Wow… what a weird several months it’s been for DC Universe Online. Hugely successful launch, followed by underwhelming retention and a plague of PVP exploits, then the Sony Hacking Scandal, and then the Mega Server consolidation. And now, in about a month, DCUO will join EQ2: Extended as a “Freemium” model MMORPG. Mind you, the game’s not even hit its first birthday and has seen nearly as much controversy as most games do in several years’ time.
With all that said, behind the scenes the development staff at SOE Austin hasn’t stopped making new content for the game. Sure, they never could quite hit the schedule Chris Cao had once promised, but there’s been a steady stream of new things for players to do since it launched. The most recent of course is the “Fight for the Light” DLC, which has been given free to all current subscribers as of September 6th. I’ve had a little time to mess around with the new hard light power set and the game’s many added alerts, and have come away feeling a bit more optimistic on DCUO’s future, especially with the F2P conversion happening soon. Fight for the Light is a great start to making DCUO more versatile and engaging, but there are still some key things missing that need addressed once the title makes the leap to F2P. But let’s take this one step at a time and go over what the update’s added to the game.
The Light Powers
As the name Fight for the Light implies, this largest content update for DCUO thus far centers entirely on the Green Lantern and Lantern Corps mythology. As such, players can finally use the hard light powers that belong only to the Lantern owners. Now we can argue about how this should have been in at launch all you want, but I think the intention was almost always to add it in later for an expansion like this. I mean, despite the outcry of folks who didn’t want to pay $10 for it, I know I would have. Why? Because I fawn over Sinestro, and because the power set itself is easily my new favorite in the game.
The story is that because of all these new heroes in DCUO from the exobytes, similarly the Corps has recruited a bunch more folks to help police the sector. Whether you choose Green (Hero) or Yellow (Villain), you get your own ring and all the powers are the same across either side. Green Lanterns power their constructs with Will while the Yellow power theirs with Fear, but the powers themselves in the game are the same on either side. One path is specifically targeted towards offensive attacks (Assault) and the other is geared more towards support abilities (Support), but both serve the “Controller” role in DCUO. If you’re not familiar with the mechanics, this is the class role that acts as a sort of “mana battery” in group play: their actions and skills focus on keeping the team’s power pool up.
The powers themselves are many and varied from guns and claws to chainsaws and force fields and straight-up blasts of hard light. There’s even a brand new mechanic added to combat with the Light powers: construct combos. Basically these work like regular combos, only you’re chaining your constructs together from your ability load-out. You can seamlessly move from say your whirling dervish light claws into the chainsaw and it feels really good to do so.
Progressing the Story
The light powers alone will be a boon to any Green Lantern fan (or Sinestro Corps fan), but if you’re playing one from the ground up you’ll be running through the same content many have been playing for months. Luckily Fight for the Light comes packed with a bunch of new alerts and duos too. There’s a duo on Coast City where you must stop Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns from tearing a Ferris aircraft apart. There’s an alert in Coast City where all three main Corps (Sinestro, Green, and Red) help STAR Labs avert bad mojo on said aircraft. There’s another alert where you join the Lantern Corps to push back Brainiac in STAR Labs itself to find out what brought the Corps to Earth in such force. And lastly, my favorite, there’s a third alert that has players traveling to Oa itself to find out why the prisoners are rioting in the Green Lantern Sciencells (intergalactic prison).
This stuff is all golden for fans of the comics, and really, they’re welcome just to mix things up after doing so many of the same duos and alerts. But where DCUO still needs more love, and god willing will get it after October, is in the Open World department. Players still pretty much sit at level 30 in the main cities or nightclubs and queue up for matches. Even on the PVP server, there’s action in the streets, but not enough. The F2P conversion will help this as so many more players will join the fray, but without some real reason for them to hang out in the open at level 30, it won’t matter.
A Step Forward
I feel like Fight for the Light really is a step forward for the game. Instead of the same old duo here, alert there, event here song and dance, this really feels like a meaningful addition to the game. But what is really wanted (and I don’t think I’m speaking for myself alone here) is more reason to get back out into the streets of Gotham and Metropolis once we’re at the level cap. Aside from achievements and min-max building that comes with that whole game. We want adventures to happen in the real world and not just instances. Given the insanely short climb to level 30, I’d even be more than willing to see a level cap raise and some new zones. Coast City is begging to be delved into more, and there are whole portions of Gotham and Metropolis left bottled by Brainiac still.
DCUO went up a hill really quickly when it launched, and its momentum carried back down at lightning speed. Now they’re making a steady climb once again as they head into the F2P territory and I really feel that the game has a strong chance to succeed in that market. But to do so, it’ll need more than just instanced content. Keep more power sets coming, and bring us back into the open world (maybe some PvP too?) and I’ll be one happy camper.