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End of 2011 Blog Banter:

As any games journalist would probably tell you, a true and complete review of a Massively Multiplayer Online game is impossible. MMOs are vast, forever evolving entities with too much content for a single reviewer to produce a fair and accurate review. However, a collection of dedicated bloggers and EVE players (past and present) with a wide range of experience in various aspects of the game might be able to pull it off.

This special ‘End of Year’ Blog Banter edition aims to be a crowd-sourced game review. Using your gaming knowledge and experience, join the community in writing a fair and qualified review of EVE Online: Crucible. This can be presented in any manner of your choosing, but will ideally include some kind of scoring system.

With each Blog Banter participant reviewing the areas of EVE Online in which they specialise, the result should be a Metacritic-esque and accurate review by the people who know best.

Metacritic-esque huh?

Alright, I’ll give Crucible a 6, er, 8 out of a possible 10.  I consider this a good expansion.. sort of.  So, if everything about this expansion is good.. how come it’s only a 8 out of 10?

Because of two things:  First, if it is an expansion, it is barely an expansion.  Even with me arguing for this designation, one cannot help to realize that while there are game changing and game improving features added.. there were new no game-defining features with Crucible.  Essentially all Crucible did was erase everything on the dry erase board and then re-wrote the same words in nice cursive writing.

The second thing is that many of the updates brought in with Crucible should have been done a long time ago.  The Supercap nerf, for example, should have rolled out soon after the proliferation of supercapital ships became apparent two years ago.  The friggin’ “Loot All” button that every MMO since the beginning of time has had finally reaches Eve Online, the simplication of POS fuels too was a change long overdue.  These and many other fixes and updates had piled up for literally years while CCP began to bleed resources into other pet projects.

Now, here is the good:  Everything.  Seriously.

  • New Nebulae graphics – Let me start by saying.. WOW!  Just.. just wow.  I am in awe of the art and dev guys and gals who put this together.  Autopilot has never been more.. beautiful that it is now.  In fact, Eve has never been as beautiful as it is now.  The new Nebulae are so well done that it feels real and alive.  I often just stop my ship and just stare at stuff now.  For no reason.
  • New ships – Four player-designed ships were added to Eve Online with a specific goal of being used for PVP.  The ships are impressive and fill a hole while giving newer players a place in the modern fleets of null-sec.
  • Engine Trails – These were removed long ago because they affected game performance.  They are back, sexy, and it is fun to get in a fast ship and twirl, and twirl, and.. well, you get the picture.
  • POCOs or Player Owned Customs Offices – Low-sec and Null-sec now have a bit of challenge added to their daily lives, while taxes for High-sec residences went considerably higher.  Players can now destroy Customs Offices in low-sec, null-sec and wormhole space and set up their own.. even allowing other to use the planet.. for a fee of course.  This feature is still playing itself out and we’ll have to see how far the ripples go in this instance.  The POCO change could still be a dramatic change for markets and POS distribution, but considering the God-awful length of time it takes to bring down just one POCO will certainly discourage all but the most masocistic people from trying to take them down.  I don’t think even Goonswarm would torture its members that badly.  For the record, it’s like taking down a POS, but having zero chance for a reward.
  • Super Capital Nerfs -The bane of null-sec politics has finally gotten a little attention.  Supercapitals no longer can use drones and have had an overall HP reduction.  In addition, the log off mechanics were changed so that instead of having an absolute 15 minutes before you log out if under attack, the system now checks to see if you have aggression after that first 15 minutes, and if you do, it restarts the timer for another 15 minutes..   Apparently, quite a few folks have missed the memo this far.
  • Drone Regions – Changed the way Rogue Drones operate in the Drone regions so that they come in waves.. apparently frustrating quite a few bot programmers.
  • Time Dilation – Still being worked on, but officially brought out with Crucible I have yet to hear any major fleet fights with it yet.  But the concept is certainly going to make things much, much better.

But the Banter expressed that I put this in terms that I personally have expertise in.  This is rather difficult because I am an Ex-null-sec Pilot, flying for a Low-sec PVP corp (who are in an Incrusion Alliance) that does operations in Wormhole space.  Aside from the Wormhole PVP operations, I tend to run missions and PI for isk.  My previous entry for this was pretty poor, so I am adding more to it because, after reading the other Banters, it needs to be done.  So my own experiences in Eve range from a low-sec pirate hunter out in the Essense Region, where we tried to build an industrial powerhouse mining and protecting ourselves in a single system.. a system that became popular for large null-sec alliances to use for flying their capital ships through (It is rather funny to realize that our anti-pirate efforts probably caused us even more harm because the null-sec alliances (Goonswarm in particular) would fly their capitals through.. and do a bit of PVP while in the area), to being part of the largest Null-sec alliance ever formed in the game, often flying 20, 30, even 40 systems to get to the battle locations.  I’ve ran missions, incursions, wormholes, and have dabbled a bit in invention and manufacturing.

For the most part, the critical task of making ISK in Eve Online is pretty boring.. and if the game was all PVE, then it would rightly be called “Spreadsheets in Space”.  But Eve Online is strange in that many times it isn’t the game itself that brings you back.. instead it is the community that makes you want to return to the fold.  I’ve left this game at least two times.. and both of the times I was brought back because I starting to read about people’s experiences in PVP combat, often small gang conflicts that hinged on you doing the right thing at the right time.. either intentially or by accident.  Some of those fights became defining conflicts, where you stood against the odds.. and won by your own skill and hubris.  Once you get into Eve, the feeling of PVP is both terrifying and electrifiying.  When you are one versus another, the fight is a conflict of pure esoteric emotion, raw testosterone filling your veins as you move this way, that way, through asteroid belts, or close in rotations, or burn deep to get out of his way.. or to force him closer.  The yellow message box flashing every time your guns strike home and you see his shields, armor, and hull go down.. flames spitting off of the hull.

The feeling still is there when you engage in small gang conflicts.  Either you or someone else barking orders over the comms, you trying your best to get in range of the target desperate to land killing blows, or life-saving reps.  You see small fleets of pirates and defenders clash with the skill of either becoming evident within moments to outside observers, but you never know if your enemy is going to screw up majorly, or whether it was a bad idea to engage near gate guns, or if the new fit you all are trying will actually put down the enemy like you hope it will.  The adrenaline rush goes on even after a decisive victory, with the losers bugging out as fast as they can, sometimes in an orderly withdrawl from the fight, while other times you were so outmatched, you burn as far and as fast as you can because it won’t make a difference.  On the flipside, if you’re the victor flush with desire for more blood, you burn as fast as you can to try and catch one or two more before they reach the safety of high-sec or some nearby station.

Going to null-sec is often tauted as hitting the “big leagues”.. if the big leagues required that you have thousands of players to a side.  Nonetheless, you have a higher feeling of ownership, of playing in your own backyard, of flying with the same guys over and over again.  However, the formula takes on a new phase.  You are absolutely not an individual any more.  Maybe when you talk to your corp.. but outside of that, you are another cog in a massive industrialized combat complex.  You fight over and over again to protect your territory from raiders, pirates, and other nearby empires, each battle either a heroic victory or a devastating loss where billions of isk disappear in the space of a few minutes and depending on the day, you could last the entire battle.. or be evaporated in the first volley as hundreds of pilots on each side converge for system control.

And yet, that is just the first level of the experience.  Deeper worlds exist as industrial minded people play with the market for their own profit, some of whom work for the massive null-sec alliance creating the most feared and hated ships in the Eve Universe.. and are willing to switch sides and sell out their comrades to keep the isk flowing.  Some expertly infiltrate targetted corporations to steal and take down the corporation from the inside. 

To me, Crucible brings back the ability for the smaller fleets to operate as they once did, without the spectre of some supercapital ship dropping on them and wiping them out before they have a chance to respond.. and without any reasonable way of defending against it.  It also fixes the little things that bugged the heck out of ya as well as gives you a few more interesting places to fight for.  Is it an expansion.. maybe.  But you can’t go wrong with improving the bad edges of the game.

In the end, it makes me start to pine for null-sec once again.  Now, if I just had a cause…

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