DC Universe Online: 1 to 30 PvE impression

January 23, 2011 3 comments

Getting to max level (30) in DC Universe Online is rather fast, a bit too fast for my taste. Let’s take a look at the PvE part of the journey.

Character creation & tutorial

DCUO has a far more limited character creator than Champions Online, but there are plenty of costume pieces to make a unique hero or villain. Important to note is that every character you create will have the same origin, one of the limitations of playing in an already established universe. You do get an immediate link to that universe by choosing a mentor, a famous character, like Superman, that will guide yours on his or her journey.

The amount of powersets is limited, but there are three types to choose from: superpowers, weapons and movement powers. Super powers like fire, ice, mental etc. determine your group role of tank/healer/dps, weapons (from bare hands to giant hammers to bows) determine your fighting style and movement powers (flight, superspeed, acrobatics) determine how you travel, but they also include several combat abilities. Contrary to Champions Online, your movement power is almost always active if you wish.

The tutorial is adequate and fast enough to get through for alts. It is the same for heroes and villains. It does a good job of introducing the plot of DCUO, powers, travel and combat.

Nice try, Lex

Questing

After the tutorial you end up in either Gotham or Metropolis depending on your mentor. It is possible to travel to the other city by going through the Watchtower for heroes and the Hall of Doom for villains. The amount of quests to get to 30 seems a bit tight, so it is worth it to switch over about every five levels to ensure that quests do not get too low level to yield decent XP.

Quest lines have a set format. There is a main quest in the open world with some sidequests that you pick up next to the main questing area. The main quest line then leads to a scripted solo dungeon. The main quests are fully voiced and every dungeon ends with a voiced over comic that tells about the world. It feels a lot like the Cataclysm world of World of Warcraft, where quest areas combine ‘kill some’ and  ‘do some other activity like gathering stuff’, then go to the next area. The solo dungeons show up again at level 30 (scaled to 30) from Watchtower quests. The final challenge is to take down your mentor’s nemesis (so Lex Luthor for Superman, Joker for Batman, Circe for Wonder Woman).

There are named heroes/villains roaming parts of the world with massive amounts of health and serious damage, keep an eye out for them while questing.

Instances

There are several instances while leveling for groups of four people. Simple queue for them and a random team will be formed. There’s not much communication (partly because the chat system is horrible), but the instances do a good job of telling you where to go and what to do. There does seem to be a distinct lack of healers and I only had one other tank my group once. Still, most of the content seems doable with only dps provided there’s some selfhealing and a good sense of when to block. Instances are overfilled with trash, but they do yield good XP and worth doing at least once for entertainment.

In the Blüdhaven instance, the toxic monster Chemo is your target.

Bugs

DCUO still has a decent amount of bugs. Especially Oolong island (instance) seemed filled with them. I had to do that one at least eight times to get to the final boss.

Impression

DCUO is still a bit rough, but the core is solid (I remember saying that about Champions Online too). The amount of content,while short, and the entertainment value of that content is definitely worth the first (free) month.

DC Universe Online: Reasons to play

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Story

DC never interested me much. I did not like the iconic characters of Superman, Wonder Woman, and, to lesser extent, Batman, because they were so iconic. Marvel heroes, on the other hand, were much more human and that appealed to me more. I read a few of the classic trades (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kingdom Comet etc).  A positive review of JSA made me pick it up and the wonderful writing of Geoff Johns pulled me in. In my opinion his run of JSA is one of the best written team books ever and since that time my DC/Marvel ratio is pretty much 50/50 (but still not reading the main Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman titles). When I read that he was one of the writers for DC Universe Online, my interest for that game suddenly increased.

That the ability to walk around in a world with a rich history gives a game extra flavor has already been proven by World of Warcraft and even more by Lord of the Rings Online. On the other hand, many main events are set and the heroes of the story cannot be overshadowed. The appeal of Champions Online as a superhero MMO to me was partly that the NPC heroes of CO are not that well known and thus could be overshadowed by the players. However, DC has a so-called multiverse, many alteration of possible realities and outside the main one, pretty much anything goes. Since DCUO seems to be playing in an alternative, it may be possible shove Superman aside and save the day yourself.

Small spoiler: in the parts of the game I have played so far, the team-ups with DC heroes have felt like real team-ups and not like me being a sidekick.

Action

Champions Online already took one step away from the pure hotkey setup of MMO’s by adding an active block button, DCUO is a pure action game. And that fits the superhero theme so well. Combo’s and targeting may not be perfect, but the idea to the combat system is sound. Where it lacks some polish, it makes up with fun.

Since it was both released on PC and PS3 the game can be played on PC as well with a game pad. I still have to give that a try myself, but it may be superior to mouse and keyboard.

PvP

DCUO has both heroes and villains and is designed with PvP in mind. Conflict between heroes and villains drives almost every superhero comic, so an MMO should be filled with that as well. In DCUO heroes and villains come to the aid of their NPC allies and that generates reasons for PvP. It makes the world feel alive.

World PvP is never balanced, it cannot be in any game, but getting back into the fight after a defeat is fairly quick and there is no dead penalty. There are, of course, PvE servers for those who wish to avoid world PvP. Arena’s are instanced battleground of various sizes and Legend arena’s let you play as existing DC Heroes and Villains in different instanced scenarios.

In summary

DC Universe Online adds a true action aspect to the MMO genre, it builds on a rich history, while still having freedom of story and there are plenty of PvP opportunities. To me that was enough to give it a try and I will provide more in-depth reviews and impressions of different aspects of the game, like character creation, dungeons, quests, etc. in future posts.

Getting ready to fly again

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

DC Universe Online is about to launch and Comet Girl will fly again.

Metroid: Other M – Impression

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Note that I have not finished the game yet, so this is just an impression, not a full review.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

I love Metroid, so this is not going to be an unbiased review. And Other M is definitely a Metroid game, there’s Samus, of course, all signature weapons and abilities, a combination of fighting and puzzle gameplay, large boss monsters, Ridley,  scavenger hunt for items, basically all ingredients. A pity Team Ninja forgot that to cook the meal. They were clearly greatly inspired by Super Metroid, but where Retro took the formula and adapted it for a widescreen experience in the Metroid Prime series., the new Metroid copies most things while making also use of the Wii’s gimmicky controls. The visors and beam switching from Prime are gone.

While the Primes had some problems themselves they did innovate and turn the sidescroller in a 3D experience. Exploring and navigating through the huge world was not always easy and scanning occasionally got tedious, but it all added to the feeling of the lone explorer trying to figure out what was going on and then set things right. Samus never said anything, but who would have expected that she would be this uncertain and insecure now she is voiced in Other M? After slaughtering so many planets full of evil and vicious monsters one would expect she has some backbone, but even the sight of Ridley petrifies her now suddenly. Prime did fine in telling a story with bits of scans and visual storytelling, but Other M is just filled with fully voiced exposure, while reducing the exploring aspect of the game.

A pretty flimsy plot has you joining up with your old Galatic Federation commander and his squad to check out a military science facility. Commander Adam has some serious history with Samus and while he wants her on board, he forbids her from using most weapons before he authorizes it. Yes, where all other Metroid sequels have a convoluted crisis scene in which you lose all special abilities, this game, you got everything, you are just not allowed to use it up to the point that you are taking damage from heat for a section of the game while you have access to the protective Varia Suit. Where I can understand that caution should be used with using the extremely destructive items like the Power Bomb and the wall passing Wave Beam (there could be survivors on the other side), not using full protection and things like the grappling hook is just plain silly.

The story is also forced on you. There is no freedom of movement, all wrong routes are locked for most of the game and if there is something to scan, the game actually forces you to stand still until you have found the right pixel on the screen. If you cannot fight, you start moving very slowly suddenly.

The control scheme deserves its own paragraph, because it is a nice idea. You are normally in side view /3D oversight depending on the location, but by turning the Wii remote to the screen, you get a 3D view, but you cannot move, only turn. This is the only view from which you can shoot (super) missiles as well. And this is the only control scheme, meaning you have to use the horrible d-pad on the Wiimote to move. In a time of analog sticks on handhelds, a modern game forces you to use the worst controller possible, which is just baffling. One of the reasons I have not finished the game yet, is that the d-pad simply hurts my thumb after a while (yeah, it got soft from using analog sticks for the last years). The view switch is also pretty unresponsive making certain battles more difficult than they should have been (but Other M is easy anyway).

Perhaps the control scheme forced the creators to make the game easier, because this is an easy game both in terms of puzzles and boss battles. Compared to the Primes it is very easy.

First impression: Other M is with all its ugly parts still a pretty entertaining game, but it does not reach the quality standard we can expect of a Metroid game.

Categories: General Gaming Tags: ,

Rusty!

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

No real post this week since I am on holiday. I did have time to play a bit this evening…

After not playing for just two weeks, my Starcraft II skills have rusted, which is faster than I would have expected. I still know what to do, of course, but everything just goes a bit slower.

I have also learned not to try new strategies at this point (I still follow SC2 news during the holiday and some ideas seem so nice to try myself), because that is not working out now!

Lots of practice to do next week!

Categories: Starcraft II Tags:

Starcraft II Single player: Zerg Research Tree

August 29, 2010 1 comment

After discussing the Protoss research tree last week, it shall be no surprise that the Zerg tree is the topic of this post. In my experience, making a choice in the Protoss tree was easier than in the Zerg tree, because the Zerg tree seems to be offering more specialized benefits.

5 points: Shrike Turret [BEST] vs Fortified Bunker

Adding life to a bunker with Fortified Bunker is nice, but adding damage regardless of load is better in many circumstances, especially since Shrike Turrets can also shoot air. You can break the food cap with Shrike Turret Bunkers.

10 points: Planetary Fortress [BEST] vs Perdition Turret

Even if Planetary Fortress was not great, Perdition Turret would still be redundant. As Terran player you already have access to Firebats (in bunkers) and Hellions to burn down melee weak melee units. The Planetary Fortress is the single most fortified structure you can build and a great stationary tank even against Kerrigan herself with repairs.

15 points: Predator versus Hercules [BEST?]

To be honest, I like neither choice. With a factory I prefer to be making Siege Tanks and if I get a Fusion Core up I might as well be making Battlecruisers. The Hercules does add in a level of mobility for large forces, but so will a group of Medivacs and those will heal organic units. The Predator does fair damage, but with greater risk to itself compared to the Siege Tank. Neither unit is necessary at all.

20 points: Cellular reactor [BEST] via Regenerative Bio-steel

Easy choice, the extra energy on specialist units (especially on Science Vessels) is much more beneficial than slow regeneration. Only take Bio-steel if you never ever make a specialist unit at all (which is silly).

25 points:  Psi Disruptor [BEST] vs Hive Mind Emulator [Specific use]

The key signature of Zerg is that they attack with many expendable units. That makes the Psi Disruptor seem more attractive on first sight. There is only one unit I would really like to take over and that is the Brood Lord. Even Ultralisks can be easily dealt with as Terran and a mind controlled Ultralisk would last only seconds against all the other Zerg it is attacking with. Slowing down a whole horde in a fairly large area on the other hand is much more useful in most of the missions.

However, if you face air in the final mission, having Brood Lords on your side makes dealing with all ground forces much easier.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: , ,

Starcraft II Single player: Protoss Research Tree

August 23, 2010 1 comment

Gathering Protoss and Zerg parts during the single player part of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty gives some pretty interesting choices. Let’s take a look at what the Protoss have to offer:

5 points: Ultra-Capacitators [BEST] / Vanadium plating

Speed and Damage increase versus Health and Armor increase. 5% is not that much, however, it adds up over many units. The more units you have, the better the damage increase relatively gets compared to health and armor which only matter on a single unit with a large health pool like a Thor.

10 points: Orbital Depots / Micro Filtering [BEST]

Supply depots can be build instantly or refineries produce gas faster. With a bit of planning you should never get supply capped and there are several missions where you start with a large supply anyway. On the other hand, getting gas faster on timed missions is a great boon

15 points: Automated Refineries [BEST] / Command Center Reactor

Getting Automated refineries means you no longer need SCV’s on gas, but you still get the same amount of SCV’s to start with. At food cap, you save three food per refinery to use on armies. It also allows you to build refineries without a Command Center nearby. Command Center Reactor on the other hand is just nice at the start of the game to get some SCV’s up quicker, but it becomes mostly worthless quickly.

20 points: Raven / Science Vessel [BEST]

I love the Raven, but the Science Vessel is borderline overpowered. It can repair mechanical units with no cost except energy and that regenerates, which is a great on levels with little resources. Suddenly it is possible field a large air army that needs no repairs or backup. Banshees, normally quite fragile units, become a truly scary force if a few Science Vessels join them.

25 points: Teach Reactor [BEST] / Orbital Strike

Tech Reactor works both like a Tech lab and a Reactor and the double build ability also applies to high-tech buildings. So a Starport with Tech Reactor can build two Banshees at the same time. This gives both versatility and saves up resources that would otherwise be spent on additional buildings. Dropping barracks units anywhere on the field (with sight) by the Orbital Strike is fun, but units still have to build, so to drop a sizeable force anywhere, you will need many barracks and time the building of units. Putting a force in a Medivac is often more useful. Orbital Strike does shine on a single mission near the end though, but Tech Reactor outshines it everywhere else easily.