No, you don’t have anything better to do for the next year of your life.

In a world seemingly overrun with MMOs, Jumpgate Evolution is going to have a tough time carving its place among the big players. Developed by NetDevil and published by Codemasters Online (who also own D&D Online and LOTR Online), there is no shortage of experience behind the game, but does it deliver the loot? Or does it leave the player grinding away in the endless darkness of space? Read the full story for my impressions.

I should probably preface this report with the fact that I do not typically play MMOs. Not because I don’t like them– far from it. I don’t play them because I know that I would be uncontrollably pulled into the game, only to emerge some six months later with a beard, poor hygiene routines, and my family assuming I am dead.

After spending some time with Jumpgate Evolution at Codemasters Connect08 in Birmingham last Friday, I have a horrible feeling this may soon be unavoidable.

Screencap of Jumpage Evolution

Jumpgate Evolution is, put simply, a space-flight based MMO. The developers have said there will be a deep story built in from the start, with the understanding that the game will be expanded upon in future. You can play as one of three races, with two other races taking the form of NPCs, each having their own distinct style and history.

You will pilot a customisable ship and, as with most MMOs, go on quests, gain experience, find loot, and customise your ship to suit your style. Where Jumpgate Evoluion begins to stray away from your typical MMO comes in its execution. All flying and combat is done in real time and manually. The developers said they were looking for an X-Wing type experience and they have definitely found one.

The controls they have created for flying your ship around are simply stunning. I sat down and instantly began flying around, without realising I hadn’t even thought about what the controls were. They are tight, intuitive and, dare I say it, perfect for this game. When they say they spent 3 months on the controls, it shows.

Which brings me to the combat. No more standing still whilst your auto attack slowly grinds down the enemies, Jumpgate Evolution throws real-time space combat at you. You will find yourself taking part in some epic feeling dogfights.

This is where the instinctive and effortless controls really come into their own. Using the mouse to point where you want to go or shoot, and the keyboard to adjust speed, roll and to strafe allows you to easily pull of some impressive looking, and satisfying manoeuvres.

Screencap of Jumpage Evolution

Another aspect the developers were keen to stress was that you wont be seeing very many open areas. Even though it’s space and space is rather large, you will still find all the areas sufficiently full of moons, space stations and asteroids to not only keep your interest, but also to force you to think tactically.

With a graphical engine designed to work on any standard PC, the game pulls off some very hot looking graphics. The computers at the Omega Sektor in Birmingham (where the event took place) are top of the range, but it was pointed out that the game will still look stunning on your standard rig.

A public beta for Jumpgate Evolution is due to start in just a couple of months so make sure to keep an eye on Ripten for all the latest information. Also, can somebody tell my parents where I am and feed my cat? Thanks.