A Great Game if You Want Something Different
Eve online is a game based entirely in space where you can create your own persona in an online universe, piloting different space ships and making allies.
Gameplay: The only thing you need to play this game is the mouse. Everything in the game including combat, mining, traveling, making trades, and constructing objects requires you to either point and click or right click and select the appropriate option. Now this sounds boring and impractical but the first time you fight multiple enemies at once, you'll find that not only is it intense, but it works well. The majority of the game will be spent either doing missions, mining materials, or managing resources (building stuff, and buying/selling objects). You get quests/missions while docked at space stations and can buy and sell stuff there as well in an auction house like style. The missions are fun and get harder as you train your skills up to use bigger and better ships.
The skill system is also unique to EVE online because you don't actually have to play the game to become the strongest character you can be. The way you train your skills in this game is by selecting it, and waiting for it to level up, there are 5 levels per skill and it takes longer for the skill to level up (training a skill from 4 - 5 can sometimes take more than a week). This is both a great and bad thing about the game. The reason that this can be both is because if your a 12 year old or someone who has tons of time on their hands you'll feel like the developer is controlling how fast your character can level because there's nothing you can do to make your character level up faster. But if you're like me (a university student) or someone who has very little time to grind and do raids on a weekly basis, then having the ability to level up with minimal play time is good. You will need money to buy more advanced skills however, so this does force players to devote some time to playing the game.
There's a lot of customization with the ships, weapons, and various gadgets you can equip to your ship such as boosters (which allow the ship to go faster) and stasis fields, which can slow an enemy ship down. I should also mention that the game is PVP, meaning that any player at any time can kill you, and you can do the same, I found it to be an exciting part of the game but I can see how others would hate the idea. I should say that each system in the game (you travel from system to system to do quests and stuff) has different security ratings with 1.0 being the highest, were no-one can kill another player without getting the cops on their asses (and the NPC cops are tough) and 0.0 being the lowest were everything goes... this means even if you hate the idea of PvP, you can hang out in 1.0 space without too much to worry about.
Graphics: The graphics are great, they have been great for the past several years, and continue to improve as the developers upgrade them from DX9 to DX10 through patches. The vast space landscapes are beautiful and make the look and feeling of being in space believable. The graphics are great, but it does suffer from the same things as MMOs like the Matrix Online; Which is copied models being used over and over. Its not a big deal, but yes, every 10 or so missions you will see the same space station and randomized asteroid fields. There are 4 different factions in the game, so when you visit their systems and their stations you do get a sense of the environment being different.
Story: Unlike MMO's such as World of Warcraft or the more recent Age of Conan, EVE online doesn't really have a story to speak of. All of the quests in Eve are given through text, and most quest line only last between 6 to 12 missions before shifting to a new quest giver. During these however a minor story usually exists, and example of this would be the first few fighting quests you can get; they have you investigating and taking out pirates and at the end of this quest line you can either join the tyrant you have been fighting against (aka do pirate missions) or kill him (continue to do pro-civilized missions). Even without too much of a story, you'll be enthralled with the game play, and satisfied at least, with the mini stories you do get.
Sound: The sounds are great and work to make the space universe seem real. The thrusters on your ship sound real, the guns rail off shots and snap well, and when enemy ships blow up, the explosions sound good. There is music as well which fits the mood well, none of it licensed but it does sound like 80 SiFi films, much like John Carpenter's "The Thing" or music heard during the queit moments of games like Mass Effect, which is good. There's also miscellaneous sounds when you're docked at stations sounds of stuff being moved and little touches like that, so it sounds good.
Overall: This is a good game, but its not for people who like grinding and questing for XP in games like WoW or AoC. You have to wait for your skills to level, and some people are not going like that aspect of the game. Some people will enjoy not having to devote hours a day to gain level however, which is good. The game looks great, plays great, and has a large following who don't want to go play WoW or any other MMO anytime soon. The game is updated on a regular basis with free expansions that come out around every 6 months. So with a good online community, lasting appeal, great game play, graphics and sound, this game is something that if you're at all interested in, should give a try.
Update November 2009 -I read my review over again after I heard of the lastest expansion coming out, and I would like to clarify. Eve Online is not really a game for people looking for out-of-the-box fun. Eve Online really is better described as a space life simulator, in the sense that if you want to create an alter ego and create a well known company or become a feared pirate (not to NPCs but actual people) then you can in Eve, but it will require months of your life to do so. Alot of people play this game for one month and complain about the lack of fun they have, and fail to see that this is a game that requires a significant investment of time to really affect yourself or the game world. I also forgot to mention in my orginal review that (most definitly) 90% of the people who try this will be turned off by the game; I'm an interesting case because this was my first MMO that I tried at age 12... to give you an idea of how this MMOs difficulty is; I didn't even know how to move my ship the first day I played the game.
But after I got over that "minor" problem I realized the potential of the world in this game, its like the real world. You can fly up behind someone and blow their brians out or make contacts and trade routes to make money and become a powerhouse in the entire game world. I can say this without any question or doubt in my mind, this is the most advanced MMO out there, you can change the world, and I don't mean change the world WoW style by getting a purple sword or killing a character, or some bullshit like that, at the end of the day someone else has that sword too and the person (NPC or real) will respawn for someone else to kill. When you and a corp take on another corp and win a battle or when you get enough cash to control a trade route or material in the world you change how others must play (in either good or bad ways). If your in it for some quick fun, realistically, I should tell you to go play WoW, but if you want to build up yourself and make a difference in another world (it will take several months of devotion, no doubt) then give this game a shot; don't be afraid of this game, its like real life in that it has amazing opportunities... but with lasers.