Dust 514 is officially a “thing,” an evolving service out of its beta phase from CCP Games, ushering in a new era on consoles. The MMO approach is largely debatable, with game matches that cluster around small planetary surfaces while people shoot at each other. Goals feel restrained and often without purpose, a free-for-all with visions of grandeur. Dust could never amount to much given its unapproachable design.
MMOs are about crowd control: How do you make the game exciting for one player, one hundred players, and one thousand players? All of those groups need perspectives, and the best manage. Dust, on the other hand, does not. In fact, its failure is so grandiose, its conceptual power smothers the first-person shooter before it leaves a virtual apartment.
Some will find the back-end marvelous. What Dust does, wholly interconnected with super hardcore EVE Online, is create an environment of promises. Menus upon menus allow the equipping of items so rich and dense, you have to wonder if you will ever see the end. A few will. They’ll go out and conquer planets. The rest will stay in middling matches with a handful of people wondering if their action will ever impact the universe. The answer is, “No.”
A squad made up of a few friends will collect and bounce around to missions, earning cash and upgrading equipment. Some may even take part in real world money transactions, up to $100 (!) worth of digital goods. All that does is show off complexity, never adding to the core game engine, which is such an enormous bore that Dust’s ideas of planetary ownership feel like false advertising.
Someone will undoubtedly take offense, yet the reality is that Dust is much like a flaccid edition of Halo. Dust features vehicles that look like the Warthog, tanks dropping onto the battlefield, and cruisers that dictate battle strategies. However, the freshness is gone, the fun is lost, and gunplay is inconsistent. Fluidity is utterly random, with an enormous delay in grenade throws and abhorrent aiming speed when sighted. Dust is trying everything it can to avoid being a shooter.
But, maybe Dust is trying to be something else, a different take with its own voice. Fine, but then, Dust feels mute. Without a spark of life, players are trudging into battles without scale, weight, or gravitas. There is no sense of place, and with the design attempting to push away from the traditional lone soldier approach, why bother at all?