Earth and Beyond Impression

I attended a presentation of Westwood Studios' Earth and Beyond in a small "theater" in the rear of Electronic Arts' booth. The game's producer described the game and its features as several Westwood employees played the game from the rear of the room. The game is a space travel exploration MMORPG that spans across the Milky Way galaxy.

In beginning the game, you can choose from one of three base character types (Warrior, Tradesman, and Explorer) or several hybrids of the main types. The character type you choose will affect your stats and the abilities available to you. Characters are highly customizable, with just about every facet of your character's appearance up to you, from eye color and scars to body type. Just as extensive were the spaceship creation options, which allow customization of a number of spaceship types.

The bulk of the Earth and Beyond will be played from inside your spaceship, although you can walk around on and explore planets, space stations, and the like. In addition to interacting with other players online in the game's world, plenty of missions and random events will be available for both single players and groups.

Earth and Beyond was not playable at the show floor, although I did receive a disc containing the beta version of the game. However, solely from what I saw of the Westwood employees playing the game, I can vouch that Earth and Beyond looks like a top-notch game, as should be expected from a developer like Westwood. The game's interfaces all seem very smooth and intuitive. Space combat and travel are handled with a simple point and click interface, and journeying across long patches of space is plotted and travelled near instantaneously, allowing the game to keep its massive scope (the entire Milky Way) without being tedious.

Earth and Beyond looks all-in-all quite impressive and should be a great change of pace from most MMORPGs. If space exploration in an online world sounds up your alley, Earth and Beyond should do just the trick when it's released later this year.

by Andrew P. Bilyk    
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