So I spent the vast majority of last evening playing Earth And Beyond, EA‘s space MMORPG. And well? I don’t think I’d pay a monthly fee for this. It’s much like an old-style MUD, in that it seems clearly pointed at hack’n’slah/loot/pillage style gaming, rather than roleplaying (which is main complaint with every MMORPG I’ve encountered so far). Essentially, you are the pilot of a ship and you go out into space to kill enemies, mine asteroids for materials, loot space junk and then go back to trade the stuff you get in a space port. Over and over and over again. Sure, there are missions that require you to do some combo of these things, but little else as far as I could tell.
In terms of interacting with other playes, you can form ‘groups’, which provide you combat & exploration bonuses, allow you to get XP faster and that’s about it. You don’t even need to be anywhere near your group to get these bonuses, and they also appear to only apply whilst in space. I joined a couple of different groups while I played, and I don’t think my group had any interactions at all (besides a fellow group member stealing a particular type of loot that I wanted). So we weren’t really a group.
I guess the game was fun in the way any FPS is fund – for kicks for a short period of time, but not really enthralling. With incredibly weak dialogue options, interactions with the NPCs are almost painful, and with no real reason to interact with other PCs,there’s really no point in this being multiplayer – it would, at least in my experience of it, have been much more fun as a standalone game in the vein of Privateer, that old Wing Commander spin-off game. At least Privateer had hollywood actors in it (I think it was Malcolm McDowell).

What I will say for Earth and Beyond is that the character creation process is amazingly simple and the customizations that can be done for your character are fantastic, making the creation process very enjoyable. I was also impressed with the very straightforward character advancement method. There are 3 types of XP: combat, exploration, trade. To get a skill point (used to increase you skills), one of those three must ‘fill up’. At that point, you gain a level in that XP type and your overall character level goes up. For instance, when I quit, I was level 7, which broke down as Combat 3, Exploration 3, Trade 1.

So I’ll try out a couple of the other classes/races (you choose a profession, which determines your race), and take advantage of the beta test, but I don’t think I’ll play it on an ongoing basis. If you like the way current MMORPGs work, you may like this game also. For an old-school type like me, bred on table-top & former MUSHers, where the systems are secondary to the interactions, these current MMORPGs just don’t quite cut it yet.