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EVE Online's free-to-play Arms Race update is live

Space might be getting busier

EVE Online’s ‘Alpha Clone’ accounts have gotten a major upgrade today, bringing the sprawling space sandbox one step closer to free-to-play. Alpha accounts are essentially trial accounts, letting players experience EVE Online forever, but with some strict limitations in terms of ships, weapons and skills. The Arms Race update pulls back some of these limitations, letting free players finally flit about in higher tier ships and learn more skills.

Until now, Alpha players could only fly 21 different ships, but Arms Race bumps that number up to 145 by removing the faction restrictions and by throwing battleships and battlecruisers into the mix. This doesn’t just add some extra diversity -- it means free players will be able to fill fleet roles and explore PvE and PvP activities that were previously out of reach because they had the wrong ship.

You can get a brief taste of all the options now open to free players in the video below.

Of course, being able to buy a ship doesn’t mean you’re able to use it competently. So much of EVE is tied to its skill system, and since Alpha players didn’t have access to the bigger ships, they didn’t need advanced skills. Now they do. More than 100 skills have been tweaked or unlocked.

A skill point cap means that, if you’re playing for free, you still won’t be able to max out all of your skills. So you’ll need to prioritise, upgrade your account to Omega status, buy them from other players or purchase a daily alpha injector, the latter of which nets you a bunch of extra skill points. Ultimately, it means that you’ll either have to become a subscriber or at least spend a little bit of money if you want to get past the cap.

CCP is hoping that Alpha players will now get to experience what EVE’s really like, big ships and all. It’s certainly tempting. The Alpha trial felt like a great introduction to the game, but it was still full of invisible walls and compromises, and I bounced off it pretty quickly. Now I’m thinking about returning.

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