by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
The Final Frontier
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of... well, me, jumping into Dual Universe, an incredibly ambitious massively-multiplayer space settlement and exploration game by developer Novaquark. Currently in beta, Iíve been able to spend some time with the wildly ambitious sci-fi sandbox, and Iíve come away pretty impressed.
With a Kickstarter campaign launching back in 2016, Dual Universeís beta has opened the doors to a game thatís been shrouded in a bit of mystery. Itís not like fans havenít been burned before by starry-eyed promises of community-driven, open-world space games before, but interested parties should find plenty to like here. While certain parts of the game are still rough around the edges, thereís a surprisingly robust and accomplished experience to be found here already.
If You Build It, They Will Come
The name of the game in Dual Universe is crafting. Almost everything, from buildings, to space stations, to vehicles large and small are crafted by the community with the gameís voxel-based construction. Everything is modular, a combination of simple pieces made from mined materials, combined into more complex pieces with near-limitless interaction potential. Blueprints are able to be saved and stored, and I absolutely see a market for builders, engineers, and architects to be highly in-demand by the gameís various guilds and other groups. Since vehicles are custom-made down to individual thrusters, fuel receptacles, weapons, and more, I expect armies and organizations to rise and fall on the backs of ingenious designers capable of building bigger and better infrastructure and combat vehicles. There are already a number of groups in-game acting as everything from exploration collectives to governments, and itís going to be really, really cool to see these groups interact and adapt in ways akin to real politics- making deals, navigating diplomacy, and raging war.
Be Who You Want to Be
The question of what the majority of your gameplay will actually be like is more a question of what kind of game you want Dual Universe to be. Looking through the possible skills and masteries, the amount of opportunity is absolutely mind-boggling. I know that a lot of games have combat, resource management, crafting, etc., but the details and opportunities for specialization go quite beyond that. Whereas it might be expected to allow players to roleplay as miners, soldiers, pirates, or traders, the skills within each one of those larger archetypes allow players to become skilled in a general field or an absolute expert on super-specific aspects of play.
Training these skills takes time, and the game seems to want to help out even those players not able to play for hours and hours a day. Instead of only gaining XP in-game, players grow in two ways while logged out. By default, players slowly gain points that can be spent on skills. Itís gained much more quickly, though, if you queue up specific skills to put the XP towards. While the game is certainly going to be one that rewards long hours of play, itís nice that systems like this make value or real-time not spent in-universe. Iíll be interested to see how long it ends up taking to max out skill areas. While the prospect of having to specialize seems exciting in terms of role-playing and the creation of evolving ďin-demand professions,Ē I wonder if, eventually, everyone will be able to be proficient in enough things that it doesnít much matter.
More to Do
Also exciting is the prospect of virtual tourism. Peppered around the world are ďVRĒ terminals. In-game, they let you jump into the body of a robot located in any number of locations around the game world. Functionally, these act as quick-travel nodes that let the player visit any location with another VR terminal. The kicker is that these bots canít do much besides walk around, so players or organizations can showcase everything from custom guild halls to cool natural vistas with no fear on either end of foul play. Am I expecting this to be abused and used to show players things they may not want to see? Sure I am, but I also think itíll be a super cool way to show off and connect with other players.
That duality of possibilities is what permeates Dual Universe and makes its potential both exciting and uncertain. With a solid start and a road map for improvements over the next year, itís easy to see the game taking off and carving a solid niche for itself in the MMO market. If it finds itself with a slow start, though, it also runs the risk of coming up short. With the economies, factions, settlements, and more all tied to player dedication and ingenuity, thereís a lot invested in a community that isnít guaranteed.
As crazy as everything in Dual Universe sounds, whatís even crazier is that I think Novaquark might actually pull it off. While the gameís still prone to glitches (a number of times I found a checkpoint not registering after completing it or showing up in the wrong spot, and the graphics are uneven), itís problems are the ones we should expect to see at this point in development. If the void of the final frontier is calling your name, you can hop into the beta now for a $6.99 USD monthly subscription, otherwise, you can look forward to the full game dropping next year.
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