EVE Online spinoff shooter EVE Vanguard features customizable weapons that you risk in battle

By Julian Benson, Contributor
EVE Vanguard—the extraction shooter set in the same universe as sci-fi MMO EVE Online, and that’s currently accessible by an active Omega account—was bare-bones when it went into testing in December. It featured just one gun and a single map. In the first build, you could spawn in a level, search for loot, and hunt down other players and AI-controlled NPCs before extracting to the dropship that hangs in orbit over the planet’s surface. Last weeks massive update adds a lot of flesh to those bones—though not in the way you may expect.

“We made a conscious decision of [not] just making more weapons,” Vanguard’s lead product manager Scott Davis says. Instead, the team is incorporating the first version of a system that makes the shooter quite different from most other games; a system translated from EVE Online, which is one of the key reasons why so many players have returned to the MMO every day for more than 20 years.

“This is the first bit of real depth we want to add to EVE Vanguard,” says. “Adaptive weaponry is one of the game’s tentpoles.”

This is my rifle...

While the update doesn’t technically add any new guns to Vanguard’s arsenal, players are about to discover how versatile the Core 80 assault rifle can be.
Eve Online Spinoff Shooter Eve Vanguard Features Customizable Weapons That You Risk In Battle Standoff
“We wanted more depth in how people see combat,” Davis says. “Adaptive weaponry is our first foray into that.” You can now customize your weapon with "chipsets" that completely change how your gun behaves. Modifications include adding different scopes, increasing the weapon’s damage, or upping its fire rate and accuracy. There are currently more than 70 modifications, and you can combine them to turn your basic assault rifle into wildly different styles of weapon.

“I'm not a very twitchy shooter,” Davis says. “I like to stand back, pick off my targets at range, and hide behind things. So what this allows me to do now is to take the base of that Core 80 assault rifle, and stick a 4x zoom on it, make it single-fire, put some recoil suppression on it so I can keep my sights on targets at longer range.” In effect, these adjustments turn a fully automatic assault rifle into something closer to a marksman rifle.

You can also give the same base gun a substantially different configuration on the fly, too. “It might be that I've got a 1.2x zoom on it, high spreads, high damage output, and a burst fire configuration. Now, I've got two effective weapons in battle with me: my long-range and my short-range.” You can take multiple loadouts into battle and swap between them when the situation demands.

Many shooters allow you to customize your weapons, but Vanguard differs from the majority in a particularly cruel way. “If you die on the surface,” Davis says, “you lose it.”

Dealing with loss

In EVE Vanguard, your squad shares a limited pool of respawns. You can increase that pool by cashing in biomass, a resource you can find in crates or collect from the bodies of dead players. However, if you run out of respawns, then you lose everything you were carrying—including all of the chipsets you've used to modify your loadout.

“We’re hoping to add a real sense of cautious strategy to combat,” Davis says. "This adds a lot more meaning to extraction.” Before, you just used extraction to bank the resources you had collected on the battlefield; now it’s the only way to keep hold of all your carefully earned equipment, too.

Developer CCP is aware the danger could make players too cautious, deterring them from fitting rare chipsets into their loadouts out of fear of losing them. However, the team's experience with EVE Online suggests otherwise.
Eve Online Spinoff Shooter Eve Vanguard Features Customizable Weapons That You Risk In Battle View
“We're taking a lot of [knowledge] from EVE here,” creative director Bergur Finnbogason says. “This is basically just how ship fitting works.” A fundamental aspect of CCP’s MMO is that players are free to fit their ship’s hulls with equipment of their choice—however, if their ship is destroyed, they lose everything, including their fancy gear.

Yet players still do fit their ships with expensive equipment, taking it into some of the most dangerous parts of the galaxy because “if you risk it, you're usually rewarded,” Finnbogason explains. The expensive mining laser allows you to bring back a bigger haul of ore, or the valuable capital ship turns the battle in your faction’s favor. These decisions can make the difference between success or defeat.

Using rare chipsets in your Vanguard loadout is a risk, but it might also be what gives you the upper hand.

“It's an interesting exercise to take these fundamentals from EVE and translate it into an FPS,” Finnbogason says. “We did some of that in [the team’s previous shooter] DUST 514, but now we're taking more methodical steps towards making sure it feels correct. It's resulting in a way better game that still has the DNA of EVE Online. Loss has meaning; your equipment matters. It's not just about what you fit; it's also about your skill.”

CCP stresses that while the rarer chipsets produce more extreme results, that doesn’t make them overpowered, as they also come with significant negatives. A modification may significantly increase your gun’s damage output, but it may also have a big kick, increasing recoil and fire spread. “You're constantly trying to find that balance,” Davis says. “We didn't want it to all be about a power curve that players were all trying to climb in the same direction.”

A change of scenery

As well as adaptive weaponry, the other big addition is Vanguard’s second map, Archipelago. The location is a big departure for an EVE game, since they usually feature gray and dark aesthetics.

EVE Online is a massive, massive, massive universe,” Finnbogason says. “We’ve 7700 solar systems [and] we've told the barren rocky planet story so often. Players are gonna be in for a surprise.”

The new map is covered with plant life, beaches, and blue seas. “There is a ship that has scarred the landscape, burning wreckage, polluted waters,” Davis says—after all, it's still an EVE game. “But we've created something that is far more diverse.”

It’s not just the scenery that’s a departure from Vanguard’s last map, Carrion, which was set on a barren planet of volcanic black rock.

“One of the things we really wanted to do is create more verticality,” Davis says. “Carrion was quite a flat map.”

This plays well into the new adaptive weaponry, as you will be able to create loadouts suited to different areas of the map. “[We wanted to] create diverse combat experiences and engagement ranges,” Davis says. As he puts it, players with close-range loadouts that rely on a shotgun or submachine gun will have an easier time in the densely forested areas, but they'll find themselves harassed from afar if they try wide-open areas like the map's beach.

From game to game, depending on what chipsets you’ve unlocked and have fitted into your loadout, you may find yourself avoiding certain areas of the map to focus on the regions your gear is better suited to. “People who like particular flavors [of combat] may be looking at different parts of the map and places where they feel more comfortable fighting, which is really cool,” Davis says. “I don't think we ever really had that on Carrion. It felt like a bowl and everyone was just folded in at the bottom. Archipelago is far more diverse in how it's funneling players around the map.”

More is coming

“We're still in foundational work,” Davis says. “The gameplay is still quite shallow. We're only expecting people to engage with the game for hours rather than days, and the content reflects that.” While this is the most significant update to Vanguard yet, CCP is keen to stress these are still the game’s first steps.

“It's natural for some people to be disappointed we haven't added a second weapon, but once you actually play with the system, you'll really understand what we're trying to do here," Davis says.

What you can see from this update is the direction the team is building toward. In the future, Vanguard will feature a full arsenal of customizable weapons, ones you can spec out to fit your particular playstyle. There will be multiple maps, each showing you a different side of the EVE universe. And—most importantly—if you don’t play carefully, you can lose everything on the battlefield.