Project Legion first look: shooting and looting in the Eve Online universe

Dust 514 was a PlayStation 3-only FPS set in the EVE universe. Its limitations and flaws were obvious. Now CCP are bringing a reimagined version of Dust to PC, with a greater focus on community, customisation and emergence. It's an attempt to marry the freeform, story-generating magic of EVE to a modern multiplayer shooter. DayZ, curiously, comes to mind.

“Dust 514 and Project Legion share a common DNA, but Legion is a very different experience,” says Jean- Charles Gaudechon, executive producer. “It's a competitive shooter that takes place in a sandbox that mixes PvP and PvE. There's also a player-driven economy, which is really important. If you use the EVE name you have to have an economy that's influenced by the players.

“We have a hub designed to make players feel like they're connected... Between missions and battles you come back here and regroup, deciding what to do next: helping your corporation in battle, scavenging for gear, or whatever. It's your springboard to the universe. It's from here you're going to scan New Eden, find stuff to do, and jump there. We always want you to have the feeling that you're playing with other people.”

“Project Legion will have its own economy,” says Julien Dulioust, producer and monetisation director. “We'll have a link at an account level, where you'll be able to trade virtual currency, but at a game level it'll be its own thing.”

“At least at first,” adds Gaudechon. “First we want to make Project Legion stand on its own two feet. Then, when we're strong, we can open the door up to linking multiple economies. We're in New Eden, and this is a CCP game, but first it needs to be awesome on its own.”

“Players will use ISK to trade,” says Dulioust. “Buying gear, for example. We're making it more ISKdriven than Dust. You'll use it to unlock new jobs, modules and weapons. We've also been talking about adding tournaments as big things for corporations to invest in.”

“It's all about loot,” is how Gaudechon puts it. “We're going to have these sandbox areas – planets that you'll drop into – where you'll see other players and an ambient threat. In high security systems, where CONCORD (EVE Online's space-cops) are present to protect you, it's more of a social place. Here you'll go looting, with AI-controlled drones trying to stop you.” The story behind Legion is that the big factions are dispatching itemgathering reclaimer drones, but you, playing as a mercenary, wish to obtain the spoils for yourself. “You'll find stuff on the ground and killing drones to make them drop what they've reclaimed,” Gaudechon says. “Then when you get back to the hub you can use the market to make some ISK or use it yourself in the next battle.”

“We already have something like 1,200 items in the game,” says Dulioust. “These include weapons, weapon variations, modules and stuff like that. We'll be adding even more to Project Legion.”

It's the nature of loot that generates the DayZ comparisons for me. There's a bit of Borderlands in there, too. “With loot comes quality of items,” Gaudechon says. “You won't always get the best gear, which keeps it exciting. We want you to feel good when you find a great item.”

“That's the big thing we're adding to the new progression system,” Dulioust says. “In Dust we held peoples' hands a bit more, but in Legion we want people to experiment more, mixing and matching items to create their own unique builds.

“As you go into lower security systems, CONCORD can't protect you and friendly fire is enabled. You'll have to watch out, even for your own friends. In highsec we tell you when people enter the zone, but in lowsec we won't say a word. We want to create that sense of being scared.” Get your loot and get out before someone shoots you, then. “This design allows emergent gameplay and emergent behaviours,” explains Dulioust. “The day a corporation drops into a world and does some kind of flash mob, that's the day we win, because we gave them the tools and the open world to go off-script. We want to create stories like the ones that come out of EVE Online.”

One of the most interesting features of Legion is how it's incorporating PvE elements. “We don't think of PvE as a game mode,” Gaudechon tells me. “It's not about waves of enemies, or survival, or anything like that. It's about ambient threat, much more like an MMO. But the main experience is still the deep PvP. We have game modes like domination, but the idea of PvE is to have a counterbalance to this. Something less intense. You'll be able to team up with friends to tackle tougher enemies, which will in turn get you better gear. In lowsec systems we'll mix PvP and PvE. This will create some of the most interesting PvP in the game, I think, especially with these huge maps. I can see players cloaking and waiting for you to run by, ambushing you and stealing your loot.”

The shift to PC makes sense. Dust was stifled on consoles, but now every capsuleer who plays EVE will be able to play Legion too. How much of a crossover there'll be remains to be seen, and the developers are reluctant to speculate. Legion is early in development, but there's an EVEfaithful vision at CCP's Shanghai studio, dovetailing nicely with the mother game's philosophies.

“We're coming in pretty humble,” says Gaudechon. “We're really excited to be coming to PC. I'm a big PC player myself, so it's a dream project for me. If we do our job right, I think people who play Legion will find themselves eventually crossing over to EVE Online.”

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.