Project Nova: Hands-OnNiden
Ever since the announcement of project Legion and the infamous Red Wedding (and eventual death) of Dust 514, speculations about CCP’s plans for an FPS in the EVE universe have run rampant. Today, CCP put an end to all the guesswork with the announcement of Project Nova.
CCP’s team in Shanghai was retasked to develop the new FPS based on the Unreal 4 engine. At present, Project Nova is planned as a free-to-play title. Early this morning, the press was permitted a brief hands-on session, which I took advantage of, in addition to playing another couple of matches later in the day.
Everything looks polished, but also relatively generic and somewhat lacking personality.
The first impression you get from Nova is that it looks and feels like what you’d expect from a futuristic PvP shooter, not better or worse. It’s altogether very much Unreal Engine. From a graphical standpoint, all the effects you would expect are there. Everything looks polished, but also relatively generic and somewhat lacking personality. This is understandable for an early-stage project, but is definitely an area for improvement. At times, the effects even felt overdone, the motion blur especially, which quickly strains your eyes. Granted, we were only permitted to play on one map, a rather standard interior level with a couple of open spaces, tied together with a number of narrow corridors that provide limited options for attack or defence. However, many of the textures in the map felt so similar that it you sometimes lost the sense of depth, and there was very little to remind you that this was New Eden.
The match type provided revolved around a relatively standard mechanic of gaining and defending control points around the map. Granted, this is a demo, and it would have not been a good idea to introduce a mechanic that players had never seen before. Certainly there was something more to the capture mechanics, but the minutiae of it were lost on players more interested in trying out their weapons and special abilities.
So with these relatively well-executed, but frankly standard, building blocks, it’s down to the various types of Merc you can play and the weapons they wield. Of all the things in this demo, this was the most interesting part. Ranging from the super-heavy Sentinel, which is basically a walking tank, to the light and cloak-capable Infiltrator, the different types of mercs felt quite different from one another, complete with unique abilities, and greatly varied strengths and weaknesses. Each type of Merc also has their unique weapon, such as the sniper rifle for the Sharpshooter, or the minigun of the Sentinel.
The beauty of these variations really came out when the players manage to work together. On my second attempt we had been slugging through a very tight match. Fighting for the last control point of the match, our two Sentinels (one of which was me) took the van front and center, drawing enemy fire as Assault and Sharpshooter Mercs were able to take out the opposition. This happened organically with no voice or chat communication between the players.
The immediate conclusion one draws from this is that there is a potential for some very interesting team-building meta and theorycrafting. Speaking with CCP, they confirmed that there would be character advancement. It is quite possible that this will allow for even more advanced combinations of merc types and player skillsets, leveraged through close teamwork. This also has interesting potential for esports.
All in all, Project Nova feels like a ball of decent clay, waiting to be formed into something that has a meaningful impact.
The next, obvious, question I asked CCP was how it would tie in with EVE itself. At first glance, this appears to be a well done, but standard shooter. One might argue that it absolutely needs a very real and engaging connection to EVE in order to stick out and survive. CCPs idea at this time is develop a system by which Nova mercs can acquire or generate some type of material that capsuleers would need for some as-yet undisclosed or undetermined purpose. This would create an easily implementable economic connection between the two games, but it’s a far cry from the walking in stations dream merger that some have envisioned.
All in all, Project Nova feels like a ball of decent clay, waiting to be formed into something that has a meaningful impact. All the potential is there, but the question remains whether this is the future of EVE FPS or another Project Legion.
Still, for what it’s worth. It was just plain fun to play, and I’ll probably go back for more tomorrow.