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DC Universe Online Previews: Lightning Strikes Mini-Review

By William Murphy on December 12, 2011

As you all know, I’ve long been a fan of SOE’s DC Universe Online.  I’m a comic book nerd, and a lover of action-based MMOs, and DCUO hit on all the right notes.  Now, after a rough post-launch and a conversion to a Freemium model, it finally seems like Batman, Superman, et al are getting their feet back under them once more.  The second batch of paid DLC for DCUO just launched. Called Lightning Strikes, it is as the name implies entirely centered around The Flash.  There’s a ton of new stuff thrown into the mix, most notably a brand new healing power set in the form of Electricity and a huge new zone for level 30s to mix it up in, replete with all the goodies and items that such new content might entail.  But is this new DLC worth the price of admission?  If you’re a Legendary subscriber, you’re in like Flint anyway, but for those who would have to drop $10, what say we?

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The Electricity Power Set

This, for me, was the highlight of the new patch.  I dug the Hard Light powers from Fight for the Light, but I’ve been dying for a healing set that appealed to me and Electricity is definitely meeting that need.  Like all combat in DCUO, it’s fast and furious, and the spell effects are vicious, even if the animations are mostly borrowed from other classes and weapon combinations.  Like the other power sets before it, one tree focuses mostly on damage dealing skills, while the other delves further into healing the higher you go into the tree.  So while Electricity is categorized mainly as a “Healing” role, you can play it straight DPS for all time if that’s what you’d rather do.  I’ve had a lot of fun so far running around as Electric Six (tell me some of you know that band), and I’ll likely take him all the way to the end game, because one things MMOs have taught me is that a healer is always welcome.

The Combat Rating and You

There’s one fatal flaw to Lightning Strikes, and it’s the kind of “why would they do that” move that one just has to shake their head at and hope changes are made.  Recently, DCUO introduced a “Combat Rating” for your character.  This is essentially a gear-score.  That alone is fine if not hokey, in a game that’s all about raiding at the max level currently.  But here’s where it gets sticky.  Now most of the end game content is gated by this Combat Rating, meaning you can’t even enter the content until you have good enough gear to “please the gear gods” and get in. 

If you want to raid?  You first have to grind through enough Duos and Hard Mode Alerts to get a CR of 46.  If you want to do the higher raids? You’ll need a CR of 53.  This isn’t just a suggested combat rating either, but a mandatory one.  You won’t even be able to enter these raids until you’ve obtained the appropriate gear which means hours and hours spent grinding out the marks needed to get most or all of your first max-level set of armor. 

As if that weren’t enough? Central City is easily the most anticipated part of this DLC for the veterans of DCUO.  It’s a brand new wide-open zone for 50 players from each side to enter and duke it out in, quest in, and so forth.  It’s the first new open world place for players to hang out since the game launched, and was the best hope at getting level 30s out and doing something besides queuing for alerts and raids.  But now, it’s just a place you have to look forward to after lots of time spent gear-grinding.  Granted, the grind in DCUO to get your armor isn’t as bad as many other games, but the fact remains that it’s something which was sort of tossed to the community without warning and players are understandably upset.

There’s a good reason, sort of, that the developers decided to go this route with the CR: they don’t want players skipping older content and going straight for all the new shiny gear in Central City.  But there’s a pretty simply solution to that: make the vendor who gives the new gear out in Central City be the only thing that requires a CR of 53.  This way fresh 30s can still go to the new zone if they want, in between all their Hard Mode Alerts and Raids to get the appropriate CR.  And if that’s not doable, why can’t there be a “Normal Mode” Central City that doesn’t require a CR of 53, and a “Hard Mode” that does? And the latter could be the only one with the new gear vendors. 

In any case the new Combat Rating requirements are a big marring tear in what would otherwise be an excellent new addition to the DCUO canon.  Essentially, folks paying for either a subscription or the DLC are kept out of what they’ve paid for until they meet some silly gear requirement.  I don’t care if I can’t buy the new toys in Central City, and I don’t care if I die constantly once there… just let me access what I’ve paid for.  Here’s hoping the developers are listening and will make some adjustments. 

What The Future May Hold

Not all is doom and gloom though, folks.  It’s clear to see that going Freemium has really injected DCUO with a lot of new players and most seem to be enjoying the game.  It’s a perfect fit for the Freemium model, and if the DLC and updates keep coming, I can see myself playing for years to come.  Jens and crew at SOE have already briefly hinted at Crafting coming down the line, possibly by Update 9 which is due in early 2012 (not far!).  There’s a new PVP map on the way in Update 8, and who knows what else is planned for the next DLC.  Aside from new powers and more open world content (maybe even some contestable open world PVP points?) let me end this little update with one last thing I’d like to see change in DCUO.

I love feats.  I love that there’s a little meta-game of hunting them down and achieving them to get all the cool little emblems and a sense of accomplishment.  But man what I wouldn’t give to see feats untied from level 30 character advancement.  You can get tons of addition skill points by hunting down feats, but you cease feeling heroic in the process of what amounts to treasure hunting and racing against the clock.  Instead, I’d like to see the last skill points become attainable through a more traditional AA system, where players continue to earn experience at level 30 and get a skill point for each AA level.  But maybe that’s just me.  In all honestly, I’d rather just be able to access to Central City without being forced to raid and gear grind… and I think I know which one might be easier for SOE to do.

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