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Free Space: Black Prophecy First Impressions

The free-to-play space MMO Black Prophecy is out in the EU, and there's a beta underway for North America. I decided to take a look over the past couple of days and have written up a little about my experience. Read on for sparkling wit and space-insight.

The initial pleasing thing about Black Prophecy is that it has a character creator almost the same as Eve's old character creator. Stretch those cheekbones, select those facial tattoos, and you're ready to meet the vacuum (of space). Yes, there's actually a similar tone here between Eve and Black Prophecy, they're both dramatic far-future “hard” science fiction scenarios that are taking themselves quite seriously. But that - and the fact that you fly your ship in third-person, as if it were a gun in an FPS - seems to be where the similarities end. The tutorial for Black Prophecy makes that quite clear, as your first job is to man the turret of a colony ship that is under attack by raiders. Black Prophecy is an MMO, but it's an action MMO in a way that Eve is not, and you are in direct control of your ship (when you get one), where it flies, and what it shoots.

A little later in the tutorial you are indeed given the basic ship, and you whizz about shooting stuff, a theme which continues for pretty much as far as I've seen into the game. The combat looks great, but is actually a little wobbly. The enemy ships pretty much (so far at least) just turn around in circles, so although you will get shot up if you stay still, you will find yourself standing still precisely because that's the easiest way to track the targeting reticules of your enemies. It's an entirely lightweight combat game, at least for now, but there's the promise of many different modules aboard your ship and some more sophisticated (and larger) enemies to come. Not that the game is particularly good about presenting all this. Like some other games I could mention, it simply slaps a fairly crap UI over everything and has you hope for the best. I'm not going to complain too much about that, because at least you can actually fly your ship, and at least someone is making an effort to make a space game that isn't either based on Elite, or 2D.

Having browsed a bit of what is available from the game as I level up, I can see that there's a bunch of group and combat missions awaiting me that will require some co-ordination to take down large enemy ships and so on. So that could be entertaining. Right now though, it's a lot of shooting small, circling craft. They go bang in an okay way, I suppose, and the faux-Star Wars score is appropriate.

Two things are killing this for me right now, however. One is that it's fairly laggy, especially in the evening. This doesn't seem to do too much to interfere with killing enemy spaceships or interacting with things in space, but it does make the entire experience feel a weird and jerky. I want SMOOTH space interactions, not a ship that appears to have something wrong with its clutch control. The other issue is OH MY GOD IT'S AN MMO. How do I know this? Well, I've just taken on a mission, central to my progress with the first NPC, and it's a "kill x of y mission". I've flown out to nearby sectors and - whaddya know – there's a queue of people waiting for x of y to spawn. I zoomed around some lovely shiny space rocks, waiting for some to spawn. Some other guy got there first. Sigh. It was at this point that I logged out to write some impressions.

Nevertheless I'm also inclined to return and face the grind for two reasons. Firstly, it's free, and a pretty high quality game for a game that really doesn't seem to be doing much to insist you look at its shop. In fact it's beautifully presented and, if they can get some more server muscle behind the game, it could be an interesting space-based experience. Secondly, I am searching, always searching, for a PvP MMO that actually interests me. I am a bit numb to PvP experiences since the giddy heights of Eve fleet and skirmish combat, so I'll be interested to see whether the Tyi vs Genides racial war of Black Prophecy provides anything worth sticking around for. And that's going to require some levelling up.

Is anyone else having a look at this? Thoughts?

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