What is epic space online? An action filled space fighter game? No! (not yet at least, with the next update it will feature some promising pvp). What it is is basically an empire building / exploration game. I will discuss both aspects seperately.
1) Exploration: What should an exploration game feature?
In my oppinion, three things:
1st: Plenty of space to explore, featuring the "lone explorer alone far away from civilization feeling". Epic Space delivers, since it's a procedural game with an infinite universe. - 10/10
2nd: An incentive to exploring. Ideally some kind of loot, which may be valuable artifacts or derilict ships or something like this. In Epic Space, you have a lot of variety in loot from scanning celestial objects you discover, most of the time it's relatively worthless stuff, but you can find ships, deployables, even station asseblies. Or the jackpot, Pioneer Letters, which sell for a large amount of ingame $ to NPCs. So I am fully satisfied in this regard, too. - 10/10
3rd: Variation. There should be different kind of objects to discover, maybe alien races to interact with, or npcs. Or something else. Here Epic space offers differnt kinds of celestials (Asteroid belts (which can be mined for ore), Planets, nebulae, etc.) however they all feel quite alike atm. There are no alien races yet, and the only NPCs are the rare pirate outposts players can find, which are defended by stationary flak turrets and often yield rich loot. However they are no challenge, since a player can shoot further than them. So all in all, this aspect still has room for improvemt. - 5/10
So for the exploration aspect, i would rate this game as a 8.3/10 in total.
From an Empire building game i expect the following aspects:
1st: The ability to build a huge empire, without any unnecessary restrictions. Here Epic space delivers due to it's procedural nature, allowing you to control an infinite amount of sectors. - 10/10
2nd: Incentives to do so. Why have a big empire in an infinite universe? Well in ESO, there currently are 3 reasons:
1) The monthly payout: Each sector will pay a given amount (which changes, haven't figured out yet according to which pattern) to each member of a faction. This amount is small for a single sector, but if your faction controls hundreds (which actually doen not take long to achieve) it will be several million $ per month per member.
2) The Faction Ranking. Everyone wants to be #1, easy but effective incentive ;)
3) Resources. You can only set up harvesters (deployable mining stations) in sectors your faction controls. So sectors which have many different ore belts are rare and valuable.
So i'd also rate the Incentive aspect as 10/10
3rd: Empire Control. In a good empire building game, I'd expect some good control/managing featurs for controlling ones empire. In this regard, ESO still disappoints. There is the possibility to transfer sectors to other factions, but that's it. No map, no advanced features. No global controls for faction npc-turrets - in fact only the faction leader can program them, and has to visit each one individually (my faction has A LOT of such turrets). So empire control gets a 0/10.
This brings me to a 6.7/10 in Empire Building.
3.) Other Aspects.
While I believe in rating a game for what it's trying to be, there are those side things that really make you stick to a game and like it. So I feel i have to include them, too.
1 - Combat System. Combat is very basic in ESO. You point your ship in a direction and fire, and it shoots in that direction. Things are a little bit more sophisticated with missiles and torpedos. But basically it's a simple yet robust combat system, and actually requires skill and not only stats to deal damage, especially hitting moving targets isn't easy. It atm lacks variation, though so i rate it 8/10
1a - PVE. The onyl pve atm is shooting stationary NPC turrets guarding pirate outposts yielding loot. I am always excited if I find one, but that's really not much PVE...so 4/10
1b - PVP. I have not yet shot another player, there will be dedicated pvp arenas coming with the next update. Thus i won't rate PVP atm.
Thus, combat - 6/10
2- Community. While outstide of the developers control, the community is an important aspect of a game. I have found the ESO community to be extraordinarily friendly and helpful - 10/10
3- Crafting. ESO has a tech-tree like crafting system that allows for manufacturing of every item in the game. At the moment, not all resources are harvestable however and can only be found by scanning objects in space. This makes the crafting system pretty useless as of now, but it is a good system in principle, and will allow for a diverse industry and market once all resources can be harvested. Still, atm it has only little use. Thus 5/10.
So my "other aspects" rating is 7/10. This brings me to my conclusion...
Overall I think Epic Space Online is an awesome game, which kind I have been waiting for. It is however not for everyone, since it is extremely slow paced (like glacial). Atm it still lacks content, but basic functionality for many aspects of the game is there, enough to make it enjoyable to play - it got me addicted, i haven't played another game in 3 weeks (I was spending far too much time working, but still...). If you think you'd like a blend of a "strategy" browser game you can actually fly around in, and the exploration aspect of the "4x" games, AND are very patient, then you will like ESO. My overall rating, under the premise that this is primarily an Exploration/Empire Building game is 7.3/10 for a game which has a lot of potential but still needs much more content. (Yes this is Early Access. I however believe that something which is available for money in a store counts as "released" and thus should offer a worthwhile experience and should be measured by the same standard as any other game. Supporting the devs is all nice and fun (and i invested quite a bit in ESO) but this is steam and not kickstarter)