It's been three weeks since I began playing Dust 514 and two weeks since my one week evaluation of this new game. As I wrote then, Dust is my first FPS and I must say I've learned a lot, even though I lacked the time for long gaming sessions. But, Dust allows you to do something meaningful in a short timespan and I like that. There are also things I really don't like about Dust.. Let's talk about those first.
New Dust mercs can go to the battle finder, select the Instant Battle and they will be dropped into whatever fight is available at the time. Ambush, Domination, Skirmish.. it can be anything and you don't know up front. That means you get to see and experience lots of different areas of the game, which is good for a beginner. It really helped me on my way! After a while, my scores improved somewhat, I died less often. I had the idea that I was finding my footing in the FPS, getting into the swing of things, pulling out better scores and victories as time progressed.
At a certain point, however, you 'graduate' from this uniform instant battle finder. The next time you open the instant battle area of the battle finder, you get a list of available battle types and you have to choose which one you want to play. Or, should I say, 'which one you want to be massacred in'? Because, these battles are much more difficult than the previous ones! My results are back to absolutely horrible. I have a hard time scoring any kills and war points, I keep dying again and again, barely adding any value to my team. Are people specializing in certain types of battle, perhaps? Making it easy for them to kill anyone who isn't as focused, for instance a casual player such as me? I don't know but I am not having a lot of fun these days. I can appreciate a challenge (I learned Eve all by myself, it was my first MMO back in 2008), but my patience is being stretched, to be honest.
One reason why these battles seem to be so lethal, is the higher quality gear everyone seems to be using. I get killed by people who don't show up on radar, I get killed by snipers I can't even see, I get killed by weapons I have never even heard of, I get killed by cars and tanks, I get killed by insanely heavy weaponry. Apparently, there's no such thing as 'overkill' in Dust.. I hit targets with everything I've got and they won't even blink, but hit me once or twice and I'm dead. Sometimes I can't even aim and shoot after respawning, before dying again! My performance is pathetic, really. Or is the game just unbalanced? Is the step from the beginner instant battles to the next level too steep?
Of course I could also buy that nice gear and perhaps that would help. But between all the deaths I suffer I would lose a lot of that equipment! Compare it to Eve Online. A new pilot might lose ships incidentally, and those losses hurt. But the usual n00b does not lose dozens of nicely fitted ships a day! Yet that is exactly how often I die in Dust, if I play for a bit. I don't see myself buying all that gear to be honest, it would make playing Dust a more expensive proposition than playing Eve.
But maybe it's just me. I am, after all, still relatively new to the FPS genre. I could really do with an extended stay in the newbie instant battles, or some sort of PVE training grounds.. But of course that doesn't exist in Dust. There is no PVE or training mode. I have no choice but to keep trying to learn something while being killed again and again, or give up on Dust altogether.
Speaking of gear: a special word for the LAV. The LAV looks a bit like a classic army jeep, but it is much, much more agile.. too much in my opinion. It doesn't behave like a vehicle: it's obviously something controller guided, zipping here and there seemingly without inertia or delay, even with one or more mercs on board (one of them standing upright in the back of the car, behind the machine gun). I've seen LAVs do stuff that nothing on four wheels should be allowed to do! Some relevant imagery can be found here, although this clip doesn't show how fast, erratic and unlogical LAV movement looks from an infantry point of view. I have tried killing LAVs with anti armor guns, but they were usually gone before I could even get a lock. In my opinion, LAVs are currently overpowered. They should behave more like actual vehicles, which are slower and less agile. It takes time for a massive object to grind to a halt or to accelerate. It takes time for someone at the steering wheel to turn a vehicle, or to shift gears!
A suggestion for CCP: I really like the view from the war barge, hovering over the planets just before us mercs are deployed to the surface. Can't you put a war barge near a point of interest, for instance the Jita 4-4 undock, and allow us to visit and enjoy the view whenever we want? Or, alternatively, incorporate this technology in existing Eve stations, and allow us to meet in those spaces? Even if it's only restricted to Dust mercs, it would still be a step up from where we are now: alone in our merc quarters, with 'the door' (tm) firmly locked..
Dust 514 really has potential and I (still..) do like it, but it has a lot of rough edges. CCP Shanghai has their work cut out for them, I'd say. In the mean time, you get to be part of New Eden, the beautiful sandbox CCP is building for us. You get to walk on the surface of the planets you've always seen from space. You get to experience all that if you have a few minutes of spare time. And you are challenged to overcome the odds.. and kill the enemy before he kills you. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my PS3..