EVE Online: The Empyrean Age • Page 2

Setting worlds on fire.

As in the normal agent missions, the objectives are in closed "deadspace" arenas, which only certain ships may enter. There are four mission tiers, and at each tier different classes of ship are able to enter the objective. This means that the people running the missions have a rough idea of the kind of ships they might need to fight off. And fight they will have to, because these new objectives need to be completed without interference from enemy pilots. The problem is that everyone can see your mission beacon as it begins, and once you're in there, you'll have to expect a rumble. (Normal mission difficulty has been reduced of course, as have the rewards.)

In addition to the missions there are also "combat sites", which aren't spawned in the same way as missions, and can be discovered via the ship's scanner. These allow similar kinds of ships to enter, as in the missions, but are permanent, so they can be fought over across a long period of time - a little like the capture points in a permanent game of Battlefield. These sites, combined with the fact that the mission sites move all over the region, are intended to make the war as dynamic as possible, and so far it seems to be working.

Some of the battle reports that have found their way onto forums (and killboards) seem surprisingly positive for the generally moan-prone EVE population. Unexpected fights - such as a certain Russian alliance losing capital ships to the Caldari Militia players - mean there have been some excellent war stories to tell, even from the first week after the patch.

There have been a few teething problems of course, and the largest of those comes with the sheer number of people who have run missions for - and therefore had faction standings with - the Caldari. It's a bit like everyone joining the Alliance side on World Of Warcraft servers; the poor old Gallente on the other side of the conflict really don't have much to offer. It also means that the players who have joined the Caldari militia are going to be a little hungry for kills: there simply aren't enough Gallente players to make it worthwhile. The conflict between the Amarr and Minmatar meanwhile has always looked a little more evenly matched, albeit smaller, and it's fun to see the role-playing alliances, CVA and Ushra Khan, taking things even further than the faction warfare, and duking it out in the contested areas of space.

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Is the Taranis the best inteceptor? Maybe. More on that next month.

Overall, The Empyrean Age, and its first steps into faction warfare, look like a mixed bag. It's certainly providing some entertainment for people who wanted something other than the tried-and-exhausted low sec fighting or piracy options, but it's always going to be dominated by the players with more experience, deeper pockets, and larger range of highly trained skills. It does, however, add another much-needed facet to EVE and makes the experience of the game deeper still. Being able to feel like you're leaving your mark on the fiction of the game is an interesting experience, and if CCP is able to mesh this with real changes to the EVE universe over time, then this will be a fascinating ongoing project.

Best of all, this the first time that we've really seen the fiction of EVE properly tied into the larger game mechanics (aside from the various archetypes and characteristics of the ships), and it delivers the game back to the players, rather than relying on news that has no real in-game impact, or dev-run role-playing events which sound fun but have no real consequence. That's pleasing because CCP's efforts in creating a game universe always seemed to be blotted out by the crazy antics of their players. Perhaps, if enough people decide to take up faction warfare, the full depth of the fiction that CCP conjured up can be exploited, one day.

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Jim Rossignol

Jim Rossignol

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