A Mobile Spinoff of One of the Largest MMOs
EVE Online, one of the largest and most venerated MMOs, recently launched the open Beta for EVE Echoes—and it lives up to its namesake. As a true sandbox MMO, Echoes allows you to dictate your own path. While there are tutorials and story quests, you discover the meat of the game through exploration of both the vast universe and your skills and customization tools. Echoes is more than a copy of the original, and it takes place on a separate server. While certain essential functions such as player trading have yet to be patched into the game, Echoes feels like it will be a very strong mobile title when it’s complete.
Echoes provides an expansive world where you can collect and outfit different spaceships to accomplish your goals and make more money. What makes this title unique is that, like the original, most items in the game were crafted and sold by other players. There are no NPC vendors, meaning the community drives the market. Unlike most MMOs, your character and their skills are only a subset of your influence. By collecting and fitting different ships to accomplish different goals, you can take on everything Echoes has to offer. While I spent most of my time mining resources to sell on the market, others might be hauling goods from one space station to another like a sci-fi trucker. And there is no upper limit: make enough money and you’ll eventually find yourself with a collection of ships and skills, capable of all Echoes has to offer.
Learn the Basics to Become a Master Pilot
The game begins with character and faction select. The factions add flavor to the EVE, dictating which ships you can and cannot pilot. Overall, however, factions are flexible, and players can get similar experiences no matter which they chose.
The tutorial gives you a good sense of how to do general tasks like fitting your ship, mining and engaging in combat. From there, you are on your own. There was not much redundancy like in other tutorials, as many of EVE’s systems are not inherently intuitive.
Part of what makes EVE Echoes fun is task-management and organization. There is so much raw information in EVE. While Echoes is streamlined and made more simplistic for mobile, familiarizing oneself with the economy and game mechanics takes time. Because the game is player-driven, your own planning is the key to your success. Deciding what avenues will lead you to your goals boils down to what you want to do. It makes sense to specialize on tasks early on, as you have limited resources and building on what you do have is a quicker process.
Skills in EVE are leveled over time in a queue. You can stack up to three skills in a queue (before upgrading) and the timers continue to roll even when you are logged out. Some skills take days to level, so planning is key here as well. Skills will allow you to use weaponry, ships and other items that your character cannot use initially. The way skills beget specialization is another way EVE makes the player feel self-directed. Because skills can take a while to level, it’s common that players specialize on a single skillset like mining. This provides a money-making base from which you can either specialize further or begin to learn new skills.
The Promise of EVE Echoes’ Future
There are still many unknowns ahead for Echoes. But so too exist constants that already make this game a worthwhile venture. Like guilds in other MMOs, Echoes has Corporations. These conglomerates are typically more difficult to get into than in other MMOs, many comparing the recruitment process to completing a job application. A strong corporation can make a profit for themselves and all their members and even take control of large parts of the economy. EVE lives off its reputation for its large corporation battles over territory and resources. Corporations won’t be out until the official release, but they’ll surely be hiring when that day comes.
The game is already decently populated, with HUD indicators keeping tabs on how many players are near your location. What’s more promising is the number of content creators making online resources. Already there is an active community on YouTube and PC gamer forums. In both cases dedicated to teaching the community how to excel in EVE Echoes. This is an anomaly for mobile MMOs. The sheer support at such an early stage leads me to believe this game community will flourish as if Echoes was a full-scale MMO.
Some members of the community are concerned with how certain ship specs have been altered from EVE Online. This presents problems for ship balance, as many familiar ships perform differently from the original title. This augmentation renders some drastically buffed or nerfed due to the changes to their stats and how they can be fitted. An alternative argument is that Echoes is not a carbon copy of EVE Online. In a new game, these ships are intended to behave differently from their counterparts in the original title. It will be interesting to see how the developers intend to take this into account as they approach the official launch.
What a Strong Population Means for EVE Echoes
A large population will amplify every aspect of EVE Echoes. While NPC enemies roam the galaxies to make life harder on players, the real threat is other players. While mining, you could technically go AFK and let your ship orbit the expensive rock from which you are harvesting. But if you are ambushed by an enemy and unable to escape, you risk losing your entire ship and everything attached to it. Some players even specialize in finding and eliminating player ships (typically those ferrying expensive cargo or harvesting materials).
More threats, however, mean more opportunity. If you’re in a strongly-fitted offensive ship, you will be able to sell your services as a bodyguard to other players who want to work in dangerous areas. While a police force exists who will destroy any player attempting to assail another, there are lower security areas of space in which space pirates and looters roam free. Usually, lower-sec space is home to more profitable ores and space stations with important quest lines. Sometimes it’s worth buying a cheaper ship for risky missions, being careful to only take with you what you need. As the saying goes, “never fly anything you cannot afford to lose.”
The Introduction of Freemium
EVE Echoes will implement PLEX in the future. PLEX is equivalent to a membership or premium subscription. Thankfully, the game is playable without it. Further still, PLEX is achievable with in-game currency, meaning you can sustain your subscription without ever spending a dime.
Not having PLEX, however, makes your character more limited. There are ships you cannot use, parts you cannot make, and your skills take much more time to level. Without PLEX currently in the game, players can use anything their skills allow them to. It will be interesting to see how heavily PLEX influences the game. To what extent will a free player will still feel welcome? If it’s anything like EVE Online, PLEX may not have the oppressive effect that so many mobile freemium systems do these days.
What It Does Right and What It Still Needs
EVE Echoes is remarkable in its ability to feel like a full-fledged MMO. The graphics are beautiful—albeit battery-draining—and the controls feel smooth and precise in this heavily menu-based game. Echoes highlights its simplistic controls without taking away from the feeling of deep engagement with the game’s complex underlying mechanics.
It worries me to consider how premium may be implemented. A flat subscription, purchasable with something like Eve Online’s in-game currency ISK seems like a logical choice. Microtransactions beyond PLEX, however, could pose a problem.
As stated before, there are still important systems like Corporations on the way. I think it would be hard for NetEase and CCP Games to mess up the release if they deliver all the promised content. I imagine there may be some community disappointment if balance isn’t tended to. It might be far-fetched to say the developers would redo ship fitting at this later stage in development. Instead, I imagine they will tune the strength of specific ships or attachments. If they work with the community—which seems like a promising assumption—Echoes has the potential to become a best-in-class mobile MMO.