Monday, February 28, 2011

Final Thoughts for February

So recently Champions Online went "Free to Play".  Typically this is the "kiss of death" for most MMOs; so I didn't hold out much hope for what I would see if I re-installed and started playing again for comparison with DCUO.

So I did.  With the "free to play" you have only two character slots, limited character build options, limited content, and limited support.  Fairly standard when a game goes from subscription to free.  And to be honest, I feel that while Champions Online character is really really nice, and the DCUO character builder should have a lot more options in regard to character creation, Champions Online still falls short as far as fun and playability.  Being a "superhero" game should be about action.  Sadly, Champions Online felt sluggish and boring compared to DCUO.  In the starter area with Champions, I was able to defeat enemies in two to three attacks; in the DCUO starting area, it was very much possible for me to get "knocked out" aka "killed" by my targets.  Which oddly is a nice feeling; saying to the player "yes, you're a superhero, but you're fighting super villains and they only get tougher from here".

In short, Champions Online still looks like you're playing a game that is created straight from the pages of a comic book; the character creation is still top notch, and the story line is very open ended.  However I feel that the product that DC/Warner/Sony put out is superior in regard to gameplay, and replayability (especially since you can play as a hero or villain on either a PvE or PvP server) and overall fun factor.  I still have some issues with both games, but if I can only choose one superhero styled MMO, it'll be DC Universe Online.

But Champions Online is still better than City of Heroes/Villains/Going Rogue.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

DC Universe the Third

So I'm taking a break from playing tonight, and I'll use the time to talk a bit more about DCUO and hopefully it won't end up being as disjointed as my game reviews typically are.

Let's start with character creation.  The character generator in DCUO is not as involved as most other superhero MMOs, like City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online, Freedom Force, or any others I might be missing*.

You start with gender and size.  Then you advance to an optional step - the 'Inspired By' section.  You can make a super hero/villain based off of some of the more iconic heroes/villains from the DC universe.  If you choose to do this, you'll move directly to 'GO' and go to the 'make adjustments/finish character' page.  The heroes/villains that you can choose from are: Bane, Catwoman, Joker, Mister Freeze, Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Beast Boy, Steel, Flash, and Martian Manhunter.  You will automatically be loaded out with a powerset, weapons, travel power, morality, and outfit that match your inspiration.  Should you skip the optional step, you get to customize your character starting with your powerset: fire, ice, nature, mental, sorcery, and gadgets.  Then you pick movement: flight, super speed, and acrobatics. Followed by weapon style: one-hand weapons, hand blasts, bow, brawling, dual pistols, dual wielding, martial arts, rifle, staff, and two-handed weapon.  Finally you advance to morality (hero or villain), personality (your stance when not moving), and your mentor/origin.  After doing all of this work you move on to customizing your appearance (hair, skin, gear, and the coloration).  Finally choose a name and get started.  I'll also note here, that Warner Brothers/DC/Sony did themselves a favor with character creation and made it easier for players to copy the iconic super heroes/villains that they are going to end up copying anyway.  In fact this game encourages it!  Re-read the above paragraph for confirmation.

It seems like a lot, and I have not gone in to any detail regarding what the powersets actually do, how the weapon styles work, or options for your appearance.  But trust me, this is possibly the most bare bones character creator for a superhero MMO.

Alright, now lets move on to some gameplay.  One of the first things I noticed upon starting the game, was how the controls (movement, attacks, the camera) are different from a 'standard' MMO.  Your camera is not glued to your back.  If you turn around using the WASD movement keys, you have a very good probability of seeing the front of your character.  In addition, your mouse is always on 'mouselook' (except when you open your menus).  In a more traditional MMO, you control your camera with the mouse buttons, and steer with your keyboard.  Not the case here.  I should mention at this point that you use your mouse buttons for attacks - that's it.  Left click is for melee attacks, and right click is for ranged attacks.  After a little probing I discovered why the controls/keybinds are set up the way they are - this game dual released for the PC and the PS3.  So the developers set the game up to operate from a console controller as well as keyboard/mouse input.

Also, unlike traditional MMOs, when you pick up and equip gear, you can adjust your costume on the fly after equipping new equipment.  For example my 'Batman' hero has retained his original costume except for his gloves and boots.  Equipment comes from different sets and each set provides a different appearance item for item; so you can really trick out what your character looks like.  I've seen very very few characters who look the same.

The game itself moves very fluidly.  The graphics are very pretty and the world is pretty seamless.  The two main cities are huge, and are differentiated by subtly changing suburbs.  But fear not!  The main storyline, and all of the minor sub-plots provide real crunch to the game, making each new endeavor feel, well, new.  City of Heroes/Villains is probably the worst offender when it comes to every aspect of the game appearing to be a cookie cut-out of the element before it.  Each mentor gives you missions that revolve around their 'rogues gallery'.  However, just because you have one particular mentor, doesn't mean that you are banned from accepting missions from other mentors.  In fact I've found it incredibly beneficial to move back and fourth between Gotham and Metropolis doing missions for Batman and Superman/Wonder Woman.  I can advance my level past the 'recommended level' for the mission so I have a reduced chance of getting knocked out (aka. dead) by goons - because they love to swarm you.

Missions start small and finish big.  Starting in Gotham, I was immediately set on the trail of the Scarecrow.  I began by taking out his goons, then moving up to getting samples of his newest fear gas, then busting up the fear gas dispensers, and eventually culminating with taking the villain down in the sewers of Gotham.  The missions update without you needing to go back to the quest giver (thanks Oracle!) and automatically adjust the difficulty of 'dungeons' (where you fight the main bad guy) depending upon the total size of your party.  Also, there are 'wanted posters' that you can get missions from to hunt down random heroes/villains - like Solomon Grundy.  And the wanted poster missions are hard.  Really really really hard. You cannot solo them.  Period.  Which is kinda awesome. 

There are a number of 'Easter eggs' in the game.  Collectible clues/news updates bits of storyline fluff that just add to the fun factor for doing exploration.  And upon completing a series of these you gain achievements.  Hell you gain achievements for damn near anything.  But I can't really complain about that, because every time I complete an achievement I get a little boost to my ego, and I want to go dig up more clues, news updates, etc.

Overall, I've very satisfied with this game.  The graphics, gameplay, lack of repetitive feel, being able to solo 99% of the game, the voice acting, and overall fun factor.  It's just damn fun to play.  I think this weekend I'll start leveling a villain, so I have something to compare my hero experience with.

And I'll leave with this parting tidbit.  If you start playing this game, after completing a mission arc, you get to see a little 'cut scene'.  It's animated...kind of.  The cut scenes are done in a comic book style with panels.  And they are just fantastic to watch.  Don't skip through them, do yourself the favor and just watch and enjoy them.

-Bonzo out

*There are relatively few superhero MMOs out there.  Damn few; they just don't seem to last.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

DC Universe Online - Update

OK, so I did get the game.  And I have to say that I am impressed, and that it is pretty fun.  Here's just a quick overview.  I don't want to spend a lot of time on this as it's cutting into my DCU time. 

Since the game is no longer in the beta, a few things (like the voice acting) have been tightened up, and it's very well done.  Batman and The Joker (Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil) steal the show as far as voice acting goes, but I'm sure that comes as no surprise.  The game does not handle like a 'true' MMO.  It's designed to be played on the PS3 as well as PC, so the GUI works like a console GUI.  And oddly, this does not bother me.  The only thing that bothers me is that all attacks are made with the mouse buttons (left and right) and a combination of clicks and holds determines what attack(s) you perform.  What annoys me about this, is that I have a really loud mouse.  The 'button mashing' of the mouse makes this feel like an arcade game for me. 

The character generator is just fun to play with.  Sony and DC did themselves a favor in making this game by accepting the fact that players are going to mimic their favorite (or possibly most obscure) comic superhero/villain just like players do in every other superhero MMO out there, by allowing players to generate characters themed after three main heroes and villains: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman; The Joker, Lex Luthor, and Circe. 

I like the powers, and attacks that are offered, but I have yet to try them all out yet.  I really like the settings, and this superhero MMO has cities that are huge like actual cities are.  Gotham and Metropolis are enormous.  And gorgeous to boot. 

Right now, I'm leveling a hero who is mentored by Batman; he has Martial Arts as an attack power, Gadgets for his control power, and his 'travel power' is Acrobatics (which is the best travel power in the game IMO).

More later, game now.

-Bonzo out

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DC Universe Online

Alright.  It looks amazing.  Really really amazing.  There are some gameplay videos I've been watching on the Youtubes of some cat running a character up to level 30.  The graphics are simply stunning.  I have yet to see any MMO come out with graphics that top what DCUO has.  The sound quality is very good; so good in fact that on particular 'Cases' (read: Quests) you have to find an invisible villain, and he's best located by listening to his taunting.  The closer you get the louder his voice is, and you can tell whether he's in front, behind, or to either side of you.  Really nice directional audio.  I'm probably going to get this game in another week or two to try it out.  The only bad thing I've encountered so far (from the videos) is that the game has some very poor voice acting on the part of the NPCs and some of the more main characters.  From what I've read, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil are reprising their roles as Batman and The Joker from the Animated Series.  James Marsters is supposed to be voicing Lex Luthor; Adam Baldwin ala Firefly is the voice of Superman; Gina Torres (also from Firefly) is the voice of Wonder Woman; and Circe will be voiced by Michelle Forbes whom you may know from such shows as Battlestar Galactica, and True Blood, as well as voice acting in Half Life 2.

And now for some table top updates...kinda of.

I'm looking at picking up a few new titles.  Like The Dresden Files RPG, and hopefully Star Wars, the Saga Edition (which is supposedly the 'first glimpse' of 4E from Wizards of the Coast.  Both of these settings get my creative juices flowing, and I have come to the sad, sad conclusion that in order for me to be able to afford to indulge in my hobby as much as I would like, I need to become a professional GM and hire out my GMing services...either that or I need to brush up on my writing skills and write adventures/modules and sell them.

Alas for not enough time to game.

-Bonzo out.