Electronic Arts closed down Earth and Beyond on September 22 2004. This review is historical.
I’ll say right off the bat here that I haven’t played Earth and Beyond (hereafter: EB) for very long. In fact, as I write this it’ll be my second week. I vaguely recall the launch of this game and didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it at the time.
The October 2003 edition of PC Gamer was released with a DVD that contained three Electronic Arts-published games. The Sims Online, Ultima Online and EB. I tried the Sims Online out for approximately an hour and then consigned it to never will play again status. I’ve played Ultima Online before and didn’t really see the need to resume it. So, I tried EB. From the moment I tried it, I’ve loved it. I do know it’s going to get old; I can already see a lot of the “Fed-Ex” elements in the game now. Many of the criticisms out there on EB focus on the repetitiveness of the jobs and trade runs that are in the game.
Warp Factor 9
EB is set about six or seven hundred years in the future. Mankind has diverged into three different races. The Progen are genetically engineered people who specialize in combat. The Terrans are your basic Earthlings who excel at trade and lastly, the Jenquai who are into exploration and quasi-religious mysticism.
Each of the three races have two subsets, the explorer and the warrior. A Jenquai warrior is known as a Defender whereas the Progen is just that; a warrior. So, in effect, you have six possible classes to play. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot but each of them have distinct skill sets. My main guy, pictured here at the character select screen, is a Progen Warrior.
Each of the six have different ships and these can be customized when you make your character and later on at certain terminals. Customization itself can be a hoot with the color and height and weight combinations you can have and your ship can sport metallic, glossy or matte colors as well as decals and your ship’s name. Yep, you can give your ship a name and it can be seen on the hull in nice red lettering.
Once you’ve done all this, you get to go out into space. A marvellous tutorial holds your hand through nearly all the aspects of the beginning game. It really is done well and you do feel like you know the mechanics of the game once the tutorial is completed.
Like all good MMORPG’s you have “newbie grounds” upon which to practice things and learn the ropes. What’s in each newbie ground is dependent on your chosen race and class combo and each of the six have their own areas that are mutually inaccessible. For my guy, it was Mars Alpha.
In space, people can hear you go ooh
Most modern space games portray the big nothing with lots of colorful clouds and nebulae. EB is no different. Space is gorgeous in EB. Every sector (solar system) you enter has different clouds, asteroids, planets, suns, space stations, weird phenomena and stuff. When I first gated into Saturn my jaw hit the ground. It really does look like you are flying near a gas giant with rings. It is mind-boggingly well done. Have a look for yourself!
In conclusion, it’s a fun game at the start. I’m beginning to see how some people questioned the staying power of the game. There is lot of rinse and repeat in the game, but from what I’ve seen it attracts a loyal following. It’s taken me in for the time being. It’s just a sheer and simple blast to play.
Comparison time: I’ve played EVE: The Second Genesis as well. Both EB and EVE are space-based MMORPG’s but with a few differences. I like comparing things so here we go:
- EVE has far more sectors and solar systems than EB, however, they do tend to look the same, save for planet colors and space cloud colors.
- EB’s sectors are all different. The planets are different in size, type, color and composition etc. You just know you’re in a different place. Enough said.
- You can leave your ship and run around space stations in EB. You can’t leave your ship at all in EVE.
- EB is far, far easier to play and enjoy from the outset than EVE. EVE can be an impenetrable game to a newbie with its complicated menus and options. Not to mention the yawnfest that mining and refining ad anon, can bring on. EVE rewards patience. Or so I’ve heard.
- EB’s combat is a bit more involving than EVE’s.
- Both games have a somewhat complex skill tree. EB’s is perhaps the easier of the two to fathom.
- EB is primarily a non-PvP game. Arenas were added later at player insistence. EVE was written from the ground up for PvP.
- EB’s death penalty is unbelievably simple. You don’t die, your ship gets disabled and you “owe” an experience debt which is paid off either via time offline or by earning experience. In EVE, death means you can lose a hell of a lot; ship, skills, etc. EVE’s is definitely the harsher.
- EB’s locales are real planets and suns, for the most part, like Saturn, Mars, 61 Cygni, etc. EVE’s are all invented, i.e Cistuvaert.
- EB’s interface is a lot cleaner than EVE’s. EVE’s chat system is better than the over-simplified one EB has.
- Travelling anywhere in either game can be a bore. More so in EVE as travelling is forced upon you when you buy things as what you’ve just bought isn’t necessarily anywhere near where you just paid for it. EB gets around the travelling yawn with wormholes which certain classes can “cast”.
- EVE’s ship design is slightly better than EB’s
Alas, I used a little too much compression when I saved these, so there’s some graininess here.