Sunday, August 18, 2013

DUST 514 First Impressions

Recently, I decided to give DUST 514 a whirl after watching some gameplay videos on YouTube. I also wanted to make some updates to my original blogpost here.

First of all, DUST 514 is a completely free to play MMOFPS. Most everything you can purchase through the use of Aurum (AUR) can be earned and purchased with ISK. Aurum and ISK are two types of in-game currency.

Aurum is purchased using real money, while ISK is earned from battling in game. That said, there are some things which you can only purchase with Aurum using real money: Blueprints and Active/Passive SP (Skill Point) Boosters.

Blueprints for various in-game items give you an infinite number of that item which will never disappear. Non-blueprint items can be purchased with ISK but are consumed during gameplay. When your clone dies in battle, everything that the clone was equipped with for battle are lost with it.

Boosters are available for varying periods of time and come in two types: Passive and Active. Passive boosters increase the rate at which you earn SP's when you are not actively in battle. This carries over regardless of whether you are online or not. Active boosters increase the SPs you earn in battle.

Why are boosters important? Because DUST 514 has a very tech-heavy skill tree. You must use ISK to purchase training in order to use specific items and use SPs to train up those skills as prerequisites for any equipment beyond the most basic default militia equipment. Earning SP more quickly will allow you to advance to better equipment earlier.

Each skill has five levels (from 1-5) which requires various amounts of SP to increase. More advanced equipment in game require various combinations of skills and levels of training in order to unlock for use.

As you might have guessed, everything from dropsuits to weapons, modules and augmentations require training to use. This system and the elaborate tech-tree give a decidedly RPG bent to what might otherwise have been just another space-themed shooter. The amount of choice is staggering and allows you to customize your dropsuit, equipment and weapons to best complement your style of play.

The central piece of equipment in your arsenal is your dropsuit. The dropsuit provides armor and shield protection for battle, and have optional module slots that allow you to customize the performance of the dropsuit. Dropsuits come in three variations: Light, Medium and Heavy and are useful for different player classes.

Dropsuits also have PG and CPU limitations which affects play-balancing. Each module or weapon you equip requires some amount of power and compute cycles so creating a combat capable suit is based managing various tradeoffs. You try to optimize your dropsuit for your style of play using available equipment and try to keep it within the PG/CPU limits of each suit.

More advanced suits usually offer more equipment slots and have higher PG/CPU limits to allow you to use more or better equipment. In this case, SP grinding is much like the level grinding you find in many RPGs. The skill points and ISK you earn allow you to continue to upgrade your combat effectiveness.

So for new players of DUST 514, their primary goal at the start of the game should be to try to get to advanced or even prototype dropsuits before investing heavily in upgrading equipment or weapons. Everything you can or can't use depends on the dropsuit, so that is the place to focus 100% of your early effort.

I have settled on level 3 (Advanced) medium assault suit as my first goal. The assault suit can be customized for Assault, Sniper or Anti-Armor roles. You can also go for medic/logistics builds with an Assault suit. However if you want to specialize as a healing or engineer class, the better choice would be to go with a logistics skill adaptation (as opposed to an assault skill) as logistics suits usually have the most slots available for equipment and modules.

So far DUST 514 has been an interesting twist on the shooter genre. I will add more information on various suit adaptations and classes in my next blog, so stay tuned!