EVE Online Review

Money makes the universe go round and just about the only way to get it is to mine minerals from asteroids. Mining is just about all that you will be doing for quite some time, and you’ll have to dedicate time to it throughout your character’s online lifetime. Mining involves flying out to a nearby asteroid belt, targeting an asteroid, and then waiting as your mining laser slowly fills your cargo hold. You don’t even have to worry about crashing into the rock as the game does not have any collision detection (you can fly right through spacestations if you’d like). Once you’re full you need to fly back to a starbase, process the ore, and then sell the materials to the market. Then it’s back to the asteroid belt to start the cycle anew. You can eventually afford upgrades to your mining laser, ship, and cargo hold, but when you reach that point the next tier of upgrades will be even more expensive so you’ll have to collect more minerals. The net result is that you always seem to spend the same amount of time mining no matter how much you upgrade.

Screenshots
Returning from another mining run.

The mining cycle is one of diminishing returns, so you’ll always be driven to system hop your way to rich mineral belts further and further out from the safer inner systems. Soon you’ll encounter pirates, bandits, and other renegades patrolling the asteroid belts while you’re just out trying to do a little mining. The good news is that this breaks up the monotony of the mining and may reward you with a little booty of your own from the remains of your attacker’s ship. The bad new is that you’ll no longer be able to take a bathroom break and grab a soda while your mining laser toils away because you could come back to find your that your ship is now debris. The battles themselves are pretty much automatic affairs in which the better equipped ship always wins. Lock onto your target and your ship will automatically maneuver to stay within firing range as your weapons automatically and methodically work their way through the enemy’s shields. Should you lose because you brought the smaller stick, you’ll be taken to the nearest starbase. If you remembered to buy ship insurance, you will have the money to replace your loss. Otherwise it’s back to a bottom of the line model and a lot of mining trips to work your way back out of the hole.

Unlike most MMOGs, your actions do not translate to experience or higher skill levels. You can mine or fight all day and you’ll have the same skills as when you started. Instead the game attempts to even the playing field between casual gamers and those who really should get a life by tying skill advancement to real-world time and not time spent playing. You can train one skill at a time by simply selecting the skill you want to improve. A clock is started in real-time and when time runs out you will gain a level in that skill. Lower level skills require minutes and then hours to train, but before long it will take days and even weeks to train up to the highest levels. The good thing is that you can select a skill to train before going on vacation, and when you get back and log in your skill will be improved. The bad thing is that this hurts the average gamers the most by penalizing them for the habits of a game-obsessed few for the sake of those who don’t play that much anyway. It also takes some of the fun out of the game. In most MMOGs, destroying a tough foe has the immediate and gratifying payback of a nice big experience payoff. In EVE, there’s just some potential financial gain that really does not justify the time spent seeking out and fighting your foe.

Mining and skill leveling; EVE is a game of waiting … and I haven’t even mentioned the long travel times yet. EVE features a convenient auto-travel system that allows you to select your destination and click go. The game will automatically route you through the intervening systems, taking the shortest path between each in-system warp gate. The problem is that even with the ships’ high speed warp engines it can take some time to cross a system from warp gate to warp gate. If your journey has you passing through several systems along the way your travel time can add up quickly. There’s not much you can do while in transit other than watch the pretty graphics and chat with other players, so you may as well enter your destination and then do a few chores while waiting for your ship to finally get there.