EVE Online's record-setting war ends with a whimper

EVE Online
(Image credit: CCP Games)

A war of unprecedented magnitude in EVE Online is coming to an unexpected and anti-climactic end. For over a year, some of EVE Online's biggest player-run factions, including TEST Alliance, Pandemic Horde, Fraternity, and Brave Collective—a super-coalition named PAPI—have laid siege to the villainous Imperium with the sole intent of wiping them from the game entirely. The war has been brewing ever since another historic conflict from 2016 called World War Bee, and in the last year has resulted in some of the biggest fights in EVE Online's history. But after 13 long months of war, the PAPI coalition has all but dissolved right on the Imperium's front door.

World War Bee 2 is the second time some of EVE Online's biggest alliances have banded together to root out The Imperium. It's also the second time they've failed. Why the grudge? It's simple: The Imperium has, for years, dominated null-sec, the enormous lawless ring of star systems that surround New Eden's less hostile areas of the game. With some tens of thousands of players under its banner and an industrial infrastructure that could rival a small nation, The Imperium is the king of EVE Online—and it does its best to make sure everyone else knows it too.

It's only natural that so many thousands of players would want to see The Imperium completely crumble. But that's not what happened.

(Image credit: Andreas Jones / Razorien)

The Imperium held strong, did not waver, and outlasted the most ferocious assault ever seen in EVE.

Dunk Dinkle, Brave Collective

For 13 months PAPI has systematically invaded each of The Imperium's key territories and captured them. Boasting an estimated 52,000-plus players, they outnumbered The Imperium so significantly that, back in September 2020, Imperium leader The Mitanni sent an email to old Goonswarm members who had quit EVE asking them to come back and fight. By Christmas PAPI had The Imperium up against the ropes in its home region of Delve, with a beachhead secured just jumps away from The Imperium's headquarters.

This led to some of the biggest battles in EVE Online's entire 17-year history. On December 31, both sides brawled over a Citadel starbase in the M2-XFE system and—in a rare display of bravado—both armies deployed their Titan supercapital fleets. As the biggest, deadliest, and most expensive ships in the game, Titans are the last resort players have to turn the tide of a conflict. Nearly 7,000 players fought for over 14 hours in that single battle, destroying a total of 257 Titans (and thousands of smaller ships). It became the most destructive battle in EVE history by a wide margin and even netted the game's developers two Guinness World Records.

But as a new year dawned, PAPI's momentum seemed to dwindle. Months of gruelling military operations began to take their toll. This wasn't the first time the Imperium had been pushed into a corner by half the galaxy, which only strengthened the morale of its frontline soldiers. Meanwhile, PAPI's own armadas seemed to be slowing down, with engagements happening less and less frequently. In an interview with PCGamesN, CCP Games community developer Peter Farrell speculated that easing pandemic quarantines meant fewer players were keen to hole up inside for hours on end shooting spaceships.

Fearing the stalemate would sputter out, PAPI leadership renewed the war effort several weeks ago intending to drag Goonswarm into a series of deathmatches that would ultimately decide the war once and for all. On August 2, PAPI launched an all-out assault on the Imperium's headquarters in 1DQ1-A. The battle raged for hours before PAPI forces unexpectedly began to retreat. Minutes later word was spreading that alliances within PAPI were withdrawing from the war altogether and heading home.

(Image credit: CCP Games)

It's not clear what exactly happened—and everyone has their own version of events—but in a matter of hours PAPI's joint leadership completely collapsed into their separate alliances. In an emergency town hall meeting, TEST leader Progodlegend announced the alliance's imminent retreat and blamed part of the defeat on developer CCP Games and some recent changes it had made to the in-game economy that supposedly damaged TEST's wartime economy. "The timing could not have been fucking worse. It was a serious gut punch there from CCP," he said.

"The war is over and we have lost," said Brave's leader during his own address to his soldiers. "The Imperium held strong, did not waver, and outlasted the most ferocious assault ever seen in EVE."

Immediately after the announcement, PAPI forces began evacuating their fleets back to their home regions. Meanwhile, the Imperium's forces have begun attacking the retreating PAPI fleets, retaking systems that were lost during the initial conflict and pouring propaganda into EVE's subreddit gloating over their win.

Though the fighting is still far from over, World War Bee 2—EVE Online's biggest conflict yet—most certainly is.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.