Gettin’ Dusty

This entry has been written from a ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss fighting a few battles in Dust514.

My last entry focused my first impressions of Dust514’s between-battle ‘management’ gameplay, so I thought I would follow it up with my first week’s experiences with some of the more combat-oriented bits.

Getting into a fight through the instant battle finder is simple enough, it just drops you into an open slot.  Instant battles take place on planets in high sec and see you fighting on behalf of an NPC corp.  You have no control over which faction on whose behalf you will be fighting but I suppose if you are not a roleplayer then you probably won’t care about that bit anyway.  One team will be fighting for an NPC corp from one of the empires while the other will be fighting for a pirate faction.

All battles are currently 16 vs 16, although CCP are working up to raising this.  Which is a good thing, as currently the maps sometimes feel too big as you can at times be running around for up to a couple of minutes at a time without sighting a hostile.   Once the team sizes are increased then obviously this should become less of an issue.  I wouldn’t call it game breaking as things are, but there can be lulls in combat that make the game feel less intense than other shooters with more confined level design.

I am also wondering if the small selection of vehicles currently implemented is a factor.  Or maybe, the lack of players who have invested precious skill points into being able to use the vehicles.  As yet, I have not seen anyone using a Dropship, which seems a shame given they paint a cool picture in the trailers!  The reason is probably that the Dropship, and to an extent all of the vehicles currently implemented, is a team vehicle.  The vehicle’s pilot (obviously) drives, but to get any firepower out of the thing requires someone else to man the gun.  That can be hit-and-miss unless you are playing with friends so I wouldn’t expect to see something like a Dropship in an instant match.

Which is where we move into low sec for ‘Mercenary battles’.  These are the Factional Warfare battles so take place on the low sec planets of the FW warzone.  The influence of organised groups is pretty clear too.  It is typical to see groups from single corps cropping up in the player lists and those units clearly make their presence felt in making concerted pushes on objectives.  And yes, vehicles do seem to be more commonly used at this level although still not to the extent I’d have thought.

As you may know, the locations of FW battles is determined by Capsuleer plexing activity in EVE-Online.  If one side starts to offensively plex in EVE, then a Mercenary battle will be created in Dust514.  I have found that there can be (fairly brief) times when there are no Merc battles available to join, which I assume comes down to lulls in plexing activity.  But I have also found that battles fill up extremely quickly meaning that if you want to get in on the action then you need to be quick off the mark.  I do wonder how that will scale as Dust’s player base grows, although as the match player cap is raised that will obviously increase capacity.  I guess it is a matter of wait and see!

Oh if you were wondering, I have seen orbital strikes being used quite regularly, more so than I expected.  My suspicion is that there are players out there with their PS3 sat next to their PC calling down their own strikes, but I suppose it could equally be the EVE players offensively plexing peeling off to provide strikes once the battle starts.

In Dust, each time you spawn in battle one of each item used in your Dropsuit’s loadout is consumed (including a Dropsuit).  This means that you need to restock your equipment between battles, spending your hard-earned ISK.  Or you can use one of the four ‘Starter loadouts’ which are free and infinite in supply, but use Militia-issue gear which is the most basic stuff in the game.  To begin with, that is exactly what I did.  As I have started to gain confidence and suck a little bit less, I have been upgrading to standard ‘tech 1’ gear.  Still not fancy, but it is a bit better and costs me ISK each time I die.

Like EVE, items in Dust have a Meta level, with ‘named’ gear increasing in power (and cost) along with the meta level.  I haven’t stretched to the more advanced kit yet as much of it requires higher skills than I have, plus I still suck too much to pay the cost premiums!

Speaking of premiums, lets talk Free To Play.  Dust is a F2P game supported with microtransactions, and my feeling is that it is entirely possible for a reasonably skilled player to get by fine without giving CCP any money.  When you are killed there is a screen telling you who killed you and what equipment they were using to do it.  As far as I’ve noticed most players are killing me with items bought with ISK.  OK, many of them are using superior kit to mine that I can’t even use yet, but I’m ok with this.  I am aware that as a newbie I’m at a disadvantage, but it doesn’t feel insurmountable.  Any F2P shooter will court the danger of being branded ‘pay to win’, but I am cautiously optimistic that Dust has not (yet) fallen into that trap.

On which note, I decided to fork out for my first microtransactions today!  Well done CCP, you have started to extract more money out of me, thanks for that.  I have bought the Mercenary pack, which is the starter bundle aimed at gullible individuals like me who come back from Fanfest brainwashed into buying a PS3.  Probably. 😉  It is actually a pretty good package containing a fair chunk of Aurum (microtransaction currency), an 30 day ‘active’ training booster (boosts SP gain from battles), a bunch of premium items like fifty anti-vehicle grenades, pistols etc and finally a Blueprint Original for both a medium Dropsuit and an Assault rifle.

BPO’s work differently in Dust, they simply provide an infinite supply of the item rather than being used in production.  You can buy BPO’s of most militia-grade items for Aurum, but with this pack I now have an unlimited supply of Assault armour and rifles which will cut down on my restocking costs nicely.

What am I going to spend the Aurum on?  Haven’t a clue yet, but I’m open to recommendations!

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