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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.