Like many other massively multiplayer online role-playing games, EVE Online: The Second Genesis has a lot of ambitious intentions. It offers you the chance to create a unique persona in its vast science-fiction universe and then seek out power, riches, allies, fame, or notoriety as you become increasingly proficient as a starship captain, a bounty hunter, a miner of rare minerals, an interstellar trader, or an officer in an influential corporation, among other things. EVE features some of the best graphics to date in an online RPG, and it is the best-looking outer space game in years. The game also offers some interesting variations on the conventions of the genre, most notably in how it's not at all focused on your character having to constantly kill things in order to level up. Unfortunately, many of EVE's ambitions remain unfulfilled weeks after the game's release. The lack of clear-cut incentives, risks, and rewards leaves the world of EVE seeming empty. The game can have its moments, since like many online games, it can be entertaining if you happen to find a good group of people to play and chat with. But at this point, EVE is suitable only for very patient science-fiction fans with lots of time to spare.
The character-creation process offers the first glimpse of EVE's superb graphics--and its problems.
For better or worse, creating a character is one of the most enjoyable things you can do in EVE. You initially choose from a variety of different races and factions, and you then customize a fully 3D character portrait for yourself, defining everything from skin tone and clothing to the exact shape of your character's face. The graphics and artwork here are exceptionally good, suggesting that the world of EVE has a distinct style and original flair to it. Unfortunately, this turns out to not be the case. You soon realize that the character-creation process--outside of the fact that it lets you determine your starting skills--is really just window dressing. That first amazingly detailed close-up of your character shrinks down to a much smaller, static image that appears only on your character sheet. What's worse is that it's for your eyes only--other players only get to see an even smaller, postage-stamp-sized portrait of your character.
Your "character" in the game is really just whichever ship you happen to be piloting at the time. You can customize your ship's appearance to a certain extent by outfitting it with different weapons, but ultimately this doesn't matter much, since you'll rarely get a close look at other player-flown spacecraft anyway. One of the appealing qualities of massively multiplayer games is being able to have a unique character that looks noticeably different from everyone else, but EVE disappointingly foregoes that opportunity.
EVE also fails to engage you early on. There's a text-based tutorial that kicks off when you first begin playing, but the pages of vague text often don't adequately explain the game's complicated interface. You'll just have to get a feel for it, which will probably take an entire day's worth of playing or more. Eventually, once you get a grasp of it, the interface becomes quite handy. The various semitransparent windows containing things like chat dialogue with other players, an inventory of your ship's cargo, your navigation "bookmarks," and more can be opened and closed, minimized, and resized as necessary, and they can even be merged for your convenience. You can also readily search a bewilderingly huge map of the galaxy for various solar systems or even individual planets and stations, plot a waypoint to your desired destination, hit the autopilot button, and be on your merry way. So, if a player tells you about an asteroid belt halfway across the galaxy that's filled with rare minerals, it's not difficult to plot a course and head over there.
Mining is actually one of the most common activities in EVE. The modestly sized player community (to date, about 3,000 to 5,000 people can be found playing on the game's single server at any given time), recognizing that the game's interface is convoluted, and that the game gives new players little direction, are generally friendly and quick to offer advice when asked, "So what am I supposed to be doing?" No matter which part of the galaxy you're in, the answer is the same: "Mine."
There's no fun in mining asteroids in EVE, but it's one of the only ways to make money in the game.
Mining is the only viable way to make money early on in EVE, and it's really one of the only viable ways of making money in the game at all. You mine by warping to an asteroid belt, maneuvering very close to an asteroid, targeting it, toggling on your mining laser, and waiting for many minutes as your cargo hold gradually fills with ore. Don't worry about running into an asteroid, as you can't sustain damage in collisions in EVE, and you'll usually just clip right through other objects, including things like space stations and planets. So mining is simply boring. Eventually, you can further develop your mining skills and get better mining lasers, improving your efficiency somewhat--but you'll probably have a bigger ship with a bigger cargo hold by that time, so the effects of the new equipment and skills will likely be negated. After you've filled up with ore, you fly them back to a space station for reprocessing (just a menu button that you click), sell the minerals, and head on back to the asteroid belt for another go.
In your search for better minerals, you'll eventually start mining in dangerous regions populated by space pirates or other hostile computer-controlled ships. This at least adds some tension or risk to an otherwise completely monotonous activity. The combat in EVE isn't very tactical--the stronger ship usually wins, and the only real strategy is to keep your foe in the effective range of your weapons. Some weapons are good at depleting energy shields, while others can punch through armor effectively, so eventually there's some sense in trying to have a well-balanced arsenal equipped on your craft. Furthermore, with enough money and the proper skills, you can equip your ship with various devices that improve its speed, armor, rate of fire, and so on. Nevertheless, the combat itself is just a slugfest, where you'll merely watch as your enemy's hit points are depleted faster or slower than yours. At least the combat looks and sounds good.
The only real, clear-cut goal in EVE is to make money. Money buys you better ships, better equipment, and even new skills. Other than that, your character has a faction standing with various non-player groups in the game, such as the space police, so you can keep your eye on those numbers to see whether these groups are going to attack you on sight or not. Yet other than the amount of money in your character's wallet, the only truly meaningful measure of his or her overall power is quite literally the amount of time that's elapsed since you started playing EVE.
The map of the world of EVE reveals that there are a huge number of star systems in the game.