Available: 19 August 2002

Earth and Beyond Online © Westwood
Article by Rajen "ThaMaster" K.

After numerous RTS games, Westwood now comes with a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), after the success of titles such as the Dune series and Red Alert 2 they come with a promising looking title named Earth and Beyond.
In this preview you will find my first thoughts on this game and give you the positive and negative sides of the current progress on the game.

The story takes place in our Solar System as well as the surrounding Solar Systems that we know of. But that?s about it concerning any relation to reality. Like any MMORPG you can create a character at the beginning of the game. This comes with the usual color, clothing, accessory and icon customization that MMORPG gamers will be used to. But before you can customize your character, you have to choose his type.

You can choose a character type from 3 races. In the retail games each race will have 3 types to choose from. In the copy used for this preview there were only 2 implemented. The three races from which you can choose are the Jenquai, the Progen and the Terrans. Each having their own advantages and disadvantages. The Jenquai are good explorers and are not suitable for heavy battles. The Progen are the true warriors. They are very strong and have good weapons, but their ships are not as advanced as the Jenquai. The Terrans have a bit of everything, they have medium good weapons and they have semi-advanced ships. You can create up to 5 characters in the game, so don?t worry about choosing, you can always create a new character.

To the character customization has been given a lot of attention. You can modify all sorts of factors on your character. From hair color to tattoos, color eyes to ear pieces and clothing to goggles. Of course your ship has to be customized too, although there are ?standard?-models, you can change the hull and wings to suit your own needs. Here too you can modify all colors, can add a logo to your ship and paint the name on it.

I tested all races and types a bit and I can?t tell you which is very good, and which you shouldn?t choose at all. All races and types have their own advantages and of course disadvantages. The Jenquai have very advanced systems and have a lot of techniques, but the Progen are strong and have a wide range of weapons. The interface and controls are something you get used to over time. The game has an extensive training part for every type of character so this will help you with the controls and various systems on your ship. The training can become a drag after a while; fortunately they have put the training in the form of quests. After you complete a quest, you get a reward; this kept me going to get more rewards and more experience points.

Of course this is a preview and the game is not finished by far. Some ?problems? currently include stuck in warp, no collision and hanging of the game when docking.
There is no code implemented yet that makes you crash when you hit ships or bases, you just fly right through them. Hanging of the game while docking is really annoying. Sometimes you have to wait up to 5 minutes before you actually enter the base after docking, and sometimes you even get kicked off the server if it takes too long. I really like to see if they can fix this in the retail version.
Although at first Earth and Beyond may seem like a flight sim game, it really is a MMORPG. Firing your weapons is literary as easy as pressing a button; aiming is done automatically and you can just press the mouse as often as your weapon allows it. Flying the ship, although not easy at first, becomes really easy as you get the hang of it. After a while you can fly your ship through asteroid fields smoothly without actually hitting an asteroid. Of course this is just an example since there is no collision code in this copy I used for the preview. After you successfully defeated an enemy you can get the loot. You always get some money and from some enemies you can get valuable and less valuable materials. The closer you are to the enemy ?scrap? the faster you pick up its loot. As you stand further away from the scrap you can teleport the loot to your ship, this takes some time so I suggest you move in as close as you can.

Like any MMORPG it?s all about communicating with other players. There are several ways to get in touch with other players; trading, fighting and grouping. Grouping with other players have several advantages. You can share experience points and you even get extra experience points while in a group. You can also quickly call for help to your group-mates and with a push of a button they can warp right to your location and come to help you. There is a guild system being built for Earth and Beyond too. I can?t tell you much about this now, because this is just a preview copy, but from what I have read it looks very promising. You have to have a minimum of 6 players to create a guild. Other players can join the guild too of course. Guilds can challenge each other for credits and items. This is all I can tell you about guilds at this time. I?m looking forward to seeing the guild system in action in the retail version.

Earth and Beyond is a promising looking title. It has a good concept and has good game play. In this beta version I have encountered a few bugs, but nonetheless the game is very addicting. There are a few key features that I would like to see in the retail version such as the fixing of some major bugs, other types of characters and of course the guild system.