Eve Online is one of the oldest MMOs running, yet it remains one of the most unique. The title’s massive world, meaningful player-on-player combat and wide variety of ships provide an experience that no other game can match.
The truth is there’s no comparison for Eve Online. Nothing is the same. There are a few games that manage the same flavor, however, and can satisfy Eve players burnt out by the MMO’s grindy gameplay and vicious fighting. Here are the six best alternatives.
Star Gem’s free-to-play space shooter is an under-rated title that’s unfortunately flown under the radar of most gamers. The game is essentially the space-faring equivalent of Team Fortress 2; two teams of players fly about a map to capture objects or annihilate the enemy captain.
Combat is the focus here; while the term “MMO” has be used in conjunction with Star Conflict, this is a persistent shooter at best. Fortunately, the combat is excellent. Unlike Eve, where a hit is often determined by stats, Star Conflict operates as a third-person shooter. Your shots travel where you point them and, in the case of projectile weapons, you need to lead your target. While the game doesn’t include capital ships, it does have vessels ranging in size from tiny, agile interceptors to lumbering, heavily armed frigates.
This is undoubtedly the most Eve-like of the games listed here. Like Eve, X3: Terran Conflict takes place in a large universe with many possibilities. You can fight it out as a combat pilot, learn intergalactic trade, or explore the stars. The game world isn’t as large as Eve Online, but the options are similar.
Unfortunately, X3: Terran Conflict has another similarity to Eve; a hopelessly obtuse interface and general disinterest in helping new players get into the game. Nothing’s explained well and you can quickly find yourself dead or, worse, bored. You’ll need to read some fan-made tutorials online and keep the X3 wiki at the ready. Once you’re comfortable with it, though, X3 is the closest you can get to Eve Online without actually playing it. And, since its offline, you can install mods!
X3: Terran Conflict is $15.99 on Steam. There’s a new game, X3: Rebirth, but it’s harshly criticized for bugs, lack of content and poor optimization. You may also want to check out X3: Albion Prelude, a sorta-sequel that builds on Terran Conflict and provides a new campaign.
Space Rangers HD is the re-release of Space Rangers 2: Dominators, a cult classic from 2004. The game thrusts you into the role of an independent pilot navigating a galaxy under siege by vicious AI warriors bent on domination. Your mission is to help save the galaxy while amassing your own personal fortune.
The Dominators attack systems on their own, and those systems defend themselves however possible. While you can attack the Dominators directly, victory is more likely to be secured by helping planets and systems by eliminating pirates, completing quests and assisting research. This provides the NPCs with better weapons to fight their foes. But don’t think combat is boring; the turn-based system, while unusual, is complex and challenging. Gamers who prefer the direct approach will not be bored, though you’ll need to upgrade your ship before you can fight the AI head-on.
Not everything about the game is great. Some quests involve text-based puzzles that can be frustrating. There’s also an RTS sub-game about planetary defense against the Dominators – and it’s terrible. Thankfully, you can ignore it if you choose.
FTL, aka Faster Than Light, is an indie darling and one of Kickstarter’s best success stories. The game is a rouge-like in which you attempt to escape perusing rebel Forces intent on destroying your ship and killing your crew. To get away you must jump through various star systems, each with a random encounter.
Like most rogue-likes, FTL is extremely hard to beat, which will no doubt please Eve veterans. Extremely precise management of ship systems, and the crew manning them, is mandatory. You must deal with enemy ships, random encounters that may help or hinder you, and boarding parties intent on killing your crew. While there’s no level progression there are unlocks, including new ship types, which extend the game’s longevity. The design of your ship is extremely important, so unlocking one is like discovering a new map in an RPG.
Coming Soon: Star Citizen / Elite: Dangerous
There are other space games, of course, but the ones above are the only modern titles I consider worth your time. Many entries in this genre, like Vendetta Online and Black Prophecy, have proven to be thoroughly mediocre, lacking the strange magic of Eve.
Two games provide a glimmer of hope in this stale genre, however; Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous. Both are developed by individuals who worked on classic titles like Wing Commander and Elite, both will feature online and offline game modes, and both promise to provide a dynamic game world in which gamers can trade, fight or explore.
There are a number of distinctions between them, of course, but they’re too many to list here. Star Citizen is expected to release in 2015 and Elite: Dangerous is scheduled for late 2014.
Veterans of Eve will find no replacement for their first love, but these games can ignite a similar passion. If you’ve played one of the space-faring games above – or another title not listed here – let us know why you think it does (or doesn’t) come close to Eve.