Well, it's been another long trip and I find myself in another MMO kind of mood. So this time, I've decided to try DC Universe Online. I've been hoping for a free trial for some time now, but decided to take a chance and give the game a try while paying the full price.
I now understand why there is no free trial. This isn't a very good game.
Now, there are a small number off good elements to it. For starters, if you're on the PC version there is a fairly innovative mouse-based combat control scheme. Your weapon-based powers are all done by pressing, holding down, or using some combination of the mouse buttons. This is pretty cool, but your actual power-based abilities can't be used the same way and use the number buttons instead. This makes moving during combat awkward for a keyboard/mouse combo.
The other good things about the game is the voice acting, which includes a number of A+ cast members from the various DCAU series. Every character, right down to the minor mission peddlers, is voiced.
Lets start with character creation. You can play as a hero or villain, with some missions overlapping between the two. You choose a mentor, who acts as your initial source for missions and speaks to you on a regular basis. You choose a power set from a group of six and a weapon set from a group of about 10. These two sets are unrelated to each other and advance at completely different rates.
You also get to make a 'costume'. My main complaint about this is that your costume can only consist of three locked colors. Now, you can add variety by choosing from a wide range of skin and hair tones, but your costume is locked at three. How crazy is that? Did the creators not bother to check out the costume creator on City of Heroes or Champions Online?
Combat is surprisingly annoying, even at lower levels. In some outdoor areas, enemies respawn at shockingly fast rates. A number of my 5 level characters have been swarmed by 6 or more enemies at a time at inopportune moments. This, combined with the keyboard/mouse scheme, makes fighting an unpleasant click-fest. I've gotten headaches from overuse of my right index finger.
But if combat is too hard, couldn't you team up with another player? If there's a way to do it, I haven't seen it. DCUO supports mics and headsets, but at any given time, I don't see more than 3 or 4 players in my region. The documentation isn't entirely clear on how to talk to them. Is everyone really able to rush to the 30 level endgame so fast that you can't find support at lower levels? There isn't any incentive to socialize at all.
The quality of the software is questionable as well. The game is based on the same Unreal 3 variant as Arkham Asylum. That's fine, if you want the entire DC universe to look like Gotham City. Does Metropolis need to look so gritty, though? Does the Flash? Does Green Lantern?
Several users have mentioned problems running on multi-core processors, and have had to set their affinity to a single core in order to run the game properly. Sony Online Entertainment has also admitted that their software has problems with several brands of routers. Seriously? Multiple cores and routers have been a staple of computer users for years. Sony, one of the innovators of the MMO, has a problem with these two technologies?
Even the launcher is an insult to gaming. You can't even see server status on the launcher. You have to click a link and go to DCUO's forums in order to check on the current status.
I get the feeling that DCUO isn't even a real MMO. The entire game is just a prelude until you get to 30 and can participate in the more action-oriented PVP events. That isn't worth $14.95 a month.
I do a bit of play-by-post on a number of sites and have enjoyed Mutants and Masterminds 2E for some time now. Well, the 2E is now 3E, and now DC comics is the central setting for the latest player handbook. I picked up the less-expensive PDF copy a few days ago and have been going through it in my off-time. So what's inside?
Art - The cover is an Alex Ross, and sadly not really an original. The Justice League grace the cover in much the same way as the have in previous Ross works. Inside, though, you'll find artwork from a wide range of artists who have done covers and interior for DC in recent years. Events portrayed in the interior artwork date all the way up to the events of Blackest Night.
Game Mechanics - the creators have done a great job of streamlining the game. Instead of stats starting at 10 as they do in most D20 based games, they now all start at zero (which is the new, central statistic for a normal human). Also, the math of ability scores, as they relate to skills and other abilities, has been greatly simplified. The list of skills has been reduced down to a basic 14, with several sub-sets. This change is likely a result of the positive feedback many players gave the new D&D skills system. M&M 3E still uses rated skills, but tracking them is much simpler. Feats have been replaced with Advantages. The list has likewise been reduced, eliminating highly unpopular and never-used feats in favor of clearer and more versatile Advantages. Power have received similar changes, with many similar powers now collected under broader umbrellas. This makes picking powers easier, as choices particular to the player's build are easier to narrow down from the vast list.
The DC Universe - The book contains a basic timeline of superheroism in the DC universe, as well as descriptions of many of the famous locations within. Atlantis, all the well known cities, Oa, the 4th World, Thanagar, and many more are all offered as a potential locales for player adventures. Select elements of the multi-verse are covered as well. Lastly, basic stats for a number of well-known DC heroes are outlined for player and GM reference.
Heroes stats for: Aquaman, Batman, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Nightwing, Plastic Man, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna. Villain stats for: Black Adam, Black Manta, Brainiac, Catwoman, Cheetah, Circe, Darkseid, Gorilla Grodd, The Joker, Lex Luthor, Prometheus, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, and Vandal Savage
Hardback should be available soon, for the literary purists out there.
I'm a firm believer in having a small internet footprint. As such, I have no twitter, no facebook, no myspace, no nothing of anything. There are very few pictures of me online, and those few are ones that my wife put up on her own social website. If I google my own name, I come up with only two websites that are actually related to me.
I have nothing against social networking or the people who use it, I simply have no real reason to participate to any great extent.
Upon returning in October, I was pleased to learn that a game I was previously in beta in was finally released. This would be the somewhat anticipated Champions Online, based upon the long-running pen/paper/dice rpg of the same name. Now, I wasn't able to play the beta or the actual release in the four months prior to October, as I was away from my PC during that time. Having played the beta, and knowing what sort of flaws the game had, I expected the developers to pay more attention to the interests of gamers and make this more than just City of Heroes 2.0.
Sad to say, it isn't. Champions feels like nothing more than City of Heroes 1.2. Now they have a number of things that separate this game from its predecessor. For one, you really can pick any power you want from any set, provided you meet the relatively simple prerequisite. You do have a fair degree of control over your stats, as opposed to none. You can pick up surprisingly large objects and throw them, provided you have the strength to do so. Locations of missions are marked in a manner similar to Warhammer Online, for easy completion. The game is also much more action oriented, and combat feels a lot less repetitive than CoH. The power effects are more spectacular too
So what went wrong? Where do I start.
There is no reward for social interaction in this game. You can easily blast your way to level 40 in a matter of weeks, and never write a single word to any other player. While there are 'public quests' (yet another swipe from WHO), there's only about 12 or so of them. On release, WHO had 60 for each faction. Sure, you can make supergroups, but these aren't any more beneficial than the standard guilds you find in other games.
So how about PVP? Its there. You can duel without interruption. As of the point where I left, there are 3 'hero games scenarios' that you can play. The problem is that players have already computed a few small sets of unbalanced builds that allow them to dominate in duels and pvp arenas. Unless you stick to pvp on weekday afternoons, chances are you're not going to succeed (and get the associated pvp perks) without an optimized build.
Crafting? Generic. There are three paths, but little if any difference between them. They mostly boost stats and provide a limited number of other features. The thing is, there isn't really any point to being a good crafter. Crafting is dependent on both your skill level and your character level, and one is always lower than the other. Either you haven't spent enough time disassembling unusable items to have a high skill (and can therefore only build gear that is beneath your level) or you're level is too low to use the gear that you could build.
The missions are shockingly buggy too. Enemies don't die in some, others teleport around and reset their health for no reason whatsoever.
My last and biggest gripe, though, is that it seems like the developers never really paid attention to the suggestions of the alpha and beta testers. The single biggest request by players was for some kind of morality system. Killers vs Non-killers or perhaps greater good vs morally right. Everyone was interested. Where did it go? What happened? The request was completely ignored. It seems like all the input that players really got was the standard mission survey: too hard? too easy? too boring? too fun? I remember this exact same post-mission form in the CoH beta.
I don't know why I played this game. I've learned that for $15 a month, I can grab a brand new game from Steam's bargain bin or daily special.
I'd consider calling this the gilded age of comics. I've been asked from time to time if this is a good era to start collecting as an investment. Generally, I answer "no". However, I usually point out that if the buyer is interested in a great story and great art, then there has never been a better time to get into comics.
And so I call this era the 'gilded' era. While the books aren't any more valuable, they are lined (on the inside rather than the edge) with gold.
I often do, actually. However, the only time that a cover is the basis for my purchase is if it is done by an artist that I actively look out for. Outside of that circumstance, my monthly stack says fairly consistent.