For months now, I knew what I was going to do with my tax return. I had spent most of the year with the knowledge that I would be getting a next-gen console at the turn of the year. I had great hopes for Destiny and a number of other games. And yet, as each game fell shorter and shorter of their own hype, my future investment grew dimmer and dimmer. Not that my expected finances would not support the purchase, but because the available games were... lackluster. But as my real world friend Popo began to enjoy his new laptop and explore the various games available to him, he stumbled upon an old favorite of mine.

Science Fiction has long been one of my favorite genres. And chief among the category, those set in space top the charts. If you're talking television shows, then Farscape tops the list of best Space SciFi shows, in my heart at least. When it comes to books, I'd place Ender's Game or (oddly) Halo: The Fall of Reach at the top of the charts. If you're talking movies... you've got quite the selection to choose from, and all of which are amazing for their own reasons. Star Trek IV, Alien, Event Horizon, Star Wars Episode IV, and even the recent Star Trek and Star Wars remakes and prequils are all amazing movies (even though Event Horizon falls much closer to the Horror genre than SciFi). But if we're talking about videogames, then Eve Online tops all charts.

Quite simply, there is nothing like it. You can find better graphics, more interesting physics, better interfaces, more hands-on combat, an easier learning curve, a better story, and about any other qualification you desire in a number of other videogames set in space. But Eve Online has one category in which it has no true rival. Sandbox.

Eve Online provides gamers with the single greatest sandbox experience available outside of pen and paper. And with a player base in the tens of thousands (note; It's hard to get a solid estimate when there are over 500,000 active subscriptions and many people run multiple subscriptions at once.) any would-be competitor is going to have a hard time competing with the millions of hours of in-game content and activity created by the players themselves.

And as Popo regales me with his exploits into the kiddy-pool, my decision is made for me. Instead of spending my tax return on an Xbox One or a Playstation 4, I spend twice as much on a gaming desktop.

Thanks Popo. My wallet hates you.

But now, finally, despite the financial investment (which I am quite happy with by the way), I am back and Uncle Hybrid roams the stars once again.

True, I'd love to be able to change the name of the character I created 8 years ago. But for now, I'll gladly pick up the old mantle of Uncle Hybrid and the 25 million skill-points that come with it. It's been nearly three years since I last played the game, and for much of that time my account had been loaned to a friend of mine. The trade was a simple one. He paid for the subscription and continued training the character. In exchange, he got an outstanding combat pilot with which to defend his mining operations. Which... because he is insane, involves him running multiple high-end PC's and multiple EVE Online games at once on each system. The nutter parks 4-8 Mining Barges in space with a Mining Foreman flagship overseeing the operation, possibly a hauler running relays back and forth between the site and the closest station or POS (Player Owned Starbase). And for a while, he used my character to defend this small fleet from Rats and players alike

But now he is mine again, and the stars await.


My first exploit within the game is to get my ship blown up roughly ten seconds after undocking for the first time in three years. Oddly enough, there is no more appropriate a welcoming than undocking face first into a T3 cruiser.

In Eve Online, everything has a value. From a simple bullet picked up from the wreck of a destroyed NPC frigate to the all-powerful Titans that roam 0.0 space, everything is weighed, measured, and credited according to the opinions of the masses. The ship was worth money. When it gets blown up, it doesn't come back. You limp your happy butt back to a station if you're lucky, and wake up in a clone bay if you aren't. From there, you either hop in the next ship you've made available to yourself or you get on the marketplace and start buying the bits and pieces you need to assemble another ship. Guns, rigs, modules, ammo, scripts, probes, charges, drones... the list goes on and on.

But with every item in Eve holding a value, there is one mantra that all players eventually learn and adopt. Don't fly something you can't afford to lose. As Heavy Pulse Laser II's overloaded my shields, penetrated my armor, and melted my hull, I was reminded of all the former lessons and mistakes I had made when exploring New Eden. The ship detonated beneath my feet and my command pod ejected into space. The press of a button later and my ship was safely in warp to the stargate and well on its way to one of the safer hubs of activity.

Three days and 500 million isk later and what have I accomplished?

I borrowed Popo's collection of friends and contacts, roamed through the dark of space with a cluster of their pilots, and I have contributed to the death of six ships, spared a further four from our guns, and murdered three pilots in their pods. And more importantly, luck and caution as kept me from loosing a ship since my impromptu welcome home party.