My experience in the superhero mmorpg realm: CoX (CB for CoH), Champions Online
Hello mmorpg.com community,
I have played nearly every mmorpg out there and most recently got done with FFXIV (which I could not longer play due to the 2.5s CD and lack of content at higher levels.
I decided to rekindle my interest in comic books, and check out DC Universe again. I am honestly a larger fan of Marvel (X-men woot) but I read Infinite Crisis in high school and keep up with the heroes.
Anyway, I just cannot explain how completely refreshing this game is, especially in comparison to FFXIV, which bears very standard questing and very standard combat.
There are simply so many things this game gets right that I am amazed it hasn't picked up more traction. I honestly think it is in part due to a weak launch with limited content and a niche setting that is very different from your comfort fantasy.
Now, I'm only level 20, but I've experienced quite a bit and will be adding to this review as I travel up to 30.
Overview of Features:
- Action-Combat MMO (combo moves like in GoW, combined with standard hotbar of skills/spells)
- Role-switching (play as a healer or a DPS/tank, switching on the fly)
- Housing (lairs that can be upgraded and customizable with dropped furniture pieces, also where you get minions and get some very powerful abilities)
- Dynamic Events (fly through the world and you will uncover Amazonian invasions, or mad scientists wreaking havoc)
- World that Encourages PVP organically (almost every building or plaza has both a hero and villain component where npcs from the opposing side will respond accordingly)
- Deep character-customization: both in terms of build and in terms of appearance
- Raids, Duos, Alerts, PVP (legends, open world, and arena)
- Crafting (in the form of Research and development)
I'll write about what I know thus far.
Customization (4/5): The first impression of customization in this game is very lack-luster. You start with basic character templates and move through some very meager features to create a hero that looks how you wish. However, this is only a negative impression due to the precedent set in place by CoH and Champions Online. DCUO actually allows you to customize your hero to an even greater degree than the former two through acquisition of new armor styles. In the game is a style tab where all collected styles are retained and accessible, for on-the-fly transformation. Change your skin, your eyes, your cape to wings, whatever. Dye them all freely without a need to collect colors. As long as you've collected the item model, you can access it on your character. Go from Angel to Demon in a few clicks of your mouse/controller. The only complaint I have is that there needs to be a little more variation in hair styles and body types. Essentially, style is a form of progression throughout the game, and made much more accessible than in CoX.
Power selection appears minimal at first, forcing you to choose an archetype and weapon, but the selection will diversify as you create a unique build and then put those powers into loadouts that can be used for different roles. There are eleven different power sets (classes) with two trees of progression for each. Additionally, there is a third tree of progression available to all classes with iconic abilities allowing you to replicate DC Universe character abilities (laser vision, batarang, etc).
Action Combat (4.5/5): Coming from games like TERA, FFXIV, FFXI, and Wakfu, I have seen the gamut of action combat. I am biased toward action combat after playing TERA, so I have to say that DCUO would be the second best combat I have ever experienced. It is a little messy and has a sharp learning curve when it comes to combos and synergy between skills, but it is strategic and fast-paced in a way that FFXIV is not. I still consider TERA the best combat because every movement is distinct and emphasized. You sacrifice movement for making a decision and that can be the death of you. DCUO is more forgiving but with great synergy between skills that adds complexity to a sometimes messy battle. I would say the combat is in between TERA and Guild Wars 2, but still wholly unique due to three-dimensional movement that can affect both combat (movement-based fighting skills, all skills can be cast in the air, etc.) and escape. Combat is an extremely important facet of any mmorpg game as it takes up the bulk of your experience. DCUO does a fantastic job in making you feel as if you are powerful. You have basic fighting combos you execute with the mouse and then you have 6 skills that function as spells to heal you or protect you, to pull enemies toward you, etc. Positioning, timing, and loadout are all important when fighting.
Skill Progression (5/5):
The game limits your skills to 6, allowing you to choose which abilities you want most for the upcoming battle. It is strategic, as some skills work better together than others. For example, one skill might give you an aura that is required to access secondary healing effects on another skill. Press T, and you can switch your six skills, going from a damage role to healing role. The trinity is still here, but you are provided a great deal more flexibility with one character than in traditional trinity games. Additionally, skills often have a secondary affect. For example, a pet might heal you if you are in a healer mode or might passively increase your damage if you are in offensive mode.
The game gives you power points and skill points as you level. You can allocate power points to three different trees for each class (although the third tree, iconic, is shared by all classes). You can alternatively allocate power points to a movement tree that uses your movement ability to give you specific combat advantages. Additionally, you are given skill points, which you can allocate to your weapon, which gives you access to combos executed as your default attack (left and right mouse buttons) that have various effects. You can also branch out into other weapon types should you choose.
Until 30, you get one point in either power or skills categories at each level. Then at 30, you can still acquire additional skill points through accomplishing the feat system. You are then left with 15 Power points (allocated across your two trees of power and movement), and 15-? skill points. This gives you increased horizontal progression at 30, but also requires strategic building of your character, resulting in very different sorcery characters at max level.
Game Progression (?/5):
I will add to this section of the review later, but there are a plethora of leveling avenues throughout the game. You can quest, you can do alerts, you can follow the story, you can complete bounties, races, research and development, you can explore the world and do collections. The world is chock-full of conflict and interesting story-telling elements. NPCs are hidden throughout each city, each voiced with a short story and request. Quests can vary from killing X to rescuing victims of a black magic ritual and running them to safety. Quests can involve you distracting a hero such as Super Girl by putting NPCs in danger so that you can safely destroy hard-drives before she extracts data. Other quests will have you convert demons back into humans or hunt down famous DC characters (Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Dr. Fate, etc.) that appear as open-world bosses.
The game is very story-based. As you explore the world you will encounter green and blue exclamation marks. Collecting all of the marks in a series will treat you with a voice-over regarding the history of that particular region, and finishing a series will provide another reward as well.
At the beginning of the game you pick a mentor who will take you throughout the world and have you do his or her bidding. For example, I am doing Lex Luthor's storyline and he will call me up to have me investigate one of his labs that has been broken into. This will have you meet with Super Girl and fight against her. An even earlier instance is when I encountered the Teen Titans, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven in a diabolical plot to unleash Raven's demon-side (the reason would be a spoiler so you have to see for yourself!). There are thus 6 storylines, one for each of the three mentors on the hero/villain side, that weave in and out of one another. Each mission is interesting and each encounter with a famous character rewards you with a comic book cutscene narrated from that character's perspective. You can replay those at any time.
Other NPCs will also launch you on longer story-line quests to complement the main storyline.
I've heard the real game begins at level 30, but I am having a blast playing up to that point. Leveling is easy and level 30s will often group with lower levels to help them with missions and in PVP which also gives the mentoring hero/villain feat points.
There are also a ton of dynamic quests/open-world boss events. I don't understand how GW2 sold this idea as such a definitive feature, when DCUO has it in spades. The dynamic quests make FFXIVs fates look miserable. The nice thing is that you never know where they are happening. This game is very much about exploring the cities and discovering invasions by Brainiac's robots or buxom amazons.
The community has been surprisingly wonderful. Shout or LFG for help on a mission and you will give responses. Join a league to make your experience even better. There does not seem to be a huge stratification between lower levels and higher levels which may be a downside for hardcore gamers. I do not consider this game hardcore, but it is challenging and complex at times. The community is very talkative and helpful. I have grouped with more level 30s at level 18 than I have grouped with people of my own level. Everyone wants to help and simply wants to play, collect, and learn more about the DCUO world.
There are also a ton of players and a great deal of players pvping in the streets. Just flying around, you will see them on your minimap marked as green and red squares.
As a mid-level I would have to say that DCUO is probably my favorite experience in PVPing. It is less about gear (until you start fighting level 30s or decked out alts) and more about strategically using your abilities. You might use your overcharge abilities to instantly heal you and tank while the enemy wastes his abilities or shielding and dodging out of a stun. You might pull an enemy toward you or knock them back. Maybe you will try and stun them so you can jump off the roof and dive to safety (probably the coolest thing ever).
There are many different forms of PVP, from Legends which allows you to play as famous DCUO characters you collect, to Arena pvp with deathmatch, capture and hold, and other various modes. Then there is open world pvp on the pvp server. The game is designed to drive players against each other, with quest objectives and npcs located in the same region for Villains and Heroes. You might be fighting a crazed patient as a villain, when a player hero jumps on you. Suddenly, npc policemen are running at you and chipping away at your health. Fight or flight, literally? It's fun, but it can also be frustrating, especially when you are flying and suddenly a level 30 appears out of nowhere and smokes your butt.
Anyway, I will continue to update my ratings of pvp and crafting as I get more in depth into these facets.
tl;dr The game is a breath of fresh air, but is not for the hardcore. It is for the superhero fans who like collecting and experiencing a comic book world. It is for the action mmo players who want complex combat and character skill progression. This game has a lot of great features pulled from many previous MMORPGs, and some new features as well. If I would say anything, it would be that this game is going to serve as a prototype for EQN in terms of combat, skill layout, and role management (the exception being the open skill system).