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February Update Impressions

William Murphy Posted:
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With DC Universe’s first content update launching on Tuesday, we decided it was probably a good idea to jump in feet first and see if the promised content and fixes lived up to their potential.  There’s no denying that a large part of DCUO’s appeal is in its promised monthly updates, and this first one has a lot riding on it (especially since it missed its intended Holiday by a week).  There’s also a very annoying set of bugs that had players exploiting animation cancelling to dominate PvP and this patch was supposed to address that.  But aside from bugs potentially squashed, the update brings with it a slew of new missions and content.  Drew and I both spent some time with the game Tuesday and I’ll let Drew go first with his early impressions.

Drew Wood:

With the content update dropping Tuesday, I felt the need to dive right in and take a look at some of the new content.  I won't touch on the technical details or the Valentine's content.  I've left that to Bill who, like myself, decided to dive straight into the thick of it today.  I'm here to talk about the addition of the Catwoman mini-campaign quest for the 30th levels out there and see just how much this new content actually brings to the table.

First things first, I'm a Catwoman fan.  Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's treatment of the character in their Hush miniseries is one of the greatest treatments of the feline felon, juggling her as an anti-hero and love interest not only to Batman, but to Bruce Wayne and cemented her as, in my mind, the only true love interest for the Dark Knight.  That being said, this mini-campaign just doesn't have much weight to it and seems somewhat out of character for Selina Kyle.

First, you have to track her down in Otisburg which was surprisingly easy.  She just happened to be standing right in the middle of an alley.  I was hoping for a rooftop race, trying to track down the feline felon as she leaped from building to building in the perpetual night of the Gotham District, but instead, she was simply standing there talking to a Falcone goon.  Now, I understand that they've incorporated some Catwoman focused races into the game, but why not blend these directly into the quest?  It would have beefed up the content and provided more to do in the lead up of the quest.  From there, I was to follow her to the Gotham Museum to, as a villain, aid her in her attempts to steal some valuable Egyptian cat relics.  Upon arriving, the museum is, predictably, buried in a hot mess of fire and human/jungle cat hybrids.

Catwoman sends you off to collect the precious gems to incite an ancient ritual with these cat statues by yourself, and as you fight through the hordes of Tiger, Panther, Lion and Cheetah Cat-Men (each with their own Big Bad Guy), you collect the gems.  Once you have them all in place, you have to fight Catwoman herself who is now possessed by these ancient cat spirits, and you have to drop her 9 times.  I was expecting a bit more of a challenge, to be honest with you, but I completed the additional campaign in about 15 or 20 minutes without dying once. 

Overall, the campaign is a lot of fun (and the cut scene at the end sticks to form, providing great narrative over a great animation) but it's short-lived and, for me, it seemed out of character for Catwoman to want to perform this ancient ritual.  Personally, I would've been happier with something with a bit more running time.  The standard formula for the chapters in DCUO is a quest in parts, perform task 1 made up of tasks a, b, and c, perform task 2 made up of tasks d, e, and f and then the instanced finalé.  This lacked that, diving you straight into the instanced battle.  It was long for an instance, but the overall meat of the quest seemed lacking.

I haven't had a chance yet to dive into any of the Valentine's Day content, nor have I tried out the new Duo, themed missions, or any of the other updated content.  In good time I'll dive more into it.  For now, I can say that I'm disappointed, not with the update as a whole, but just with the new quest. 

Bill Murphy:

Like Drew, I was pretty stoked for today’s content update, and jumped in as soon as I got home.  I was glad any patching issues were fixed when I got home, as the patch was just over a GB in size.  One of the beautiful things about DCUO’s pick up and play nature is the way that quests are often just given to you via your communicator.  All the new content was right there waiting for me.  No hours spent hunting down an NPC or figuring out where all the holiday content is.  The quests, or rather how to start them, are right in your log.

The first thing I did was the new Bane duo, which helps give small-group players something new to do to gear up in Tier One items.  Like all Duos, it’s a reworked version of one of the game’s many solo instances.  But it’s obvious that they’ve learned a little bit in making these more interesting.  As a Villain you now get to fight the Huntress and Nightwing before taking out Bane at the end.  It makes for a much more interesting time whenever you get to fight the stars of the DC Universe.  The loot from this new Duo (and Duos in general) is still kind of lacking though.  Right now, aside from having something fun to do with a friend, all Duos are good for is getting tokens for Tier One gear.  Sure you get a few feats too from each, but mostly you run them for top end gear.  I can’t help but think there’s a missed opportunity for something more there.  Still, the Duo’s a welcome addition to the end game, and I’m hopeful that it’ll be the first of many.

I also got to try out some of the Valentine’s content. Now despite that it’s now over a week past V-Day, my first impression is that the cupid stuff is actually pretty fun.  If you don’t like the Stryker’s Island Toy content you probably won’t like this as it involves a lot of platforming and goofy stuff.  Like all holiday stuff, it’s pretty light-hearted, and kind of pointless outside of the “fun factor”.  There are some pretty cool new styles in the content though from a seasonal vendor that resides inside the Hall of Doom and JLA Watchtower respectively.  I haven’t been able to check out the seasonal Alert yet, as our League’s healer was MIA when I was on, but as I understand it there’s a whole other set of items to collect there.  Additionally, there’s plenty of new collections, new feats, and new investigations with the new content which will allow you to further flesh out your character’s feats.

The brightest spot?  The animation cancelling bug has apparently been fixed.  You can still be steam-rolled by an organized pre-made group in Arenas or Legends.  But overall the exploits have been eradicated.  That’s absolutely fantastic.  Still a slew of other bugs seem to have risen in its place or not been dealt with.  None of them are as potentially crippling as the animation cancelling bug, and I don’t feel like repeating them here.  However folks who play as Ice characters might know of what I speak.  If not some simple forum browsing will probably enlighten you.  I also still can’t store my unlocked Facebook items in the bank, nor can I sell them.  And of course there’s still the annoying “stuck in combat” bug in instances that keeps you from regenerating health and power.  Not fun without support classes in Duos.

I did check out the Auction House (I think they call it something else, but I’m not sure why).  And while there are already plenty of people trying to sucker slow folks out of their hard-earned cash by selling trash for sky-high prices, I’m just glad to see it working.  There may not be crafting in DCUO, but I’m a fan of having a lot of style choices, and the AH will make that much a much easier goal to go after.  Provided prices level out. 

Overall after a few hours with the update, I can tell it’s improved the game, but perhaps not as much as some may have hoped.  Still, if they can keep up this pacing (and hit St. Paddy’s Day on the day it happens or before it) DCUO’s going to be getting a nice steady stream of content.  Will this patch be enough to entertain the disenfranchised for a month?  Probably not.  But it’s a good start, and hopefully the tardiness of February’s doesn’t set a precedent.  I can’t make a total judgment based on these first few hours, but if the Alert is fun and the new Raid pans out there’s definitely something for everyone in this patch.  I will agree with Drew though that the Catwoman mission was underwhelming.  The instance (which is a repeatable solo “challenge” mission) is probably one of the best, but I agree with Drew that I was expecting more of a well-rounding story like the game’s other levelling episodes.

Still, overall I like the changes this patch has brought.  I’m glad Bitter Winds works properly now.  I’m glad the chat UI is more responsive.  I’m glad PvP is bearable again.  There’s a ton of new feats and outfits to get.  And I’m glad I have a new alert and a new duo to run.  The game still has some annoying bugs hanging around, but this patch cleared up a number of them.  It’s not without its issues.  The forums will show you a number of things still plaguing the game.  But added content and much needed bug fixes are never a bad thing.  Hopefully this forward momentum will keep going and March’s update will be even better.

Basically the patch's PvE content seems all well and good.  It's the PvP and exploits that are still there, and still making a lot of competitive players angry with due reason.  It's great to see how quickly and ably SOE can add content to the game, but if the PvP bugs and exploits go unchecked for another 1.5 months something tells me the folks in Austin won't be happy.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.