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Review by: Jim Richmond
Published: June 10, 2003
The marketing tagline for the movie “Alien” was, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The funny thing was that most of the film actually took place inside claustrophobic tin can hallways. Recently, Digital Anvil showed us a glimpse of how large the universe is in Freelancer, but even then, people groaned that the story was too linear and didn’t give players any reason to explore space once the tale was over. Enter developer Crowd Control Productions and publisher Simon & Schuster with EVE Online: The Second Genesis, a massively multiplayer game that has so many corners of space, a single-player adventure couldn’t hold them all.
EVE is set in the distant future, when technology has allowed the inhabitants of Earth to thoroughly colonize our own solar system. In the year 7703 A.D., a wormhole opens and introduces humanity to a completely new section of the universe. Travel through the wormhole becomes commonplace, and people begin settling the vast starscape dubbed New Eden. Massive jump gates are constructed at either end of the wormhole to create a gateway called EVE that facilitates travel and trade between New Eden and our galaxy. Then something goes wrong. The EVE gate collapses and sets off a cataclysmic chain of events that closes the wormhole and all but destroys New Eden. The disintegration of the trade route cuts off the fledgling colonies from home. Many settlements too immature to exist without supplies from the outside fade away, but from the rubble of this catastrophe arises five distinct empires. Over the course of several millennia, conflict between the empires flares until a tenuous peace is established that lasts unbroken for a century.
EVE is a massive multiplayer online game but actually, “massive” hardly covers it. The universe is comprised of over 5,000 solar systems connected by a series of jump gates. It’s a little like being an ant in a cathedral, except ants don’t use jump gates to get around. Crossing from one side of a single solar system to the other can take a couple of minutes even at full warp. Multiply that by 5,000 plus isolated suns and you’ve got a whole lot of open expanse to cover. Every system is unique, with its own layout and contents, and the developers regularly adding more attractions.
A casual comparison between Freelancer and EVE reveals many similarities, but it’s wrong to think EVE is like an online version of Digital Anvil’s title. The outer space setting and the ship-based viewing perspective lead the list of the most obvious resemblances. The biggest divergence is in the basic gameplay and intent of the two offerings. Freelancer is an action-shooter with role-playing overtones meant to be played for 25-50 hours, while EVE is firmly rooted in space travel simulation and is designed to be explored and lived in over the course of years.
The biggest draw to EVE is the range of possibilities laid out before the player. You can be almost anything you want to be, from pirate to military leader to CEO of your own corporation. There are, of course, fundamental constructs that govern trade, your popularity or vilification with NPC groups, and how much damage a given ship can take, but other than these necessary guidelines, you’re mainly left to your own devices and imagination.
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