I have been following Dual Universe ever since it was announced by Novaquark in 2016 and its first alpha back in 2018 and right from the start, it appeared like a highly ambitious project. Developing and maintaining a sci-fi MMO is not an easy feat. However, I was really impressed by the early alphas of the game, and I was always looking forward to seeing what Novaquark will make of its project. On the paper, Dual Universe can be compared with titles such as No Man’s Sky, EVE Online, and factory-building sims like Factorio and other similar titles. Dual Universe is like all of these titles combined into a single game and that is something you cannot simply ignore. This is our review of Dual Universe in which we try to build a spaceship and try not to explode it during our first space ride.
In Dual Universe, a neutron star has collided with the planet earth and the planet has been destroyed. You along with many others are one of the last remaining survivors of the destruction and humanity is now trying to settle on other planets in unknown galaxies. You are introduced to the story of Dual Universe through a narrated cutscene however after this initial cutscene, there are no additional cutscenes or story elements in the game. The story does not play a major role in Dual Universe since the game is basically a sandbox experience tailored in the form of an MMO. After the initial tutorial, there is no handholding of any sort in the game, and you are free to do whatever you want in the game.
You start in Dual Universe after creating your character and unlike most space sci-fi sims, you are not just left all alone on a distant planet. You can pick your starting station from a decent selection along with a starting vehicle as well. After landing on the very first planet of Haven which is itself a moon of another planet, you begin by choosing a hex on the planet that will be your territory. After selecting your territory, you land on the moon and then place down your space station and speeder which are safely tucked inside your inventory. You will spend the initial hours in the game learning about the basics of the game through the initial tutorial and after that, you can complete a dedicated tutorial on every major game mechanic through the surrogate VR station. These tutorials are necessary to complete because Dual Universe is a lot more complicated when it comes to crafting, thanks to its Voxel-based crafting and building.
Resources play an important role in Dual Universe, and they not only allow you to build your own structures and spaceships, but they also play a key role in the economy of the game because Dual Universe features a player-driven economy and every resource’s market depends on its supply and demand by players. You have all of the basic tools that you need such as the mining tool, voxel creation tool, and others right from the start of the game so you do not have to create these small things for yourself which eliminates the need for the crafting cycle that we normally see in most sci-fi survival games. You do not have to worry about eating or drinking as well because Dual Universe is all about exploration, trading, exploring space, and crafting. Dual Universe does not have separate servers for regions, rather every player is connected to one consistent world, and it is evident right from the start of the game.
While trying to find a cool space to put down my starting operations, Haven was filled with creations built by other players so there were not a lot of options when it came to choosing a prime location. Players expand their territories, and they gradually start covering more and more hexes on the map which does not allow any new players to land in those areas and establish their bases. For collecting resources, you obviously start slow and the initial hours in Dual Universe are simply resourcing materials and selling them for in-game credits. You can either collect resources on your own using your mining tool and as soon as you equip the mining tool, all of the available resources in your close vicinity are highlighted on your screen. There are tons of resources for you to collect in their raw form. Apart from your own mining tool, you can create and deploy mining stations that regularly collect and deposit a particular resource in your storage. However, you must calibrate it regularly in order to ensure its efficiency is maintained. Like I said before, resources play a vital role in the game because they are the only source of income for you at the beginning.
When you are ready for crafting, you can use these resources and materials in their raw form to create more advanced resources which are actually used in crafting and building. If you are after rarer resources, you will need to explore the planet and find yourself a new patch of land to acquire because your initial territory will only offer you a set of basic resources. However, it is not very easy because each land you acquire in Dual Universe is heavily taxed so you have to be very careful where you expand and where you do not want to expand because if you expand to another hex on the map but do not do anything useful on it, you will be just paying a higher tax price for nothing. This is probably to encourage players to only expand their territory when they really have to and give additional players some space to settle around them as well. In short, the more you want to expand for resources, the more land you will need to acquire and the more tax you will need to pay.
Crafting plays a vital role in Dual Universe because this was one mechanic that really outsmarts all of the MMOs out there in the market. Dual Universe features a voxel-based crafting and building system which means that you can literally create anything and any shape using the materials that you have using a simple tool. While this sounds really cool, the actual building process is a lengthy and time-consuming process in Dual Universe because everything that you create in the game comes with its own timer and there is nothing that you can do about them. Normally, you can simply find the blueprints, collect the resources, and use a fabricator-type mechanic to create what you want but not in Dual Universe. The game gives you complete freedom to create whatever you want as long as you use the right nesting components and materials.
This is where the game gets complicated and grindy because creating things in Dual Universe takes a lot of time due to timers attached to the process. It will also take a long time for you to actually complete something since you will be collecting resources and grinding through the building process at the same time. Creating voxels and from them, actual buildings and spaceships are actually really fun, but you need to be in the right mindset to enjoy this part of the game. If you have previous experience playing titles like Factorio, you will get the grips quickly here, but you will also notice that this is way more complex and detailed. While you are exploring the planets, you will come across creations made by other players, and you will just look at how detailed they are, and they really show you how powerful the voxel-based crafting system of this game really is. Apart from the building, the resource collection takes plenty of time in the game as well if you are looking to create some advanced materials, so you need to be very patient when playing Dual Universe.
Dual Universe features a player-driven economy. However, for selling items in the market, you have to travel physically to a marketplace that is available near you. This adds an extra task to your list because your initial speeder is not that fast either, making the start of the game tedious. Normally, you would expect to sell the resources and materials right from your inventory or at least use a physical location to sell them off but there are none in your base and you have to physically visit marketplaces to sell your items. Apart from resources you mine or collect, you can also sell your creations such as spaceships that you can create in the game. However, you have to see if you will be able to sell them before investing a lot of time in building them. So far, resources are the easiest thing to sell in the market since most of the players are always looking for different resources.
Apart from building different things, collecting resources, and expanding your territory in the game, you will also spend a lot of time heading out into space and exploring different planets as well. Apart from your starting speeder, you can either create your own ship or purchase from other players or the market. These ships vary in their purpose and depending on whether you want to fight with other players, want to carry a lot of cargo, or have a balance between the two, you will need a powerful enough ship to propel you and everything you have out of your current planet’s atmosphere. Mostly we see that cargo weight and engine power do not really affect take-offs but in Dual Universe, you will need a powerful enough ship to push you out of the planet since you will have various factors to watch out for such as the planet’s gravity. The controls fall somewhere between simulation and arcade however you have to watch out for various aspects as it took me a little time to get used to the flying controls of the game.
Exploring outside your current planet, you are able to visit other planets in Dual Universe’s lone star system. At launch, you only have a few planets to explore in a single star system however every planet is unique and looks beautiful but sadly they all feel barren and there is not much to see there. If you are lucky, you will run into some other players but apart from there, all you will see are empty planets with beautiful locations and scenery. This remains a big problem because Dual Universe at this point is simply limited and focuses on building rather than exploration. There is not much to explore outside these barren planets at this point so after a few trips, you will not be visiting these areas again unless you have some sort of a particular task leading you to these locations.
Welcoming players into a game that has a subscription-based model right from the start is not an easy task and even companies like Blizzard are now offering some chunk of their titles for free before players need to subscribe to World of Warcraft in order to continue their adventure. This might be a barrier for a lot of players who do not want to commit to a subscription-fee right from the start because most of the players actually want to jump into the game and see if the game offers enough content in order to justify its monthly pricing. With Dual Universe, while the game certainly has the depth and complexity for you to invest hours and hours into it, it does not offer the same level of immersion or the player base for long-term sustainability.
Even if you decide to dish out the cash and jump into the game, Dual Universe is still far from complete despite launching its 1.0 version back in September 2022. Apart from the obvious low player count, low space exploration, and the market system still being in shambles, the game has a lot of technical issues and bugs right from the very first tutorial. The tasks are often glitched and sometimes even if you are doing the right thing, the tutorial just won’t progress further. I got stuck trying to get into my speeder for the first time in the tutorial and I had to shut down the game and try it again in order to make it work. Novaquark is currently working on Dual Universe, and I hope these issues and glitches are on their radar because unless they are removed from the game, adding new content will not improve the game much.
Dual Universe is a complicated game, and it is not intended for casual players at all. It features a difficult-to-master building mechanic which is excellent on paper, but it still requires additional development work and optimization to make it better and flawless. There are plenty of bugs and glitches in the game which are a major factor why Dual Universe is still unable to gain more traction and the developer should look into problems and try to resolve them as quickly as possible. Implementing simplified controls for flying and building might attract more players to the game as well. However, in its current state, Dual Universe is a complicated affair and requires a lot of hard work, grinding, and dedication for you to really enjoy it which might be a little off-putting for a lot of players. If you love space sims and are looking for something really complex and highly detailed, you can give Dual Universe a shot and see if you are willing to invest hours upon hours building spaceships and space stations in it.