When it was first released back in 2003, EVE Online was a largely empty universe with a smattering of players all trying to grab power and smash each other’s heads in with it. EVE was originally described as a desolate wilderness of constellations, but for some the challenge of taming that wilderness and carving out a chunk of it for themselves was irresistible. The empty world of New Eden was a newly opened book, and those early players were writing the first chapter in each other’s blood. Players who enjoy PvP can become pirates or fight for one of the empire faction’s militias, spending their days playing games of cat and mouse with other players through the low-security areas of the galaxy. They could join one of the warring alliances out in the lawless null-security regions and become part of massive fleet battles, or join a ruthless war corporation looking for weak groups to gank in high-security space. PvE-focused players can grind missions to help the NPC-run corporations of EVE fight off pirates and rival organisations and collect bounties in the process or farm endless streams of NPCs in asteroid belts or cosmic anomalies. Explorers can use scan probes to search space for hidden pirate sites in the hopes of making a big find or even venture through unstable wormholes into one of the thousands of hidden star systems. Industrialists spend their days hoovering up asteroids all throughout New Eden, manufacturing most of the ships and modules players use, and making profit trading on the fully player-run market. The one thing all of these activities have in common is that they’re slow and deliberate, with a lot of downtime between moments of action or surprise. Players will spend hours hunting for that elusive kill for an adrenaline high (combat in EVE is so high-stakes that new players frequently experience physical shaking). Or they’ll spend that time farming ISK, the in-game currency, to replace lost ships, analysing markets for opportunities, and designing the perfect ship setups for particular tasks. You could look at this as busywork or grainy gameplay, but it’s all in preparation for those moments of action that matter most. EVE is, to this day, one of the most fascinating virtual worlds to observe and to read about. On the largest scales, huge alliances gather thousands of players together into massive fleets and carve up lucrative areas of the galaxy between them, giving rise to politics and warfare that often mirrors the real world in startling detail. There are areas of space controlled by coalitions of American and European alliances, regions annexed by the Russian power blocs, and countless neutral states and vassals paying tithe to far-off lords. Most new players will give EVE a try after reading some incredible story of a record-breaking way or political betrayal in the sandbox, only to be confronted by a terminally slow game with so much depth you could drown in it. A combination of more than 15 years of new features and niche gameplay that remains distinct in the MMORPG genre conspire to make EVE a difficult game for the average person to get into and enjoy. EVE’s big saving grace is its unparalleled scale and welcoming community, from the training corps that will show new players the ropes to the alliances that will eventually bring them into the history-making battles that EVE is known for. If you’re in the market for a sci-fi MMORPG that’s more of a long-term hobby than a passing interest, something that you can become deeply engaged with and find a place to belong in, we highly recommend EVE Online. If you manage to scale the learning cliff and aren’t put off by the indirect controls and disharmonious user interface, you’ll be joining one of the most compelling virtual societies in gaming history and a world in which your actions can have real consequences. Just don’t try to go it alone.