Dust 514 is an ambitious game to say the least. Who would have thought that a subscription-based spaceship MMO and a free-to-play multiplayer FPS would work in tandem with each other? The folks at CCP Games, the hands behind EVE Online, were not content to simply create an online shooter that shared the same setting as the EVE universe. The two games are interconnected and running together on the same server, which allows Dust and EVE players to interact on some previously unseen levels with real-time Dust ground battles taking place on the planets within the larger EVE universe.
That said, while EVE players can rain down orbital bombardments into Dust battles and corporations spanning both games can reap the rewards for having their Dust mercenaries capture and hold territory for them, a lot of the interactions that will stich the two games together even more are still pending. That means your average Dust 514 player, who may not even care about EVE Online, might not fall too deep down the rabbit hole. Ultimately your ability to scratch below the surface will determine whether or not Dust 514 is worth the heavy amount of time you need to invest in it.
While there is no single-player portion or story to Dust 514, the game is not without some world building. The central premise is that the Dust mercenaries, like their EVE pilot counterparts, are essentially immortal. A newly recovered technology allows for their consciousness to be downloaded at death and then simply slipped into a fresh clone. So the best and brightest soldiers keep getting better and never wear down with age. It doesn't particularly change much from your typical multiplayer shooter, but it's a nice nod to linking lore and mechanics, since instead of some ambiguous reinforcements you're actually depleting the enemies clone reserves. It becomes a focus for the endgame of capturing and holding districts for your corporation. Districts generate a supply of military-grade clones for you, and you'll need to stockpile these clones for when you inevitably attack another district or have to defend your own.
The one gameplay mechanic it does inform is how Dust 514 handles your equipment. Before entering into battle you can purchase armor, weapons and other equipment on the market and save them to various load-outs. You're going to want to buy in bulk though because each time you die you lose everything equipped this way. You'll occasionally salvage some items from participating in battles, but the money you earn is easily enough to keep you stocked in basic to medium level gear as it's all priced for buying in large quantities. When you reach the upper end of the technology and skills tree is where it gets interesting, and you'll have to weigh the risks of bringing all your shiny prototype weapons into a firefight. Better gear could mean a better score, which leads to more money, but you're also going to be out a fair chunk of change if you're not careful. This extra level of stakes really helps to set Dust apart from its kin.
This interplay between losing your gear, skilling up for better weapons and customizing your loadouts becomes the frame of Dust 514's free-to-play structure. Every new Dust mercenary starts with a certain amount of skill points that you can invest in skills like Light Weapons or Repair Tools and diving fully into character customization that gives you a lot of freedom to make some unique loadouts to suit your needs and style. There are still some systems in place to limit exactly what you can fit and how much, but Dust 514 has one of the most in depth character customizations of any shooter when it comes to customizing your loadouts. Take it slow, though, as it can be easy to invest too many points right away and they won't come that quickly afterwards. You're free to experiment with a lot of ideas, as you could create a character around scout dropsuits, with stamina boosters and a shotgun who just goes around blasting folks and hacking points, or make the ultimate logistics support specialist with drop uplinks, repair tools and nanite injectors to get fallen comrades back on their feet. The better your tech, the more it costs and the higher the skill requirements are.