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     " I have never seen a game so dependent on a player's own personal tastes to determine if it's good or not. "

      Title: Eve Online by Simon and Schuster

      Format: PC MMO…life simulator?

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: You know what reviews I like to write? Sports reviews. Or, maybe, the occasional FPS or tactical strategy game. Why? Because reviewing a driving game, or a football game, or a baseball game, or a "pool your resources and slag 'em game" is easy. I get to say whether it's good or bad and you only have to read the review if you're interested in that genre to begin with. Nice, simple, easy. Why, then, they stuck me with the toughest review of the year I'll never know. I must have pissed off someone mighty powerful…

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Definitely the easiest part of Eve to review is the graphics-which are, by far, the prettiest of any of the current crop of massively multiplayer online games (mmo). Space, the standard backdrop for the game, is vibrant and deep, combat is gorgeous and pure eye candy, and the ships and structures are well designed and nicely modeled. Even your personal character, which is far and away the most customizable I've seen, is really nice to look at and I've seen more than a few comments in game about players being a little too attracted to another player's character. Creepy. 4.5 out of 5

      Playability: So here is where the review gets difficult in a hurry. How to rate Eve Online's playability. Though easily mistaken for a simple "Privateer" clone, Eve is in fact one of the most elaborate and deep games I've ever seen. You begin play as a free trader with little money and a ghetto ship that's good for little more than limping your ass across the galaxy. As you make money and contacts, however, you can grow exponentially into a number of famous, or infamous, "world" roles.
          To make money you'll take on a number of jobs down a slue of career paths. You can mine precious materials off asteroids, make mule runs for a more wealthy player, pull guard duty for a convoy, become a pirate or bounty hunter, broker trades, or do just about anything else a space fairing free economy would require. The more money you make, the more experience you get for ship and character upgrades, and the more ability you have to make more money.
          As you make money you'll interact with thousands of other players who are also out to make all the money they can--either legally through commerce or illegally through piracy and theft. You can wage war with them if they are hindering your ability to make money or if you want to take what they have, you can work with them if you all have the same goals, or you can ignore them if you are a socially inept monkey like Cornelius. Regardless of how you play, though, it's all about making money: buy low and sell high, get the goods and ferry them to where they are needed, find the cheapest places to get your upgrades, and be willing to burn the occasional other trader to get what you need.
          It's this commerce driven system that is the source of Eve's greatest strength, or flaw, depending on what games you like to play. Your job as a player is, simply, to make money and facilitate the making of more money. And that's it. End of story. There are no great quests, no good sides or bad sides, no larger scheme, and really no actual story to speak of. You are just another trader in the vastness of space and what you choose to do is up to you.
          For many, that lack of focus can be disheartening and really detract from gameplay. The fact that there is no great empire to oppose or npc monsters to slay can be difficult to grasp and the open ended, totally unstructured gameplay is hard to wrap your head around. There is also the inexonorable fact that average play, especially at lower levels, is SLOW and consists mostly of mining or basic trading (anticipate having a book or dvd handy to pass the time). For those who are into "world simulators" and want to be left to their own devices, Eve is heaven. When the designers created the game they deliberately said there would be no rules and they've stuck to that promise. Though safe-zones do exist for newbie and non-combat oriented characters to peddle their wears and make lives for themselves, most of the goodies lie at the other end of a large expanse of open space with other players and the occasional npc happy to take whatever it is you've got. So, to get buy, you will have to ally with other players to form convoys and seek the membership of player created and controlled corporations to get by. This translates into vast independent missions and guidelines, player created societies, and some really interesting player politics. It is unlike anything I've ever seen before and represents an entirely new direction in massively multiplayer gaming.
          But is it good? Well, from an interest standpoint, that depends on you. If signing on to groom and grow a character through politics and commerce sounds appealing then you'll love Eve. If you're a hack and slasher who wants a clear objectives and bad guys to kill for level ups then you will be just plain miserable. What I can tell you, regardless of your opinions, is how the system itself stacks up, so here's the skinny.
          Because of the open-endedness of gameplay and the ever changing directions and requirements of the game, patches are prolific--averaging almost one a day, which just plain sucks (and I have heard it dubbed the "pay-for-play beta" more than a few times). Also lame is the combat, which is some of the most dull point-and-click faire I've ever encountered (it is, however, really nice to watch). The economics are wonderful, as you'd expect from a game based around them, and the depth is quite pleasing.
          So there it is, gameplay in a nutshell. You tell me if you like it, but I thought it was pretty good., 3.75

      Story and Drama: Because it is all player driven, there is no overstory. That said, there are some wonderful politics involved in "that bastard raided our convoy, let's put a bounty on his head" so that other players will hunt down your enemy for you…or hunt you down when you piss off someone else. Sweet.

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Well, given that the learning curve alone is 3 to 5 hours by the time you would be worried about replayability you'll have just figured out how the game works. Take that as good or ill at your own discretion.

      The Verdict:

       In the end, I have never seen a game so dependent on a player's own personal tastes to determine if it's good or not. Personally, I found the depth of commerce and the political aspects intriguing, and as I prefer cooperative to adversarial play, the intricate player created corporations fascinating. Still, it is a slow game with little straightforward mmo elements so it won't be for everyone.

      The Good: Pretty, elaborate, and totally free-form.

      The Bad: Buggy, constantly patched, slow as molasses, steep learning curve, and boring for action gamers.

      The Overall Ugly: Are you going to enjoy it? Try checking it out at a friend's first.

      What it's Worth: Market

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