For years now I've been banging on about how someone needs to copy EVE Online as a model for MMOs, rather than simply reworking the other more traditional models of EverQuest and World Of Warcraft. Some games, such as Darkfall and Mortal Online, are doing something like that, in that they're taking their inspiration from Ultima Online - the game that originally inspired EVE to be the game it is today. But only one game can truly be said to take EVE Online as its inspiration, and that's Perpetuum Online.
Now, when I first considered writing this preview I thought about playing down the similarity of Perpetuum to EVE Online, because it would have been such lazy journalism to say that it's EVE with robots. However, when I went to show the game to another gamer friend of mine, he sat there blank-faced. "What?" he said, uncomprehending. "Look how similar to EVE this loading screen is," said I. His eyes widened: he hadn't realised that it wasn't EVE.
So that's the issue we face here. I can describe game systems, like the fact that skill development takes place not through gathering XP or exercise skills, but over time, and you'll have seen it in another game: EVE Online. So much is similar here that my chum's mistake really was pardonable, at least as someone who hadn't played EVE for a few years.
However, there are differences that mean that Perpetuum doesn't do everything in quite the same way. For example, instead of slowly building up skills over time, as EVE does, this learning system simply accrues points which you later spend on the skills of your choice. Clearly a better choice, because it means you don't have to worry about logging in to set the next skill running. Also, it means that you won't be running two weeks behind your chums if you decide to go on holiday and your skill runs out.
This system - clearly inspired by, but not exactly the same as EVE - seems representative of the game as whole. You can see where they're coming from, but you can also see how and why the Hungarian development team are motivated to do things differently. (Making money is another matter: that's as grindy as you might expect, with some serious graft in the pipeline for anyone determined to obtain game wealth.)
The biggest difference, of course, is that Perpetuum is not set in space, and has terrain. There are not spaceships, but robots. Some are a little stompy, others skittering, all armed as you see fit. The robots deploy from various techno fortresses that are scattered across the landscape.
As a starting player you begin as a member of a non-player-character corporation, and find yourself in a hangar with your starter robot. More robots can be purchased as you skill up, and they fill different roles, such as a hauler robot for cargo, industrial robots that are best suited to mining resources on the planet's surface, and various combat robots. Robots can be fitted with various modules, which can be purchased from the market, or found as drops from killing NPCs. As in EVE, everything apart from the most basic equipment requires skills, so you'll be waiting for some time to get into the more advanced robots and even longer to be able to make use of the kind of equipment that you could fit into them.