If you had told me ten years ago that we would someday be playing a version of Eve Online on our phones I would have looked up from my game of Bejeweled and laughed at you. Well, it turns out I am a fool. On August 13 developer CCP proved I couldn’t predict the future with the release of Eve Echoes for Android and iOS. We aren’t talking about a chopped down version or a hastily produced port of the PC game. Eve Echoes is a full-featured recreation of the long-running space MMO made exclusively for mobile devices (it does run on emulators like Bluestacks). Shortly after launch, I offered up my initial impressions of Eve Echoes (you can also check out my beginner tips and tricks to help get you started in Echoes) and now, with a couple of weeks under my belt, I am back to share my final review of what the portable version of New Eden has to offer.
Creating A Mobile New Eden
A real easy question to ask about moving the Eve universe from PC to mobile is how well it runs and whether CCP had to make any sacrifices to the gameplay or graphics? Considering that your average phone in 2020 packs more punch than a PC back in the early and mid-2000s (when Eve Online was released), it should be no surprise that Eve Echoes runs quite well. The graphics are sharp and detailed. The only time I have noticed any issue is a slight stutter in the warp animations when going between stargates. Other than that insignificant hiccup (I am rarely watching as I autopilot from system to system) the graphics have been fluid, even during multi-ship combat. Text is rather small but it’s still clear and readable; this could be an issue on a smaller phone.
As for my fears that CCP would strip the game down to the point that it isn’t recognizable, that didn’t happen. Eve Echoes isn’t an exact duplicate of Eve Online but CCP did keep all of the core elements intact. Eve Echoes is still an expansive open-galaxy sandbox with all of the nearly 8000 solar systems included in the new mobile universe. And although some of the mechanics have been streamlined to better suit a smaller screen and thumb tapping interface, you’re still going to get the same gameplay that you’re used to seeing in the PC version.
A Closer Look At The UI
After a couple of weeks of play, I’m happy to say that my mostly positive first impression of the user interface is still intact. All the menus are easy to navigate and, more importantly, pop up and close quickly without any stuttering even with multiple menu screens open at once. I am especially fond of the button on the top left of the menus that allows me to swap back and forth between the last two menus I opened. It makes swapping between my inventory and the marketplace a breeze. I also like how any of the smaller menus (the wallet or notification window for example) can be closed by tapping anywhere outside of their window.
The main menu and navigation between pages work well but there are some areas that could use some improvement. I previously mentioned the lack of UI scaling and the ability to move UI elements to a different spot, and those nagging issues still need to be addressed. My biggest gripe is the lack of bookmarks or a favorites list for the Star Charts. Any menu where you need to get to a specific destination has a “Set Destination” button and the marketplace has a popup for nearby ITCs, but heading out to any other place in the galaxy requires hunting it down on the Star Chart. How CCP and NetEase neglected to have the same functionality for general navigation that they did across the rest of the menus is confusing and frustrating.
No matter how sleek and user-friendly the user interface is if you can’t get the data you need then it’s all for naught, and that is exactly how I felt when using the marketplace. Navigating the main marketplace menu is quick and intuitive. Locating the listings for an item you are interested in takes only a couple of clicks but browsing through the actual listings is a little more tedious. You are initially presented with a mere 10 listings and scrolling to the bottom of the list and swiping up brings up another 10; repeat ad nauseum. Given the small screen size, this may be inconvenient but it is understandable.
The real issue arises when you go to sort the listings by anything other than price – there aren’t any other options! Even though each listing shows the station the goods are at, distance (in the number of jumps away), and quantity, there is no way to choose those columns as the primary way to sort. There isn’t any filter to limit your search to, say, availability within 3 jumps of your current location. You don’t even have the option to limit your search to only Trading Centers (very helpful for Alpha Clones), or your current location for that matter. For a game that revolves around buying and selling (Eve Online is known as Spreadsheets In Space after all), not having even rudimentary sort and filter functions is unacceptable.
These shortcomings are further magnified when you go to place a sell order. The sell price is usually set to the highest buy order to facilitate an immediate sell. Sometimes it will default to 1 ISK per unit, though, meaning you must switch back to the listing page to ensure the price is set correctly. Even if it lists the correct price you’ll still have to do a manual search of the listings to ensure an unscrupulous buyer didn’t lowball their price compared to others in the region. All of this could be avoided if more information, like adding prices from nearby stations or trade centers to the order screen. Most players aren’t willing to make a 10 jump trip to make a few extra ISK on a transaction but easy access to nearby station prices would help sellers set a competitive price.
Pick A Job, Any Job
In true sandbox fashion Eve Echoes allows you to play the game however you wish. Many MMOs claim to offer a sandbox experience but usually, they cram in a fair amount of hand-holding and structure that leaves one or more segments of the game’s economic backbone underwhelming for the players. Eve Echoes truly puts the galaxy’s economic success in the hands of the players.
Almost everything in Eve Echoes is created by the player base. There aren’t any NPCs to buy from or sell to so regardless of what role you choose to serve in Echoes you must depend on other players just as they must depend on you. The need to rely on others is the driving force behind the giant corporations and alliances that have formed in Eve Online. Although it’s still in its infancy I expect the same outcome will transpire in Eve Echoes, and players will be drawn in by the many jobs the game offers.
Fight For Your Life
If you’ve ever played Eve Online then you already know what to expect if you accept the role of a combatant. If you haven’t, one on one and small scale PVE battles are… how can I put it nicely… bland? Even if you take manual control of positioning your ship, PVE combat is a slow and labored process. Assuming you have correctly outfitted your ship and you aren’t punching above your class, fighting off wave after wave of AI-controlled ships really comes down to maintaining the optimal distance for your weapon type and not running out of energy (again, outfit your ship properly).
PVP is a totally different ball of wax, especially if there are multiple ships involved. Echoes isn’t a flight sim so quick reflexes don’t come into play. The name of the game here is strategy. For one on one battles, knowing your enemy is key. Weapons and defense follow a simple rock, paper, scissors type of formula, so if you are ill-equipped to handle your foe the old saying of run away to fight another day takes precedence.
For small groups, coming to the battlefield with complementary ships including tanks, DPS, and support, along with a good plan of attack, is key to winning a fight. Every ship has the ability to contribute in a fight and even a group of smaller ships is capable of taking out larger foes.
Capitalism At Its Finest
So what does Eve Echoes have to offer if you don’t feel like flying around all day hunting for other ships? Well, a lot really. With ships being blown to bits by the thousands, in Echoes’ player-driven economy there has to be someone to keep the production lines rolling.
Like most MMOs, this starts with players gathering ore. In Echoes, this is done by taking the biggest mining vessel you can afford and mining asteroids. There is also a second group of materials that are passively gathered through planetary mining that allows even the most casual player to generate some income. The most common, and therefore cheapest materials can be gathered from anywhere in the galaxy, making these a low risk, low reward commodity. For the more adventurous miners (or possibly well guarded by allies) rarer ores can be found in the PVP areas of low and null-sec.
From there it’s up to the industrialists to craft the ships and the modules needed to outfit them. Even from the safety of a station, these crafters need assistance from the combat hungry masses to complete their job. While minerals and alloys are provided by the miners, crafters also need salvaged components looted from destroyed ships to reverse engineer blueprints or be dismantled for their materials.
All the while there is the need for these resources and finished products to be transported around the galaxy. Jumping from system to system takes time that most aren’t willing to commit so the unglamorous but lucrative job of distribution goes to the captains of specialized cargo ships. Since a ship’s autopilot works even when players aren’t logged in this is the perfect job for someone with limited screen time; pick up a delivery contract, set your destination, and come back to count your ISK when your ship completes its flight.
Pay To Win?
When it comes to free to play games there is always the question of monetization and whether the microtransactions offered make the game pay to win. Eve Echoes does have skill point boosts built into the Omega Clone subscriptions, so at the lowest level, the answer to the pay to win question is, yes, Eve Echoes can be considered pay to win. There aren’t any ships, crafting materials, or other in-game resources available in the store – another common threshold where many players draw the line – so that is a positive. In the end, the P2W question is still a gray area and must be answered by each individual. For me, a more fitting question to ask is whether the extras given to monthly subscribers will matter to casual and/or hardcore players.
As a casual player, I believe the core structure of Eve Echoes allows for the Omega Clone subscriptions without ruining my experience. For many, going F2P and running around in the safety of high sec space collecting ore or clearing encounters and anomalies will be the extent of their gameplay. Players taking this F2P option still have access to ITC trading, planetary mining, industry, and all of the base skills needed to succeed in those endeavors. The amount of playtime is the true limiting factor for this type of gamer, and the benefits of going Omega are virtually wiped out by this style of gameplay.
Even when taking the plunge into the dangers of low and null sec, time is still the limiting factor. In a one on one battle between two equally equipped players, the person with more experience and skill – gained through many hours of play – will probably be the victor. The additional skills an Omega Clone can learn may hasten the outcome but the result is still the same. And let’s be honest about it, a skilled hardcore player will still will more often than not even if a casual player is an Omega and they are the Alpha. It’s like that in every PVP game.
That doesn’t mean a casual player can’t experience the more dangerous areas of New Eden. In the current state of the game, I can freely roam through low sec space without much issue8, and when trouble does come a-knockin’ I hightail it out of there as fast as I can. As the game matures and corporations begin carving out larger and larger chunks of space that will change, but Alpha and Omega clones won’t be the deciding factor when that happens.
For hardcore players, there really isn’t much to discuss. They will want all of the features locked behind having an Omega clone – Tier 8 and above ships, advanced skills, et al. – plain and simple. With the only difference between Basic and Standard Omega being the additional skill point boost the only real question is how much they are willing to pay each month. In the short term grabbing the Standard Omega (or the duo bundle) will give a little quicker skill progression but even that is offset by the power of a large corporation. And as time goes by that skill point boost becomes even less relevant.
The question I posed while giving my first impressions was whether Eve Echoes could provide a game that catered to both the casual mobile gamer and the hardcore MMOer alike? So far everything points to yes. CCP has created a visually appealing world and UI to serve as the backbone of the game, and the galaxy of New Eden is big enough to accommodate the casual and hardcore players alike. The player-driven economy and synergy between the various jobs and roles players can engage in have already proven to work for 17 years, and the monetization model doesn’t look like it will deter from that success. I for one can’t wait to see how Eve Echoes evolves as corporations rise and fall in this new mobile galaxy.