ll figure out that a very large chunk of the very long initial period of the game will be spent mining asteroids.