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Dust 514 Review - High Ambitions

Justin Clouse | 7 Jun 2013 20:45
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Aurum, Dust's paid currency, is able to shortcut many of the normal restriction. While you participate in battles, you'll earn skill points, but you'll also slowly get them passively on one of your characters. With Aurum you can purchase augmentations that boost the rate at which you acquire skill points, more skill points means you can more deeply specialize or allow for a more board skill base to be able to adapt by switching to different loadouts. There are also Aurum only weapons which are simply higher level weapons sans the skill requirements, letting you get some better firepower faster but not any better than what everyone else has access to with time invested. The whole system maintains a nice separation from the pay to win mentality, but be prepared to do some grinding for skill points if you're not investing into augmentations.

The gameplay is about what you might expect from a big map multiplayer shooter. Rather than tightly cordoned maps promoting hot spots and kill zones, the levels in Dust 514 are large enough for tanks, dropships and other vehicles. For boots on the ground, you'll find your typical assortment of weaponry. A few of them are sporting more sci-fi nomenclature, but you'll recognize shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launcher, assault rifles and more. That's not to say that all the weapons are mundane: forge guns, lasers and pistols that shoot mini-rockets offer a satisfyingly high tech flair. Another layer of depth surrounding that some weapons are better against shields, a regenerating life bar, or armor, which needs to be repaired, keeps any one strategy of stacking one health source from working too well. Also, the long range engagements and inherent beefiness of many of the dropsuits and fittings means the game favors longer sustained and accurate fire than simply who wins the quick draw.

The game engine can have trouble keeping up with it all though. Some choppy framerate or the occasionally bit of wonky terrain geometry still hasn't been completely smoothed out, and along the same line the textures are optimized for quantity not necessarily quality. Not everything looks that great up-close. However, the game has improved substantially over the years that I've seen it, and CCP is known for the constant iteration. I have no doubt the game will continue to improve graphically, but it's not quite there yet.

When it comes to free-to-play, the discussion shifts as the cost to enter is literally zero. Instead it's more a measure of if it's worth your time and does it manage to find a favorable and fair balance in its monetization. For Dust this will all hinge on having a drive to go deeper into the game, and ultimately all but requiring that you get connected to a corporation. You could play the game solo and may even have some fun with that, but there are better experiences for solo play out there. Covering your corp mate while he hacks a turret to blast away at an opposing corp that is invading your territory is the kind of experience that make it worth putting in the time or money.

Bottom Line: If you're willing to really delve into all the facets of Dust 514, and a few technical issues, there's a satisfying shooter with some stakes for you and your corporation mates to be found. If you'd rather not get that invested, then Dust 514 might not be for you.

Recommendation: It's still a free game. If anything about this review intrigued you try Dust 514 for yourself, but if you want to play it long term then get connected with a corporation.

Game: Dust 514
Genre: Shooter
Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games
Platform(s): PS3
Available from: Amazon(US)Play.com(UK)

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