Well folks, we may have to wait until next year to play the release version of DCUO, but we’re certainly not going to have to wait much longer to get info from SOE Austin. This past weekend saw the revelation of the studio’s own spin on the character creation process, and also the fact that it looks like the Light Power set won’t be making launch and will instead be reserved for a big Green Lantern update a little into the game’s lifespan. Plus we know that the beta will be started before November 15th and that all who pre-order will be in and participating by then. Shall we digest the info and give my thoughts on the character creation for this week’s DCUO Weekly? Why yes… I think we shall.
First on deck is the fact that DCUO is going with pre-set character “sizes” instead of allowing the all-out shape stretching that Champions Online has. There are arguments on both sides of the fence for this one, but really when it comes down to it, I’m just not sure I care. I’d almost rather see several thousand equally proportioned but differently costumed heroes and villains than see a bunch of troglodyte-looking rejects with pot-bellies, stumpy legs, and enormous heads running around. I get that people want oodles of control over what their hero or villain looks like, but really with the technical restraints it puts on animations (not to mention the aforementioned troglodytes) I can understand why SOE Austin chose to stick with a few basic character models. As long as the customization of the outfits we wear is plentiful, there’s really nothing to worry about.
Another thing that was touched on a wee bit during our panel and in general at NYCC was the fact that players will select from what looks to be about three "Mentors" per side at launch. The heroes apparently can choose between Batman (tech and gadgets), Superman (meta or innate superpowers) and Wonder Woman (magically given powers like sorcery and nature). Depending on which you choose, the game's story for you will change, which speaks volumes about the potential replayability of the title. If each side has three (or more?) mentors to choose from and each one has its own story to follow then that's a pretty good reason to roll a new character from time to time if you ask me.
The Chris Cao walkthrough videos available elsewhere on the web, also show how you can easily select a look that is "inspired" by your favorite hero. Don't have the time or the patience to really dig deep into your character's look, but you know you want him to pay homage to The Riddler? You can do that with a few clicks of the mouse. You can even choose "Batman" as a template for your powers if you know he's the kind of hero you want to model yourself after, and then change direction as you go and play the game. I know that doesn't sound great to everyone, but one of the biggest hurdles for me when I first boot up a game like DCUO is nailing the perfect look for style for my character. If I can pick a few presets and then alter them either by digging more into character create, or by doing so later in the game, I'll be a happy camper. Instead of pulling out my hair to get things just right the first time, I can take a little help from the creator, and then adjust it as I see fit. I promise I won't add to the no doubt thousands of Caped Crusader lookalikes we're going to see when the game launches. That much I can swear.
And how can I not mention the “Style Tab”, which is basically akin letting you wear cosmetic items that don’t affect your stats. Only in DCUO, if you want them to affect your stats but not your appearance, then you can. More than in other hero games, DCUO’s items and gear really can have a cosmetic impact on your character… but only if you want them to. And then there’s the fact that you apparently will have a catalog of all the items you’ve collected in the game, at least stylistically and can choose to use their looks at any time on your character. Add in the fact that you’ll be able to change the colors of each item to match your theme, and hopefully we’ll never have to worry about too many rainbow heroes and villains running around.
Let's talk a bit about weapons, and then we'll get into the power selection. Weapons are one of those things I was really wondering how SOE would make work in DCUO. But after seeing the video and seeing that several of the options are something akin to "unarmed" I'm feeling much better about the notion. At first glance from playing the game at E3, I was under the impression that every character had to have weapons equipped. I mean yes the weapons looked cool, but what if I wanted to make an Iron Fist (yes, I know it's the wrong publisher) type character? Now, after seeing all the options and just how wicked some of them look, I'm going to be hard-pressed not to make my first character a staff wielding bad-ass. Each weapon offers different combos to use in combat, different powers that are tied to each specific weapon, and different rates of attack... not to mention that whole ranged versus melee thing. I liken the weapons to your "normal" attacks, while the powers you select are your "specials", but it seems that even the weapons will have specials of their own to fire off.
Lastly, before I wrap up this week and save my rambling for another article, let's talk about powers. Though it's still in beta, it's probably safe to assume that fire, gadgets, ice, mental, nature and sorcery will be the final set of powers when the game launches. Though that may seem like a smaller selection than we're used to, the developers were quick to point out that each set has two different trees to select powers from. For example the nature set offers both the powers of Poison Ivy and the shape-shifting abilities of Beast Boy. Think of it like SWTOR's advanced classes, and you're probably on the right track. It's not so much a talent tree type thing, as it is completely different styles of play depending on which way you go. Combine these with the weapon choices, and the three travel powers (flight, acrobatics, and speed) which each have their own combat abilities too, and I think SOE has a pretty decent set of stuff for us to choose from. My only worry is that Light (Green Lantern) seems absent and set for an expansion or game update down the road when the team makes the Corps a central plot point. I can live with a delay on Hal Jordan's powers, so long as when they do come they're as awesome as they deserve to be. But really, until they make it into the game, I’ll be fully content to whack baddies on the head repeatedly with my staff.