EVE Online Apocrypha

Review

posted 5/4/2009 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
Character respecs are another one of those all-important features for MMO characters nowadays. You have two remaps in the bank right from the beginning, with one more being granted for each year of your subscription. Yes, each year. At that rate, you can’t reinvent yourself endlessly, but you can certainly answer any midlife crisis your character is going through. This helps find certain skills to buff and certain skills to nerf, depending on any specialty listed on your agenda.

On that note, a new player’s attributes are now fairly even with any other new player’s attributes across the games four racial choices. Pre-Apocrypha, several levels of cryptic character creation had the ability to stunt and/or favor specific races for specific careers. All too often this puzzling process was lost on new players and stigmatized the population of certain demographics. Now, all things being more equal, the initial character creation process is simplified -- and much more depends on diligent in-game skill planning then on lucky (or heavily calculated) pre-game min/maxing choices.


One of Apocrypha’s finest contributions appears in the form of the Training Queue -- but first a little context as to how EVE’s skill training works. Players do not advance by levels and there is no level cap, per se. They advance by skill training, and selected skills grow whether the player is online or off. For example, I can train the Spatial Awareness skill which grants a one-point bonus to my Perception attribute. This skill, like every skill, can be trained up to level five, thus potentially granting me five bonus points to my Perception. Training from level four to level five will take me 3 days, 9 hours, and 52 minutes. I click train, and my point in Perception will go up at the end of that time.

Now, before Apocrypha -- before the Training Queue was introduced -- I would have to login and be ready to “inject” my next skill to train at the end of those 3 days, 9 hours, and 52 minutes. If that training ended at 3 a.m. and I was snug in bed, then I would effectively lose any training time between 3 a.m. and when I could next feasibly login. And while it’s was not beyond me to set an alarm for 3 a.m. to inject my next skill, it was providing an unnecessary strain on my otherwise blissful marriage. But the Training Queue gives me a 24-hour leeway in setting up the next skill(s). On that third and last day of training, I can now tack my next skill seamlessly onto the end of the currently-training skill. No more alarms kicking me out of bed at 3 a.m., and not a single second is lost as one skill completes training, and the next one begins.

That may seem like entirely too much exposition on a singular trait of the EVE universe, but that’s because it’s major. It’s a feature that’s been debated on EVE forums and (doubtlessly) in CCP’s boardrooms for years. But, since its realization, it has immediately rendered itself so crucial as to be impossible to renege without CCP having a virtual riot on their hands.

Other tiny but appreciable tweaks have been made throughout the game. Ships and stations can now be viewed remotely in a window. Meaning that even when browsing the market, for example, you can scope out a fully-rendered 3D model of your dream ship; whereas before you had to rely on viewing woefully inadequate thumbnail images of the item in the marketplace, catching a glimpse of one somewhere out in the space lanes, or trawling the internet for images.


One of the few (but in itself frequent) complaints about Apocrypha stems from changes made to the games audible cues. Miners wail about not being able to hear their mining equipment operate. My speakers pop and then muffle when my ship gets pummeled all the way down to the hull structure. While frustrating these are somewhat par for the course for modern games and those fixes will come in time.

Issues of balance will also raise their head when new content is introduced in a multiplayer environment, but CCP isn’t going anywhere. They have a proven track record of applying mythically long, well thought out lists of fixes and tweaks. Apocrypha has just launched, but it will doubtless grow and mature in accordance with the open community/developer dialogue that’s proven invaluable to EVE’s development every step of the way.

Further sweetening the deal, the upgraded graphical client that was previously only available to DX10 users is now available for DX9-running machines. A game that was indelibly picturesque to begin with is now even more scenic on even low-end systems without the need to plunk down dollars for new video cards

And as another portion slid into the EVE layer cake, the Russians are coming. Full localization ensures that the Great Bear will now be prowling a universe localized for English-, German-, and Japanese-speaking individuals (although in-game chat channels exist for more than 30 other languages, to include everything from Afrikaans to Vietnamese. The EVE universe has just got that much bigger and will be better for it.


A-
What is old is new again as thousands of veteran EVE players jettison themselves from known space and experience the thrill of exploration and new discovery through wormholes. On the other side of the coin, new players have never been more welcomed to the most satisfyingly complex MMO in existence. Apocrypha, as an expansion, brings so many improvements to the table that it would be, going forward, impossible to imagine the game without them.



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