Recently our own Jon Wood had the chance to venture to SOE’s FanFaire in Las Vegas, and came back with a little bit better understanding of the way the world of DC Universe Online is shaping up. Another week’s gone by and we still don’t really have all that much solid info on the November release, but little tidbits here or there are starting to fill in some holes. For instance, while in Vegas Jon learned that the world will indeed be much more open than previously thought, with large portions of the game map being devoted to both Metropolis and Gotham City. Hopefully we’ll get some more diverse environments thrown in there as well or at least different sectors within each city that will give us something more to look at than urban sprawls. But aside from seeing just how open the game’s world really is one thing I think bears a little more mention and clarification is the notion of Episodes within DCUO.
Think of Episodes like personalized instanced content for you and/or your team. While there will be wider story arcs throughout the game and in the shared world, the Episodes are chance for the developers to really showcase stories and give you some epic staged content on a more personal level. One such Episode we know about involves some craziness with the Green Lantern Corps in which you’ve got big bosses like Kilowog roaming around to be fought depending on which side you’re fighting for. Of course there’s a larger plot device at play here involving the GLC and some rather explosive confusion, but the real purpose is to give the design staff a reason to highlight such well known characters and themes from the comics.
While it’s still unclear as to how these Episodes will fit into the game and how you’ll activate them one can expect a few things. They’re likely to be repeatable content, and they’re likely to be the kind of content that rewards you heftily for completion. I liken them to dungeons from your more traditional MMOs. Episodes will let you fight against Luthor, Doomsday, Bizarro, and so forth, in a more viable manner than simply having them roam the shared world while players spawn-camp them for their drops. I’m expecting, because I’m a realist, that much of the traditional mission content in DCUO will be what we’re used to in terms of goals and objectives: kill this, collect this, find this. But with Episodes, players will get a chance to take part in larger more important objectives which will presumably get more and more “epic” as your character grows in power.
Speaking of growing in power, one way in which DCUO differs from both CoH and Champions Online is that it will have cosmetic items that drop and can be equipped much like they would in your average MMORPG with orcs and elves. One such example we saw at E3 was when players defeated Harley Quinn, she dropped a rare hat. Put it on, and you’ve got yourself a fancy little jester hat that even the Joker would be jealous of. But the beauty is that if you want to keep the statistical benefits without the looks, you can do so. Champions gave players plenty of items to collect and improve their stats and powers with, but for the most part they did nothing in terms of the look of your character. DCUO’s cosmetic items go one step further by allowing you to sport that trophy you looted off of some big bad boss, and more importantly they give you the option to just use the stats and shirk the looks if you’d rather keep your character’s custom design intact.
Going back to the preceding paragraphs, one has to wonder just what kind of killer green-hued loot you might find when you and your friends drop Kilowog in the GLC Episode. And while I love playing both CoH and CO, I can’t help but feel one of the things they’re missing is cosmetic items. It may not be in true keeping with the idea that that heroes and villains have a distinct look that they rarely diverge from, but come on… this is a comic book videogame. I don’t think we really need to be too concerned with logic and realism.