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The free EVE Vanguard is Escape from Tarkov in space, and I love it

As I jump into EVE Online's pre-alpha test for standalone sister game EVE Vanguard, do I think this will be the FPS hit CCP Games seeks?

Eve Online Vanguard

EVE Online revealed its standalone sister FPS, Eve Vanguard, back at Fanfest in September, and the community response was mixed. Some were thrilled that CCP Games is heading back in the FPS direction, while others believe the company should have learned from its previous attempt, Dusk 514, and stuck to what it excels at. With the First Strike test now available for all Omega subscribers, I jump into a few games with CCP developers to get a sense of whether the team’s onto a winner with its Escape from Tarkov-like extraction shooter.

My first instinct is the UI is clean and easy to navigate. The most annoying aspect is working out how to mute my party chat in-game as we talk over Discord, but a quick trip to the settings menu soon remedies that. Finding friends is easy – after entering the Vanguard client, which stands separately from EVE Online but is booted up from the same launcher, you select your Vanguard name for the FPS game. To find others, a search box appears after clicking ‘invite’ and within seconds you’re grouped up and ready to deploy.

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Dropping into the destroyed battlefield, I’m immediately struck by the scenery. There are acidic bogs spewing lethal green mist, burning wreckages, and loot boxes strewn across the landscape. I take a minute to absorb the atmosphere, and then follow my teammates. They tell me how to identify if a loot box has anything in it – there’s a light that will glow blue or green if it’s full, which will dull once it’s empty. These little quality-of-life touches save valuable time and make the Vanguard experience that bit more seamless.

While I’m still trying to get to grips with how to tell players apart from NPCs, my developer teammates give me some good pointers – the latter might be a bit more unbothered by your presence and less tactical. I do note that it seems like an NPC’s tendency to swoop on you while you’re preoccupied with reloading or looting a crate seems to have increased since the live demo at EVE Fanfest this September.

The burned Eve Vanguard battlefield glows orange as the player aims down sights

It’s important to be prepared for Vanguard. Looting boxes and bodies will give you nanites, biomass, and cash that you can use to create clones so your teammates can respawn after death. Banking cash means it’s safe on your account, even if you don’t successfully extract, and you can use the nanites with other materials to craft ammo. There’s only one weapon available for the First Strike test – but it’s quick, responsive, and has an alternate firing mode to deal with different shield types.

Being surrounded by an enemy team gets the adrenaline rush going, and a helpful in-game ping system assists communication between us. I note that it would be useful to include an in-game kill feed, so we can see when a teammate has successfully downed an opponent, and ease off the advance.

The Eve Vanguard UI is intelligible and straightforward

Currently, you can accept deployment and faction contracts to give your Vanguard playthrough a bit more purpose. In our first game, I picked up a contract to eliminate 20 opponents but fell short of this by extracting at around 14 eliminations. The progress is easily visible on the HUD, and your teammates’ progress also contributes to it.

The basics of crafting and FPS fundamentals are also present, and a roadmap shared with me prior to the First Strike launch tells me that industrial objectives and capsuleer contracts will arrive down the road. There’s no further information on what these look like yet, but it’s promising to have a roadmap made public from the game’s inception.

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For a First Strike test, Vanguard has included everything it needs to. The gunplay is smooth, squadding up with friends is seamless, and the tutorials aren’t invasive but give the right prompts to direct you to crafting ammo, learning how to exfil, and how to bank cash – the core elements of a run of Vanguard. I’m struck by how in control we are of our approach – we can run around and loot as much as possible, then run into greater threats as more players get eliminated, or we can dash in, be efficient, achieve our goals, and successfully exfil in under ten minutes.

Vanguard is so far fresh and fun. It’s difficult to make comparisons to CCP Games’ previous effort, Dusk 514, as the objectives and nature of the game are so different, but it’s inevitable that some community members will make that connection. For me, I’m excited to see a new space game from CCP set within the EVE Online universe that has the potential to enhance the main game later down the line.