Published on January 4th, 2010 | by prime0
Eve Online: Dominion – Review
Summary: The universe may not have expanded by much, but it’s got a lot more interesting
The evolution of Eve Online has been one of the most fascinating processes in all of game design. It has, however, managed to become bogged down with some decisions made early on, and Dominion is – in part – an attempt to rectify these issues. The crucial change is the one which CCP have made to sovereignty, or the claiming of territory since it was formalized in 2005. But we’ll come back to that in a moment.
The latest free expansion of Eve Online shakes its foundations and tweaks its cosmetics
First, let’s cast a nebulae-spangled eye over the general improvements and tweaks that CCP have made to their pocket universe. On the surface the most obvious tweaks are a slightly slicker interface and a graphical overhaul of planets and starfields. These were long overdue, and the new planets looks spectacular – gaseous bands swirling across the surface of gas giants, cities visible on the surface of populated worlds, cracked and glowing magma furnaces on inhospitable volcanic worlds – all adding to the ever-glossy presentation of Eve’s galaxy. A few other visual tweaks are in evidence too, such as the alteration of certain weapon effects.
A pirate’s life for me
In terms of new content, Dominion is fairly light, but it does offer something for mission-runners operating in pirate areas. Like the major factions, the pirates now have epic mission arcs, which are story-led sequences rather than being just a handful of missions that need to be repeated over and over. It’s an improvement that ties into one of the other crucial overhauls – that of faction ships. Points from missions are generally used to purchase specific loot from various factions, and the best of these are the faction ships. These have all been altered in their role – to provide each one with a more specific optimal loadout – and the expansion also introduces Navy versions of the Typhoon, Armageddon, Dominix and Scorpion. Great news for the ship collectors, and for the super-rich.
At a less lofty level there are even some new tutorials. One of the most consistently criticized aspects of Eve was the way in which it treated beginners with its steep learning curve. The two new tutorials represent yet another attempt to address this, by teaching players how to use the new probe system – which arrived in the last major update – and teaching them some of the basics of staying alive through PvP. These are absolutely vital lessons for any Eve player, and it’s splendid to see them appearing in the front end of the game. Both topics can be disheartening for a newbie, and we regularly wonder how many people the game has lost because they were ganked while out exploring, and never really understood how to avoid getting into such trouble.
You’ve got eve-mail
Perhaps most functional of all are the rebooted in-game browser means that players can more readily have the game full-screen, without needing a window to check their killboards or Google – it’s a fully functional web browser. Likewise, the eve-mail system has been expanded so that it’s more like a regular email client. Busy corporation leaders or traders can now sort through things more efficiently. Finally, the fleet system gets its own graphical interface, and allows anyone in a particular allied block to see what fleets are going on, what they can join. It’s clever stuff and should allow for more efficient fleet management in the larger power blocs.
Now we return to that change in territory. Previously territory claims were based around the player-owned structures deployed through a system. The more that were deployed, the trickier it would be for an attacker to take the system. Now through this has been changed to a single module which must be maintained by the claiming entity. Essentially, this new system means that cost of claiming territory for a single entity increases exponentially, which should reduce the vast ‘AFK empires’ of old, even if it does little to reduce to projection of capital-ship power seen in the past few years. It’s still not going to allow very small groups to carve out their own pockets of space, thanks to being so expensive to run, but Eve’s many medium sized entities will hopefully at last be able to claim a piece of space as their own.
Dominion is very much an expansion for existing players. We don’t believe the sovereignty change is radical enough to bring back players who were disappointed with the way the territory game has gone, but we do think it will see the balance of power shift enough that territory wars become interesting once again. Watching the system settle down and be properly understood by the various factions is going to take a while and, like almost everything in Eve, it’s only going to be time that really tells whether it can be considered to be a long-term success or not.