Dust 514 is a hybrid. On the surface, it’s a typical shooter, with an emphasis on player skill, twitchy reflexes, and teamwork. The addition is that it incorporates RPG elements like character development, a plethora of skills, and gear customization. However, this marriage between high-octane action and the theory-crafting of RPGs is hardly a new phenomenon. The genre has a rich, albeit limited, history. Here’s a look at some of Dust’s more notable predecessors.
2000 – Project Visitor/ 10SIX
A self-proclaimed "MMO/FPS hybrid," this game is based on capturing and defending territory on a planet named “Visitor." Players are divided into four corporations, each with their own set of items and weapons. A rather unique feature was that each player could create a personal empire by capturing territory from members of other corporations. Players could then band together to defend their hard won territory if they were so inclined. After nearly fifteen years the visuals don’t hold up very well, but it still has a following and is updated regularly. Check it out here.
2002 – Neocron
Another MMORPG/FPS hybrid, Neocron is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world. Players could choose between four different classes, including the tough GenTank, the cunning Spy, the psionically powerful Psi Monk, and the jack of all trades Private Eye. You could further develop your character by specializing in various skills, such as hacking, construction, research, rifles, and more. Reviews were mixed, some calling it “innovative”, others “dull." Despite this, the title was successful enough to warrant a sequel in 2004.
2003 – PlanetSide
This is the granddaddy of MMOFPS, the one that put the genre on the map. Players could join one of three factions: the Terran Republic, the New Conglomerate, or the Vanu Sovereignty. The goal of the game was to capture territory and then defend it from the other factions. The result was a constant tug-of-war match with massive three sided battles over installations. While in the fray, you could choose between a variety of combat roles, including heavy assault, sniping, tank piloting, and medical support. While possible to play solo, the best experience was had when you played with a squad. To facilitate this, players could create and join Outfits in order to make joining other players easier. It was followed up by a sequel recently, as many of you are aware.
2007 - Alliance of Valiant Arms
A more traditional shooter, Alliance of Valiant Arms throws players into a conflict between the Neo Russian Federation and the European Union. The game offers three playable classes: the point man, rifleman, and sniper. Each class has strengths and weaknesses and players can earn Class Skills to further improve their character. Boasting a variety of game types, Alliance of Valiant Arms takes the traditional path of instanced battles rather than a persistent world.
2010 – MAG
Players took the role of a member of one three different mercenary firms after national armies are no longer allowed to leave their borders. The game boasted the ability to have up 256 man battles, as well as a progression system that allowed for the focus on various specializations, including Assault, Marksman, Engineering, Vehicles, etc. With seven different game types each with massive amounts of players, the game was well received.
With the likes of PlaneSide and MAG to follow up on, Dust 514 has some pretty big shoes to fill. All in all, Dust is a fairly rank and file sort of MMOFPS. What sets it apart is first the level of detail and customization that can be had. I have never played or heard of a FPS with all the different types of gear at the player's disposal. Usually you only get to choose your main weapon, your sidearm, a grendade type, and sometimes some perks. Granted, there is often a wide variety of weapons to choose from - but not to the same degree as Dust. Each class of weapon has several tiers of quality, some even providing alternate weapon behavior. This is before even mentioning customizable armor and vehicles. Also, let's not forget this game is set in New Eden. With all the history of spying, sabotage, and conflict that takes place in Eve, Dust will have a metagame unlike any other shooter out there. Here's hoping Dust 514 can be the much needed shot in the arm the stagnant shooter market needs.