As you read this article, DUST 514 will be reaching its one millionth Mercenary and counting. The free-to-play FPS MMO on the Playstation Network has been four years in the making. The game spent the last eight months in closed beta, with CCP taking extensive feedback from players. During this time DUST has seen three major builds, several hotfixes, upgrades to graphics, physics and store items.
With the move to Tranquility, DUST has achieved one of its primary goals: integration with the single-sharded persistent universe of EVE Online. Make no mistake: by bringing these two platforms together CCP has made gaming history. This is a wholly original accomplishment. Though CCP has reached this great milestone, DUST itself is still some distance from completion and fully achieving the ambitions of Reykjavik. Let's examine the state of the game today.
So far, so good. The graphics are on par with similar PS3 FPS titles like MAG and Gotham City Imposters. Improvements are expected as development continues, as well. CCP recently revealed plans for enhancing visuals in their next build along with adding vegetation such as trees and shrubbery to their battlefields.
The music of DUST stays true to its EVE roots - a dark tone, with electronica over a full symphony. Though the sound effects are good, CCP is still working on them, and audio is constantly in flux. Further changes are expected before DUST settles for release.
It was revealed to me in conversation with CCP CmdrWang that the voice chat system is managed by a third party, not CCP. Issues regarding voice can be a bit difficult to resolve - CCP can only play middleman in relaying your feedback. Hopefully the kinks are worked out soon; if they are, it is possible that voice could really come into its own with Proxy Chat (the ability to hear enemy comms if you are within a certain range of the enemy). There is currently a large player push for this feature. The thousands of MAG vets who have made the crossover to DUST remember and appreciate it.
Analog controls have been recently tweaked to be extremely twitchy and I have found myself lowering sensitivity all the way to 0. I expect that this is not a permanent change and that control physics will see a fix soon. This enhances the appeal of using keyboard & mouse - and DUST 514 allows you to use a controller and keyboard/mouse simultaneously. This allows flexibility in your game play. You might snipe with the precision afforded by your mouse, then switch to an SMG and get your twitch on with your DualShock Controller. Button layouts are still being added and the community is pulling for full player customization.
As it stands, this is hit-and-miss. Literally. Bullets sometimes seem to pass through their targets harmlessly. Disconnects, though not common, still happen from time to time. Lag doesn’t seem to be an issue, particularly surprising after the move to Tranquility. Battles are intense and more teamwork-oriented than any other shooter I've played. The leveling system is deep and rewarding, and most weaponry is quite balanced (there are a few exceptions). The Contract (or Corp Battle) system is currently lacking any real reward and feels like a waste of time for those with no ties to EVE. Hopefully this will all change soon.
Being linked to the MMO space opera of EVE, the metagaming level of DUST 514 is beyond high. This will likely rise as features are put in place like integrated markets and Corp UI, enabling spying, theft and other "grey area" activities New Eden is already notorious for.
As Things Stand...
Overall, I believe that DUST 514 is on the right course and succeeding. CCP has a one year, five year and even a ten year plan in place for DUST alongside EVE. Currently, a Mercenary in DUST has no real effect on the EVE player's universe, as these mechanics have not been implemented yet. In time, though, features like star & sov maps, player made contracts and even markets will span the gap between space and soil. Matches are expected to support 46 players per game and allow up to six team members in a single squad. Future plans show that this number will rise with time.
To quote CCP, the plumbing is in place for DUST 514 to be something special. We're just waiting for everything to be turned on. Expect new preview/reviews as the game develops.