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EVE Online expands with free-to-play shooter Project Nova ()

CCP Games is planning a new free to play shooter set in its EVE Online universe, and a mobile app connecting players to the core sci-fi MMO.

Currently in development under the codename Project Nova, the first-person shooter casts gamers as a mercenary out to capture glory and, more importantly, money by taking on the universe's shadiest assassination and corporate sabotage jobs. The game will be exclusive to PC, and is intended to be "a complete reimagination of what it's like to be on the grounds of New Eden," the region of space where EVE Online is set.

After an early hands-on with a pre-alpha build of Project Nova at EVE Fanfest, WIRED sees promise in the game. Currently, it's centred on a stronghold match format, with teams of rival mercenaries battling to take control of key points on a multi-level map. There are three mercenary types – heavy, medium, and light armoured, accordingly ranging in ability from tough but slow to lightning-fast but weak – and six weapon loadouts, offering plenty of variety in player class.

The aspect that feels most in need of improvement at present is map layout. Matches take place on impressive reconstructions of the colossal ships and star bases found in the EVE universe, but they're a bit too big at present, spreading action out too much. However, Project Nova feels very accessible to newcomers, not requiring any real knowledge of the sometimes dauntingly complex EVE continuity.

Project Nova is seen as an evolution of CCP's existing shooter, the PlayStation 3's Dust 514. Sadly for fans of that game, CCP is "sunsetting" the title next month, ending support after three years. Promisingly though, CCP says it will incorporate the lessons it has learned from Dust 514 into Project Nova. Eager shooter fans may have to keep their trigger fingers holstered for a while though, as a release window has yet to be announced.

Players of the core game have something more concrete to look forward to though, with the announcement of an EVE Online companion app. Set to launch in beta form later in summer, with a final release in autumn 2016, the app will connect players to the perpetual world of EVE when they're away from their computers.

Push notifications can alert users of urgent developments – an important tool for players invested in corporations or alliances in-game, where slow response can be ruinous for burgeoning virtual empires – while an activity feed offers complete details, big or small, based on your preferences in the main game. It will also include a built in communications channel and calendar to help coordinate plans (or just keep in touch with fellow players), and allow users to add game time to their paid EVE subscription.

The companion will likely be of huge use to players after Citadel, the next major update to EVE Online, launches on 27 April. The expansion lives up to its name, adding actual citadels to the game. These player-created and -owned superstructures are cities in space, offering hosts of benefits, including security for allied ships in their vicinity, trading outposts, and defence. A full list of the upgrades coming with Citadel can be found here.

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