Hey all, I’m back with another review, and this time it’s of a new MMO on the market. It’s Dual Universe. And I am joined this time by some other GiN staffers who also dove into the world of Dual Universe to check out its unique gameplay. Dual Universe is very different from a traditional MMO, so we thought it would be a good idea to recruit a few extra eyes to properly evaluate this one.
Plot: The plot is fairly standard for a sci-fi title. In a nutshell, in the year 2027, humanity discovers that a neutron star is on a collision course with their home solar system, so they “rush” to develop a 500-year plan to save humanity. Now, a millennia later, you as the player are one of the lucky few (billions) of humans left to now settle on a new planet named Alioth. That’s about all I could learn over the course of my time playing about the back story of Dual Universe. I imagine that it was left sparse on purpose so that the players could create their own in-game lore. And since the game is so new, there is not a lot of it yet.
Gameplay: Dual Universe plays a lot like a mix between Minecraft, No Man’s Sky, and EVE Online. But, even compared with those titles, in Dual Universe there is nearly no player direction and no predesigned activities. Compared with highly structured MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV, Neverwinter Nights, Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft, and so many others, there is almost no player direction or traditional questing in Dual Universe.
In fact, the very open nature of the world and the fact that players can build and do almost anything is one of Dual Universe’s biggest selling points. Walking around at first, players might even be overwhelmed at all of their options. For example, they can construct massive cities that are complete with huge, automated factories and sprawling city parks. They can also get into running a space-based government and make plans to wage war against neighboring governments. And, of course, they can build incredible star ships to sail around or even to sell to other players. Everything in Dual Universe is built by the players and for the players.
The complete crafting nature of the title might remind many old school players of Second Life, which was one of the first MMO titles where players were completely in control of the world. Second Life allowed people to do some amazing things. Like in Dual Universe, they could create cities and towns. Government agencies even got into the Second Life act, making official town halls that resembled the real thing, or federal facilities that you could visit to collect information about agency programs. Dual Universe may have all of that one day too if it remains popular, with the addition of spaceships and a cool sci-fi theme.
The open world, craft anything nature of the game is really amazing for people who enjoy titles like Minecraft or EVE Online, or any title where crafting is king. Where it might not be such a great experience is for those players who want a more structured or quest-based experience like they might find in World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, or most other MMOs. At its best, Dual Universe provides a sandbox for the kinds of players who really want to roll up their sleeves and create a world of their own. But at its worst, there is really not that much to do for a more casual player who just wants to go on quests, fight monsters, rescue people, and generally save the world.
Case in point, GiN had two other reviewers take a look at this game. The first really loved it and dived into the crafting and construction mechanics, joining up with other players to help build one of those sprawling cities while also carving out a little paradise for themselves where they could get away, kick up their feet, and gaze out at their creation. However, the second reviewer quickly got bored with the title and saw it as an unstructured experience that was more like a bunch of cool ideas all mashed together, but without enough refinement to make an enjoyable game. It’s pretty clear that you will love or hate Dual Universe, without a lot of room in between.
Your personal enjoyment of Dual Universe may depend quite a bit on what kind of player you are. Crafters and those who enjoy guilds and kinship (you almost have to join a guild if you want to progress beyond a subsistence type player) will be in heaven. But more traditional RPGers will certainly wonder where the actual gameplay is as they wander aimlessly around this under-construction universe. For those players, having to sift through all of the player-created content (which, let’s be honest, will not always be good) to find the real gems (and there are some for sure) is not going to be something they want to invest time and $15 a month to find. For those looking for a more traditional MMO, it’s easy to wonder why the developers seem to be so absent from this world, at least in terms of content creation and contributing to some actual gameplay.
The developers and some of Dual Universe’s most prolific players got together to explain why Dual Universe is a different game than many people are used to, and why it may not be for everyone. They do a great job of talking about why some players will absolutely love how it is structured.
In terms of our gameplay experience, we found some interesting and also odd choices in how certain mechanics in the title worked.
For example, the concept of learning talents and skills revolves around the investment of time, which makes sense even if it can be a bit boring in practice. But there are a lot of those skills, and it feels like several should be combined so that they can be raised at the same time. For example, why is the increased spacecraft handling skill not combined with a spacecraft fuel efficiency increase? Why is the increased flatten tool efficiency not combined with its range increase? All of these things might get worked out in future patches, but the world is so large that it’s clear that the developers were probably not able to get everything running perfectly at launch.
Dual Universe has a lot of potential. In fact, with so much emphasis on player creations, it could be described as having a limitless potential. As long as it maintains a high player base, it will continue to evolve. And it will be interesting to see if enough crafter-type players find the game, because if you are one of those, then jump into Dual Universe right now and start building something fantastic. On the flip side, those looking for a more conventional MMO should probably instead choose any of the multitude of other options that give a more traditional questing and adventure experience.
If you are still unsure if you will like Dual Universe or not, there is a free demo on Steam that you can play. If you try that, then you will discover pretty quickly if Dual Universe is for you.
For those who like: Minecraft, No Man’s Sky, EVE Online, and a massive sandbox crafting experience
Not for those who don’t like: Unstructured gameplay and an MMO that largely depends on the skills and ambitions of its player community as opposed to direction from its developers