E3 2010: Hands-on with Jumpgate Evolution

At E3 yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down and play some Jumpgate Evolution. Yes, I said Jumpgate Evolution: the game we've all feared was going away after announcements of its indefinite development. Interestingly enough, this is a game that many of you have shown great interest in. Is the game still alive? Is it playable? When's it releasing?

Well, luckily for you, most of those questions were answered at E3. Not only is it playable, I spent probably 30 minutes barrel-rolling and dogfighting my way through a handful of tutorial quests. Is it ready for primetime, though? Follow along after the jump to find out my E3 hands-on impressions of the highly-anticipated space action MMO.
Let me start off by saying that JGE is much deeper than I'll talk about here. The first demo I saw involved an explanation of the backstory and factions in the game. The three factions allow the game to be told through three "very separate lenses" as we were explained at the demo.
First, there's Solrain. They're a corporate nation which is all about privatized companies running everything. When you start out with Solrain, you're a member of a security firm called "The Company" and your objective is profit through conflict.

The second faction is Quantar. This faction is all about honor through battle and can be considered a stark contrast to Solrain. They're not considered a single nation, but more like a council of lords. When you start out with the Quantar, you're a member of The Brotherhood: a secret organization that could be comparable to the Knights Templar. Their foundation is much more formal and traditional than the other factions.

Octavius is the third nation, and the one that was featured for E3. They stand for domination through war. They're very imperialist and militaristic, ruling with an iron fist. As a player, you begin as a member of The Regiment, the Emperor's personal bodyguards of sorts.

These contrasting factions lead to the reason for PvP, showing us that there's a deep history behind the conflict. These factions also contribute to the way the game world grows and changes. The persistence of the universe is always changing, allowing the lore and storyline to mold what you see. You can enter the world at any time and see how players and the factions are changing things around you. There are no instances in JGE, so everything matters to everyone else.

In my hands-on, I piloted a small Octavian ship through the beginning missions. Despite a comprehensive tutorial system showing me the ropes, I was able to ignore those pop-up tips windows and feel my way through an extremely easy-to-grasp control system. Mouse movement dictates direction, while the W and S control thrust. A and D are more of a strafing movement and Q and E let you show off some impressive barrel rolls. I was also told there were some more advanced controls with the R and F key, but we didn't get into those in my limited time. Combine these keys with your mouse movement to pull off some stunts that prove why this game will be a huge hit with those looking for real space combat.

So now I want you to imagine the possibilities here. Imagine these types of controls with the speed and responsiveness you've always wanted in a space combat game. The development team made sure to show off their focus on action in this game. You're not setting a course for an asteroid and going to grab a sandwich. You're zipping your ship around giant space stations, through asteroid caves, between space junk and through debris fields, trying to lose that other player before he gets a lock on you, turning your own ship into debris.

When asked about the whole MMO part of JGE, we were told that it has what you'd expect as far as character progression, development and advancement. You collect loot from downed ships to work towards better gear. There's a deep achievement system that rewards you for mostly everything you do. While the question of piloting gigantic capital ships was expertly avoided, we learned that you will have more than just a small starfighter to control, eventually.

So let's break it down here:

The Good

- The controls and easy to grasp and master. That says a lot coming from a guy who prefers his feet planted firmly on the game's ground. I had no problem learning the ropes and was out-maneuvering the enemy AI quite effectively.
- Watching this game in action made me realize something: games need to be this gorgeous to even compete with anything these days. I see so many games that graphically knock me off my feet, but it's because the bar has been raised so high by single-player games. JGE is no exception.
- From what I heard about the lore, it doesn't sound unique at all, but it does sound like it will play a huge part of the game. I'm excited about what can be done with this through factional warfare (in JGE's open PvP world), events and endgame.

The Bad

- When will this game ever release? It seems very near completion, yet many of my questions were met with answers revolving around "We haven't decided that yet."
- Lag could literally kill this game. Putting so much emphasis on fast-paced, action-y combat leaves a game like this open to huge problems if the slightest latency is felt. That said, in a controlled, closed environment at E3, I felt absolutely no lag whatsoever.
- This isn't really a fault of the game, but it will inevitably be compared to death with EVE Online. That's a hard sell to make for such dedicated fans of such a niche market. But are EVE Online players ready for JGE? That's the question.

Conclusion

I don't feel like I saw enough of the game to comment on much more than entry-level PvE combat, but that part was fun. So fun that I lost track of time quite easily. If I took away impressions from the first 30 minutes of the other space combat games and compared them all, Jumpgate would win.

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This article was originally published on Massively.