Set to launch today after some patch downtime, DC Universe Online’s latest DLC: The Fight for Earth may just be SOE Austin’s most ambitious batch of content yet. There’s a new Earth Power Set (which can be either a tanking or damage set), it’s the finale to the game’s first major story-arc about Brainiac, there’s a new open world area for level 30s in South Gotham that’s been opened up, new Tier 4 armor and crafted gear, two new raids, new duos, and new alerts. The only thing that doesn’t get a boost in this DLC is PVP, but the SOE Austin folks were quick to point out that the next DLC is a heavily PVP focused update. It certainly seems that after a rocky start, DCUO has found its niche and stride as a premier capes and tights MMO.
On the call were Jens Andersen (DCUO Creative Director), Lorin Jameson (SOE Executive Director of Development), and Larry Liberty (DCUO Executive Producer) who formerly worked at Obsidian on Fallout: New Vegas and recently joined the team in SOE Austin. We were given the rundown on the background of the story first. Essentially, this DLC is what the team’s been working towards with the story since day one. Brainiac’s invasion of Earth is coming to a head and it’s up to the villains and the heroes to stop him once and for all. It’s his last gambit, the last plan he has. It all culminated in a massive raid where players will fight his final Avatar – The Avatar of Magic on the homeland of Wonder Woman: Themyscira. Along the way players will run into Future Lex Luthor and Future Batman, who will set themselves up as the main characters for the next plot in the DCUO storyline.
Jens then told us a bit about South Gotham, which is probably one of the more exciting aspects of the Fight for Earth DLC. For ages it seems, players have been jonesing for a way to get back out into the open world. With the Flash DLC, players were given access to Barry’s hometown, but it was an area for higher-geared level 30s. South Gotham is meant for fresh level 30s to go take part in and group up in and is set right in the open world with the rest of the city. Essentially, it’s the area of Gotham that’s been “bottled” by Brainiac, now opened up for players. Not necessarily meant for one to tackle solo, South Gotham is filled to the brim with public quest type content. You’ll find out what the humans who have been locked up in this area have been doing since they were bottled, and find out that there’s a greater threat to Gotham that must be stopped within. The goal is to give players who just hit 30 (as well as players who just enjoy open world content) somewhere to go and get some gear as they work towards raiding.
The Earth Power set is bringing an entirely new mechanic to DCUO as well. Tanking seems like a pretty straightforward sort of ideal, but the Earth set does so with pets instead of the player’s own character. Basically, as an Earth user you’ll call upon a bunch of earthen minions who will fight alongside you and help you deal damage, but their main purpose is to take any damage you’re dealt. As you’re hit by enemies, your pets take the damage you’ve been hit with, making for a class that’s a unique blend of a pet management and tanking. If you want to stay alive and do your part in group scenarios, then it will be your job to keep your pets up and soaking in the damage. On top of this, there is a slew of physics based rock powers to go along with all the pet summons making for what the team thinks is easily one of the more complex and fun power sets yet.
Those of us present for this roundtable discussion were the allowed to ask a few questions. One of the first was about the story: with Brainiac defeated, what will be next? Jens dropped some hints that throughout the leveling process heroes and villains alike worked towards things like freeing Trigun or Black Adam… and perhaps we should be on the lookout to see what the next updates bring from previously opened but unfinished storylines like these. Now that Brainiac has been defeated, the team can get to exploring a lot of the other baddies they’ve only barely touched on in the past.
We also were told that there’s a whole new armor set to work towards, Tier 4, and that its theme is of the Grecian variety, in correspondence with Wonder Woman and Themyscira’s motif. Very cool and Helenistic looking in Jens’ own words. But on top of that, there are a slew of new crafting items to work towards. When we asked about new weapons, we were told that the best are still the weapons released with the Flash DLC, but that DLC 4 and its focus on PVP would likely improve upon this. When asked if the new raids would have a Novice Mode (an easier version for less-organized groups to partake in that was added recently for older raids), Jens said that they won’t at the start. They still want their bleeding edge players to have access to this content first, and as future raids are released they’ll apply a novice mode to these for the more casual folks to access.
Speaking on DLC 4, when the team was asked about new weapon sets to choose from at character creation, they were coy but said to ask them again in DLC 4. They reminded us that there’s no set formula for the DLCs, so they won’t always just have powers, raids, and so on. And that moving forward, in accordance with what their players want, they’ll be focusing on things like new movement powers and new weapon choices. Very good to hear for fans of DCUO.
Lastly, we asked what the team had learned since DLC1 when the game was still subscription based to now, as it nears its third major DLC pack and has since transitioned to a Freemium model. Essentially the team said that there’s nothing they haven’t learned. They know their building tools better, they know how to more quickly and properly create and implement new content, and as such you can tell in DLC3 because it’s easily the most robust one yet. They feel like they’ve hit their stride and that going forward fans will be pleased with how readily able they are to react to the wants and desires of the players.
One thing’s for sure: with two new raids, a new alert, new duos, new gear, new crafting items, and a new power set (not to mention the long-awaited return of open world content) there is a lot to love in The Fight for Earth DLC. It launches today, March 13th so if you’ve been waiting for a reason to dust of your level 30 hero or villain, not might be the time. With a massive PVP-centric on the way in the next DLC, the future is looking bright for DC Universe Online.