Perpetuum Online – Preview
In an interview published this year by RockPaperShotun, Szelei Kis Gergely from Avatar Creations was asked about the similarities between Perpetuum Online and CCP’s EVE Online. His evasive answer conveniently pointed towards a mixture of coincidence and unavoidable inspiration, and placed the two games in the same loose category, but clearly separated them as two distinct and independent creations. The interview was published in June, time in which the only descriptive media related to the game and available to the public could have easily supported such claims. But on the 18th of October the game entered the open beta stage and joining the large amount of players that assaulted the Perpetuum servers, we had the chance to test firsthand the strength of Mr. Szelei Kis Gergely’s statements. To our great disappointment we found them to be nothing more or less than a simple PR stunt meant to cover or distort the actual truth: Perpetuum is in fact nothing more than an EVE rip-off.
The brutally short characterization might seem rushed and harsh, but I can assure you it doesn’t fall short of the truth. The similarities between the two games are not subtle, circumstantial or suggested, but aggressively obvious. They are not hidden from the untrained eye, neither the result of scrupulous critical investigations, but relentlessly assaulting you from every direction every step of the way. Their spectrum stretches from the very basic components such as the character creation tool and user interface to the very gameplay core, and at no point leave room for an argument about the game’s originality. I could easily describe each and every one of them, but that would turn this preview into an unjustifiable waste of your time. That’s because you either played EVE probably more than I did and then you know more about Perpetuum than I can tell you, or you haven’t and that leaves you with two choices: play EVE Online (because it’s a very good game to begin with) or catch up on some old EVE reviews that describe its features in detail. Both will probably give you more insight on what Perpetuum has and will have to offer than any preview currently available. Otherwise, a short description of the small set of differences between the two games should prove more efficient than insisting on the similarities.
The major one comes from the setting and the controlled avatar. It’s no longer about conquering the cold dark space while piloting a technological marvel of a vessel, but about a perpetual conflict between remote controlled mechs and an artificial life form on the solid and highly familiar terrain of an otherwise distant planet called Nia. Straying from the let’s say “original design” of EVE, Perpetuum struggles with two inconveniences related to the choice of setting. The first is the overload of the graphic engine with elements which would have no place in the outer space environment, such as terrain, buildings and vegetation, together with an increased number of shadows that need to be displayed at any given time. These new additions, however small and insignificant they may seem, need to be compensated in the general equation and have a detrimental effect on the overall graphics of the game. The polished, slick and sometimes highly spectacular environments EVE has to offer can hardly be matched by Perpetuum’s settings.
The second aspect of the game impacted by this choice is movement and everything related to it, from combat to exploration. By removing the third dimension and bringing everything down to ground level, combat loses much of its dynamicity and most encounters turn into a static, lengthy and boring experience in which you face your enemy and try to button-mash-outmatch its firepower and defenses. Many of the tactical elements specific to the EVE’s combat scenarios haven’t found their way into Perpetuum as there is no possible solution for implementing them. To make matters worse, collisions and LOS (line of sight) issues add a new layer of frustration to combat situations and turn exploration into a tedious and sometimes infuriating process.
Another notable difference between the twin games is the way characters develop. Although still based on a time factor, Perpetuum twists the old character development system and manages to squeeze a design upgrade out of it. Instead of picking skills to train and then waiting for the training to complete as you do in EVE, here you receive points whether you are online or not which then can be used to enhance the abilities you are interested in. This way there pressure of being online at the precise moment a training completes in order to assign new training orders is completely removed, thus giving the player the possibility of stepping away from the game for an unlimited amount of time without any repercussions on a character development level. Far from being an innovation, this new system is clearly superior to the old one and we can only hope that CCP will return the favor and borrow it from Avatar Creations. That pretty much sums up the major differences between the two MMORPGs and while there are others, they’re rather insignificant in the big picture.
When it comes to similarities Perpetuum stubbornly refuses to learn from its predecessor and copies everything blindly, including EVE’s flaws. Although many MMORPG players like the idea of discovering the game’s intricacies on their own, a progression system meant to introduce you to some of the basics is always welcomed. Apparently opposing such old fashioned ideas, the game instructive stages function on the masochistic idea “here’s everything, deal with it!”. Menus, submenus, UI customizations, mech customization, economy, quests, etc – basically every layer that adds up in order to create the rich, deep world of an MMORPG is there from the very beginning in one big informational bubble that nobody can cope with. If you are unfortunate enough to have your client crashing during the tutorial (as it happened to me), you will be probably spending between ten to fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to restart the tutorial and then, when failing to do so, twice as much time trying to perform basic tasks like mining or picking up quests. This turns the first few hours of gameplay into a discouraging experience, EVE- connoisseur or not.
Such things are however easy to polish and many will probably be matched by suitable solutions before the actual game release. But no matter how hard they try, Perpetuum’s developers will not be able to change the very core of the game, the one that looks, smells and feels like EVE. So no matter how polished and user friendly the game might become overnight, it will still remain just a mere copy of one of the most popular and successful MMORPGs released to date. And when it comes to choosing between the original and an unfortunate copy, I believe that any decent gamer will instantly go for the first.
by Seth Lex