Thought i could write a summary of currently available spaceship combat themed MMO-s out there (At least the ones i am aware of), what i like about them, and what not so much. So let’s begin:
What other game to start with, than EVE Online. My numero uno candidate for having the potential of being the perfect game, still. Even after i stopped playing it after 6+ years because the developers having taken a direction i do not like. EVE Online has the best ship fitting system. Ship fitting is the single most attractive feature to me in any spaceship game. EVE does it awesome. We can spend hours just planning possible ship setups.
EVE also has an awesome PVP system, that is unlike any other MMO i encountered. Simple to use, but very complex, unlike some of the more popular MMO-s, skill does not mean having to press 20 different ability buttons with split second precision, but actually using tactics while fitting, and then piloting your ship in combat. There is range dictation, damage dealing, electronic warfare, energy warfare.
EVE, unlike other MMO-s has a very harsh death penalty. I always liked that, because it gave winning or dying an additional sense of weight other games could not convey. If you lost your ship, you actually was about to tear your hair out of frustration. And if you won, you knew your victim did feel the same. This could give a kind of satisfaction no other game could.
The downside of the game is, that it always was kind of like a second workplace. The harsh death penalty, and other gameplay aspects require you to actually work in the game, to get the required financial backbone. Recent balancing changes made it so, that some of the fun activities are even more expensive/harder to access now. The multiple factors that made me stop play EVE in the end might be worth a separate post in the future.
Star Trek Online:
Reluctant to try it at first, when i realized that EVE irreversibly changed for the worse, i gave it a shot. Surprisingly, the space combat was quite enjoyable. It even had decent ship fitting. I quicky found myself calculating DPS, and other stats, similarly how i done it for EVE. Spending hours to plan my ship setup. As a huge Star Trek fan, i also enjoyed flying beautiful Federation ships.
But there were 2 huge let-downs to the game. First, the ground part. I absolutely believe STO would have been a better / more succesful game if they omitted the ground part altogether. Or at least, made it optional. Like Star Wars Empire of War, where you could simply set the ground missions to auto-resolve. After a while, the ground missions were all but a burden i had to endure in order to get the next enjoyable space part.
The other thing that sort of killed the game experience for me had something to do with PVP balancing. Some more hardcore STO players might call me a noob here, but bear in mind, im a casual player. So, up until hitting the maximum level of the game (lvl 50), i used to be quite good at PVP. So good, that i had most DPS about 80% of the time i played a PVP match. It was not uncommon where i had more DPS than all of the team combined. I was quite satisfied, as it seemed all my calculations paid off. Then, one day i hit level 50. Eagerly i joined a PVP match, and then…. my glorious ship was FUCKING OBLITERATED in like 2 seconds by some insane stream of unending DPS. My mind was blown, jaw dropped somewhere at the other end of the room. After slowly starting to comprehend what just happened, i respawned in my ship, and tried again. Sort of same result. My life expectancy varied between 2 and 5 seconds after being engaged. Of course i tried other PVP matches. Results were sometimes a bit better, sometimes not, but it was nothing like when i was below lvl 50. I even bought a premium ship from their store, thinking ‘if this is what you need to stay competitive, then whatever, lets try..’, but to no avail. In my best matches i managed to have like mediocre DPS, in my damage fitted premium ship. I tried reading up all sorts of guides, and it seemed that you need some very specific set of ultra high level gear and weapons to stay competitive. But WTF… everyone at lvl 50 instantly has those? And what if i want to retain a bit of personality to my ship, and keep my purple beams? I even got nifty max level ones of those. Anyway, such a sudden, unexplained, glaring change in PVP performance does not seem right (even after buying premium content), it’s ought to be more of a balancing than a skill issue.
Also, unlike EVE, STO has no real death penalty. Similar to most MMO-s in this regard. While it is easier to take losses, it takes away that special satisfaction, and heightened adrenaline you got from EVE PVP.
Dark Orbit, Spaceship Command, BSG Online etc..
The browser games. I actually don’t know any other full-blown MMO-s featuring spaceship combat. The browser games are usually all much simpler than they should be, having incredibly primitive fitting system if any, rudimentary, or no physics, and quite limited choice of options. They are also obnoxiously pay-to-win oriented.