It’s no secret that my favorite aspect of Dual Universe is the opportunity for creativity. Bring on that voxel building! Oh the hours I’ll spend mining and shaping and crafting. That said, there’s more to the space sandbox, and I aim to experience all of it. Yes, even the fighting. Just because I am not known as a die-hard fan of PvP (though the die part is pretty accurate!) doesn’t mean that PvP is off my radar in Dual Universe. In fact, DU is integrating the feature in a way more likely to get me involved: Will I be a space pirate, or fight the space pirates?
While personal combat/duels are not my forte, barging into battle as a team with my friends is more up my alley. And I relish having roles other than just shooting/stabbing enemies; filling support roles on my team on the way to victory is a good time to me. Dual Universe is giving me that opportunity with ship-to-ship combat with a crew.
I recently sat down with Novaquark for a press demonstration of space battles. (Sorry, no avatar PvP yet, but it will come after territory warfare on the planets.) Jean-Christophe Baillie, CEO and creative director, and Baptiste Agati, game designer, took me on a tour that included battleships, small fighters, and an assortment of weapons demonstrations. Oh, and explosions!
DU is DIY
If you are familiar with Dual Universe already, you know that all structures — from ships to buildings — will be player crafted using materials harvested from the worlds. In short, DU is DIY (in that at least some player will have to build it, even if that isn’t you yourself). Only certain components, called elements, will be prefabricated items that players will manufacture and place in their builds. This will include engines, weapons, and programming consoles. So when it comes to PvP, there isn’t going to be any stock ship collection that all players will choose from. Folks are not going to know the ins and outs of opponents by rote. Instead, the ships with their strengths, weaknesses, and weapon configurations will all be unique. Some generalizations could be inferred from a ship’s design (such as a battleship could take lots of punishment, but small fighters can maneuver more easily), but the real measure of what the ship can do will not be known until you engage it. Everything from what you build and what you build the ship with to which weapons you install and how you layout the ship will make a difference during battle.
If you plan to PvP (or try to be safe from it), what you construct your ship with will be as important as how you design it. You’d expect a big battleship to be able to withstand more damage, but that will depend on what material you build it with as well as how much you use. If you want stronger shields, you will have to build a better hull with better material. Different materials will have different stats (innate as well as any modifiers due to talents) and be resistant to different types of damage, so there will not be any one-type-fits-all hull plating. Players will need to weigh the pros and cons of materials on top of their design; what you place on a small fighter may not be the same as you would put on a massive battleship.
Watching the battles in the demo, one aspect really stood out to me: the real-time physical damage. Unlike most MMOs, enemies in Dual Universe will not have health or shields bars indicating the amount of damage done. In order to see, you will have to look. Did your artillery punch a hole through the hull? You will see a hole. Did you blow off a part of the ship, or set it on fire? You will see that. Eyes will definitely need to be on the battle, not on health bars. Personally, I find this extremely exciting… and also unnerving. Talk about having a tangible effect on the world! I’ll admit, there is security in knowing how close you are to defeating your opponent and easily seeing if you need to cut and run or if victory is right in your reach. But that is also lazy. Yes, there is something to be said for knowing what you are getting into, but there is also thrill in not knowing. Additionally, there is skill in learning to measure your opponent through observation instead of using the crutch of colored bars. I’m a fan of this strategic aspect.
That real-time damage also has implications for the ships receiving damage. The pilot and crew won’t have some UI button to push to magically increase shields or fix damage. To do that, they will have to actually go to the damaged spot and fix it with materials they have on hand. The chance of a space walk to repair your hull is pretty high. Any damaged elements such as weapons or radars could also need repairs, and the larger the element, the longer the repair time.
As noted previously, weapons are one of the fabricated elements in DU as opposed to freehand creations. However, that does not mean there is no room for personalization. Players will choose which and how many weapons to mount, where to mount them, and which artillery to use in them. Each choice will play out significantly in PvP.
The types of weapons available are rail guns, missile launchers, lasers, and canons. Each weapon has unique traits that set it apart from the others; for instance, if you like quick bursts of big damage, you may be drawn to the missile launchers. But be careful, these have really long reload times! If you rely solely on missiles and you don’t disable your target on the first volley, you may not have the chance for a second. Weapons come in four sizes: extra small, small, medium and large. As Agati explained, “The idea is to have a wind range to cover all the types and applications of weaponry that [players] might want to put on a ship or on a construct.” Players can mix and match weapons and sizes to create what best suits their needs.
Knowing that different materials have different resistances to damage, you can already surmise that weaponry will have different damage types. This role is filled by the artillery. The two types of ammunition shown in the demo were kinetic and thermic, but there are more. (Hint: Thermic works much better against silicon slate than kinetic!) It is important to note that not all weapons have access to all artillery types. This helps preserve the uniqueness of the weapons and fosters strategy in their implementation.
How will players use the weapons? By accessing the gunner module. Using a UI, this seat will give player control of the weapons linked to it. Another necessary component that needs to be linked to the seat is a radar, which will allow players to select the available targets on gunner module UI. An ammo box then needs to be linked to the weapon itself. You can link a variety of weapons to a single gunner module; however, there is a limit to how many weapons can be linked to a single one, so no one person will be able to control an entire array on a battleship. If you want more guns, you need more people to man them. And don’t forget your support personnel! Besides the pilot and gunners, you’ll need folks to repair damage and restock ammo – and that’s where I’ll come in!
Is it possible for one person to be better at using certain weaponry? Yes. With the talent progression system, players will be able to gain and improve new abilities, such as unlock new weapons, shoot farther, hit harder, and reload faster. You can specialize or try to be a jack of all weapons. The systems looks pretty in depth and gives a variety of choice.
For our last remarks on PvP, let’s take a look at winning and losing. What are the rewards and dangers of PvP? To the victor go the spoils. If you win, you can actually take possession and claim the enemy ship, plundering anything stored on it. You claim by repairing the core unit. You can also simply salvage it for materials, or just blow it up for fun. Fun fact: Any ship left unmanned over a planet will be pulled down and will eventually crash on the surface.
If you die, however, and your ship has either been destroyed or claimed (thereby invalidating your rez point on it), you won’t be left as a consciousness floating in the void. Agati explained that players will be able to bind to multiple rez node, and they will resurrect at the one nearest their point of death. He also emphasized that this was not a mode of travel, as everything in your inventory is dropped and you respawn with empty pockets. You can’t use this as a chance to get to a specific location like your spare ship or your home across the galaxy.
As either the victor or defeated, Baillie noted that if you retain possession of your ship you can use repair units to slowly repair it back to the state it was at the last snapshot save you made. “This is a way to make sure that if you did a lot of sculpting and it took a lot of time to create this particular shape, you can recover it,” he said.