The genre of SciFi MMOs has not necessarily shone with successful new releases in the past, apart from Star Citizen, which has been in development for what feels like a hundred years. So it's hardly surprising that EVE Online is still very popular among fans of the genre even 17 years after its release. With Dual Universe, Novaquark is now preparing to break this hegemony. To do this, they combine the complexity and depth of play of EVE Online and combine it with the possibility of being able to let off steam creatively. Because in contrast to other games, you don't buy your spaceships and bases in any shops, but build them yourself. With a mixture of modules and free placement of voxels, the whole thing is very reminiscent of playing Lego – just for big boys.
The beta for Dual Universe started August 28th and we have already spent well over 100 hours on Alioth. In our first big preview, we'll tell you whether it's as fun as a trip to the holodeck, or rather reminiscent of an outside mission in red uniform.
Very complex and extensive
The single-shard universe of Dual Universe is gigantic and offers countless possibilities for the residents. At the beginning of the beta, however, the developers deliberately limited this. New players and testers shouldn't be completely overwhelmed by all the features and options. But this is only partially successful. Because even the existing content is easily enough to confuse and overwhelm anyone who does not come from the world of EVE Online. In addition to the classic resource gathering, you can build ships or buildings, fly around with your constructs and even leave the planet and settle somewhere else. Trading and playing together is already possible. Things like PvP, politics, your own space stations, your own marketplaces and areas for large groups are currently still missing, as is the dismantling and recycling of abandoned bases and spaceships. Actually, the current content doesn't sound like much. However, every single area is extremely complex and almost a game in itself.
Help, I'm overwhelmed!
That's why every visit to Alioth starts with a tutorial. First of all, the basic controls and the most important cornerstones of Dual Universe are explained to us. Afterwards we go out into the world and we are allowed to go our own way. If, on the other hand, you want to know more, further tutorials are available in all major trading centers and of course at the starting point of your trip. By the way, we strongly recommend everyone to go through further tutorials before setting out. These are available in different levels to give you a superficial, a deeper or an extremely detailed insight into the areas of ore mining, trade, flying, construction and the military. Those who go through them all and, above all, can remember everything, are well equipped. At the beginning it is enough to look at the basic variants to get a rough overview.
In the course of the next few hours, however, despite all the tutorials, you will be faced with one or the other problem that you will no longer know how to go about on your own. At this point, the friendly players should be highlighted. We have seldom met such a pleasant and helpful community before. Not only do you always get a helpful answer and support in the various chats (also in German), but we were also very friendly without being asked. Our neighbor on one of the moons of Alioth pointed out to us, for example, that we can convert our standard Hoover vehicle, which we get free of charge at the beginning of our trip, into a flying vehicle with a few adjustments. He also gave us resources that he no longer needed, but that helped us further. The friendliness of the players is owed to two things. On the one hand, Dual Universe is a subscription game that already costs money every month in the beta. On the other hand, in this early phase there are mainly absolute fans of the genre on board. And if you can't find any help in the game, the official Discord servers are available, where various admins and developers answer questions almost around the clock.
My country, my base, my ship
So after you've gone through the tutorials, you're out into the world. At the start you will be given a small, free vehicle and a device with which you can claim one of the hexagonal areas into which all planets and moons of Dual Universe are divided. Your great adventure now begins. You look for a pretty spot on the map and dash there with our Hoover vehicle. When you reach your destination, you kind of cut your flag into the ground and declare this area your property. This is important in the starting areas of Dual Universe. Because you can only edit your own country in the PVE zones and no other player can get in your way without asking.
And what now? Now the first steps should be similar for most players. You pick up some of the resources lying around or use the tools on your suit to dig deep underground for ore. You can then process these resources into usable materials with the nano tool, which is also integrated in your suit. You use the first of these to build a small base. You don't need a bed or a roof over your head, but you will have to set up your machines and build ships somewhere later. After just a short playing time you are the proud owner of your own little home. But that's just the beginning.
What do we build beautiful?
The further way is also completely up to you. Most players, however, have a more or less fixed goal in mind. Some first want to get a taste of everything, while others are already thinking of space flights with their self-constructed Death Star. One or the other may already be planning to become an industrial or trading giant. Whichever way you go, you will sooner or later have to deal with either building a ship or building a larger base. The fact that both work almost the same is relatively practical.
Free voxels meet fixed modules
To start building anything, you always need a core. This is not only available in different sizes, but also in different versions. Static for buildings, dynamic for ships and space cores for space stations. You place the core somewhere in your area and you can start building. Every building or ship is a mixture of prefabricated modules and voxels. The modules are, for example, engines, fuel tanks and control nozzles. Usable doors, elevators and lighting also belong in this category. Modules are usually available in different sizes so that you can adapt them to your project. We determine the rest between the prefabricated objects ourselves with the voxel technology. Much like a designer in the development studio, we use various tools to place the voxels and bring them into the desired shape. What seems enormously complex at the beginning, goes better and better with a little practice and pretty constructions can soon be created from the initially mostly angular structures.
Incidentally, there is only limited static in the universe of Dual Universe. For example, you can put your entire workshop on a toothpick or just connect the gigantic engine to the ship via a corner without anything breaking. Nevertheless, you have to consider a few things with the constructions – especially with the spaceships. Not only does the drive have to be strong enough to get the weight into the air, the placement also plays a real role. It should be self-explanatory, for example, that the output of the rocket drive should be against the desired direction of flight. But the height and location are also relevant. Built too far on one side, your spaceship spins like a humming top. The most important points are quickly internalized and Dual Universe is not a rock-hard simulation. As long as everything fits, the ships can be flown properly. You will also get small tips from the system, for example if your drive is too weak or you haven't installed some important parts at all.
Industry and trade keep everything running
What happens in the universe of Dual Universe is completely determined by the players. This also applies to industry. The modules mentioned above are not simply bought from an NPC dealer somewhere or are freely available to you. They need to be made. A piece of iron ore that you dug out of the ground becomes a rocket engine in a matter of seconds. Various different raw ores are distributed across the worlds of Dual Universe. These have to be refined and converted into the actual raw material such as iron, copper or carbon. You can then use it to build smaller parts. From screws to pipes to wire. These in turn are reassembled into new parts, and so on and so forth. At the end of the manufacturing process, the gigantic engine, complicated control electronics or an enormous container in which you can stow all that stuff may come up.
While you can still manufacture smaller modules with your nanocrafter built into your suit, most modules require special manufacturing machines. High quality fuel needs a good chemical plant, and many alloys require smelters. Small systems can produce simple components in record time, while final assembly usually requires a large assembly line. Of course, all these systems must first be built and placed in your base. Unlike many other MMOs, building in Dual Universe takes time. Large modules can quickly occupy an assembly line for several hours. Fortunately, however, all of the machinery can be set up so that it continues to work as long as you keep supplies of material. You can also connect the different machines and storage containers to form huge production chains. Well planned and connected, you just throw the ores in at the front and the finished components come out at the very back. But here you have to plan really well – just like in a real factory.
So before you can build a speedy spaceship, there is a lot of basic construction on the program. Anyone who wants to work here on their own alone has a long and arduous path ahead of them. Fortunately, you don't have to do everything by yourself.
Trade and interaction
In order to distribute the burden over several shoulders, there are so-called organizations in dual universes. This is nothing else than guilds in WoW or corporations in EVE Online. You can not only share your ideas and visions with one another, but also your resources and production facilities. This increases the effectiveness immensely. Because hardly anything is more damaging to business than when the expensive systems are idle half the time. Together with many other players, large projects such as cities or space cruisers can be implemented much faster than alone. Especially since the really big ships can hardly be steered alone.
But if you don't want to rely on others, you can also look for luck at the trading center. Instead of building everything on your own, you concentrate on a few modules, perfect their manufacture and sell them at one of the various trading posts in the universe of Dual Universe. With the ingested Quanta, the name of the in-game currency, you then buy the other parts you need together. The whole trading system is reminiscent of EVE Online. You post offers to buy or sell at the trading post and then wait for other players to accept them and buy or sell goods. Of course you can also accept offers from other players. Incidentally, Novaquark only wants to intervene a little for the time being so that new players can also find buyers for their goods. Over time, however, the market should then be completely in the hands of the players and regulate itself. Incidentally, Novaquark not only works with developers, but also with a number of economic experts.
However, since there are innumerable different trading posts in the universe of Dual Universe and these are not connected to one another, there are further opportunities for activity – namely as a trader or forwarder. You can access every trading post from anywhere, but you have to pick up the purchased goods there. And since supply and demand vary between areas, you can quickly earn a golden nose here. Because not all planets have all resources. So if you transport goods from one planet to another in a large transport ship, you can expect a big profit. But first you need a gigantic ship. Because the more goods you transport, the more worthwhile the tours. However, the fully loaded ship must also be able to take off from the atmosphere. And containers full of gold, iron or lithium are heavy.
Flying is simplified, but still difficult
Of course you also want to fly your ships over the planet or through space. Again, we are not moving within the framework of a hardcore simulation. There are basically three different types of flies. Hovering, flying in the atmosphere and flying in space. All three variants differ from one another, but still go hand in hand. The operation is broken down to a simple model. For example, you can use the mouse wheel to control the thrust, while you control the other two axes with WASD. If you like it complicated, you can also control each individual module separately via LUA and thus perform extremely complex flight maneuvers. But if you like it simple, you can set a standard control model for self-built ships and take off quickly and easily.
In the atmosphere, the ships behave as you would imagine. Hover engines replace the landing gear and with enough thrust the wings lift the weight into the air. The heavier your vehicle or the load, the more thrust and buoyancy you will of course need. Just like in real life, it gets expensive if you want to bring heavy loads from the ground into the air. It becomes particularly critical when it is to go straight into space. In the best case scenario, you need rocket engines to make the transition from the atmosphere into space.
Let yourself drift in space
Once there, the wings and normal engines are no longer of any use. Instead, the special space engines are used. These accelerate you slowly to immense speeds. Suitable brake nozzles are also very important in space, because otherwise you will maintain your momentum in a vacuum. And at 30,000 km / h it is extremely difficult to land on a planet or dock to a space station. And curves do not fly like in an X-Wing of the rebels, but more like in the Rocinante from Expanse. Anyone who wants to change direction noticeably needs a lot of time and fuel. But if you are on course and fast enough, then you can turn off all engines and drive towards your goal with undiminished speed. At least as long as you don't get too close to any planet with its gravity.
Once you have reached your destination, landing on a planet is extremely tricky. Because if you don't want to burn up, you have to enter the atmosphere slowly. How fast you can be there depends on the density of the atmosphere. So if you don't want to turn all your first spaceships into scrap heaps – as we did – you should exercise extreme caution when attempting to land on a planet.
Learn in your sleep, oh how nice
Of course, Dual Universe also has a bit of an RPG. For example the very large but not very complex talent system. Divided into different categories, you have hundreds of different talents, each with several levels. The whole system seems to be very similar to EVE Online. It could also be said that it is copied one-to-one. You wouldn't really be wrong.
The talents are unspectacular and sometimes increase your speed when mining ores, sometimes your spaceship needs less fuel and sometimes your containers have more storage space. Some talents require that you have previously learned others. The first levels cost relatively few experience points, while higher ranks of a talent become enormously expensive at some point. You can simply line up different talents, which are then gradually learned. It doesn't matter whether you are logged in or not. As long as there are still talents, they will also be learned when you are not playing.
But there is a difference to EVE Online. While you absolutely need certain talents in EVE in order to control different spaceships or to carry out certain other actions, we haven't seen anything like that in Dual Universe. Of course, it makes sense not to do certain things until you have learned the right talents. But you don't get it prescribed by the game.
As a single-shard MMO (so there is only one server for all players), Dual Universe is completely designed for the interactions between the players, which you can see everywhere. For example, you can distribute rights to your ships or machines so that friends, members of your organization or whoever you register can use them. Organizations should later even be able to bring entire areas of space under their control and distribute orders to other players. In addition, as already mentioned, really large projects and ships can only be realized with several players. But that doesn't mean that you have to play with others.
In principle, there is no place in Dual Universe where you have to rely on other players. The only exception are the huge ships just mentioned. Here it gets so complex that you can hardly do everything at the same time. The steering works reasonably well on its own, as you can access everything important from the pilot's seat. At the same time, however, you cannot operate the various weapons or reload them. This only applies to PvP, however. If you want to use your huge ship as a freighter in the safe areas of space, then that alone is cumbersome, but possible.
If you just want to play alone, you can do that. If you stay in the safe areas where PvP is not possible, no other players can annoy you. As safe as in Q's lap, you can tinker with factories, production systems or ships here and fly around with them. However, you are at least dependent on the nearest trading post for raw material extraction. Because, on the one hand, you are only allowed to mine ore in the safe starting zones in the small area claimed by you. On the other hand, certain materials do not even appear on the starting planet. But that should only be a minor problem. Especially in the starting areas, the trading posts are bursting at the seams. The question is more, how long is Dual Universe fun if you play it all by yourself?
Hardcore or casual? Both!
Games like EVE Online, on which Dual Universe is largely based, are often decried as playable Excel tables. Because, especially with large projects or the trading system, good planning is worth its weight in gold. It is no different in Dual Universe. Anyone planning an automated factory where ore is poured in at the front and finished ships tumbling out at the back will need more than an Excel table. The same also applies to large commercial projects and the like. If you like to dig into the smallest detail and deal with planning, you will certainly be very happy in Dual Universe.
You can also just throw all these tables and plans overboard and only play at your own discretion. Dig a little here, tinker a little there and still have fun. Of course, you will not make progress as quickly as with sophisticated planning. But is that really necessary? Does it have to be the Imperial Star Destroyer or is a small Type 7 shuttle enough? And if you don't feel like building your own ship, you can simply buy one on the market. There Novaquark offers a handful of different ships for different types of use. You can buy the blueprint and all the necessary materials there with a single click of the mouse. Two clicks later you have your own ship and can start immediately (if you still buy fuel). In the beta, all players will conveniently get 100,000 Quanta a day, so you can already afford the first ship after a few days. Even if you don't sell anything in the market.
Beta, bugs and tons of technical problems
Dual Universe is an extremely ambitious project on which a manageable number of developers are working. Novaquark has gradually expanded the team in the past, but that doesn't happen overnight. It is therefore perfectly normal for the development time to take a little longer than other titles. With the start of the beta, the MMO has now opened the gates for many thousands of players and has obviously taken over itself. While the first few days were still running reasonably well, the servers got more and more problems with the amount of players. Long queues were the smallest problem. Objects keep disappearing, players are thrown out of the game, actions take several minutes instead of a few seconds, ore can no longer be mined or modules selected – the list of errors that keep popping up is endless. The servers are usually shut down and restarted several times a day. Some bugs disappear, but others are added. Dual Universe can only be played to a limited extent in this state.
Since this is an early beta of the game, that wouldn't really be a problem. Because that's what such phases are for. Anyone starting a beta should be aware of this. In the case of Dual Universe, however, the case is a little different. Because here the players are already asked to pay. Dual Universe has a subscription system that gives you access to the game for a monthly fee. In principle, that's a fine thing. Letting the players pay during the beta is at least debatable. But if the beta is actually more of an alpha, in which it is hardly possible for days or weeks to play and test anything, then that is actually absurd. Novaquark apparently recognized this and decided without further ado to give the current players a month of free playing time. If the really massive server problems cannot be solved by then, Novaquark has to come up with further measures.
Great shit – but not for everyone
After spending more than 100 hours in Dual Universe in the past few weeks since the start of the beta, the opinion is solidifying that something big is coming up. Dual Universe currently skilfully combines the strengths of EVE Online with the very own urge to create things yourself and to be able to realize your own ideas. Of course, Dual Universe will never reach the same number of players as big fantasy MMOs in their heyday, the entire setting is far too sneaky for that. But it can easily approach the success of an EVE Online. But only if the developers get a grip on the enormous technical problems. There is still a lot of time until a release at the end of 2021, but the task does not get any smaller with the increasing number of players and more and more ships and constructs in the single-shard world. I am sticking to the statement I made a few months ago even after the start of the beta. Dual Universe has enormous potential. It is now the task of the developers to make full use of this.
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