Quick to Eat, Slow to Digest
It would be easy to look at the fact that DC Universe’s level cap is only 30 and that reaching said cap can be done in as little as 24 hours of play-time. But to say that character progression ends at 30 is simply untrue. Though players could use a little more forewarning about the system, DCUO’s Feats act as a sort of Alternate Advancement system that will further flesh out a character beyond level 30. For every 100 feat points earned, players are awarded an additional skill point. So while at level 30, you’ll have 15 power points and 15 skill points just from leveling, if you’ve been doing feats you could potentially have many more. And it’s in your best interest to keep hunting down and completing feats to further deck out your character’s stats.
And while the level cap arrives quickly when compared to other games, it would be folly to suggest that the game ends there. If anything, it’s only just begun once you’ve reached the highest ranks. Let’s list some of the content that extends beyond the level cap: There are races throughout the city, with different ones for each movement mode, and it’s highly unlikely that any player will have completed them all before hitting 30. Additionally there are daily Solo Challenges for the lone player, which are re-worked hard-mode instances of some of the game’s early content. Completing these not only awards renown with particular factions, but also awards Marks of Allegiance which can be spent on some pretty decent high level items with their own unique styles. Also once at level 30, players open up Duos which can be completed daily. Just like they sound, Duos are quick and dirty dungeons for two players which have their own unique bosses (Booster Gold, anyone?) and loot. Successful completion of each awards Marks of Triumph which can be used to obtain Tier 1 gear. Tier 1 gear is highly recommended (if not completely necessary) to progress through the game’s 8-player raids as well. In order to get the full T1 set, you can either complete your Duos daily, or you can participate in Hard-Mode alerts at level 30. These are roughly 30 minute dungeons where four players will have to use their roles to drop several bosses in places like Arkham Asylum, Area 51, and the like.
Let’s also not forget the Legends PvP, where players take on the guise of iconic DC Universe characters and battle in familiar players like ACE Chemicals. And then there are the Arenas where players use their created characters to battle each other over specific objectives like maintaining control of STAR Labs. Participating in Legends at level 30 nabs you both Marks of Victory (for PvP gear) and Marks of Legend (used to buy access to more iconic characters for PvP). In fact the only real drawback to PvP is that outside of the Ring War event in Metropolis (which grants access to some of the game’s best weapons for the winning side), is that there’s not much point to doing it. It’s fun. You earn Influence (PvP cash). But there’s no real stake in doing it outside of the thrills. In a world where Villains and Heroes clash so often, I’d like to see controllable points and bonuses given to the side with the upper-hand. But, hey… that’s what content updates are for right?
So while DCUO may seem quick to plow through, I don’t think it can be said that there’s not enough content in the game. I’m hard-pressed to think of any recently launched title that had this fully-fleshed out of an end-game at release. Is it perfect? By no means. But there’s plenty to do, that’s for certain. Some will lament that crafting didn’t make the cut, or that the economy is thus far non-existent because the AH won’t be implemented until late February. But what’s there in DCUO is utterly addictive and exceedingly amusing. There are even some crazy little time-waster missions out on Stryker Island in Metropolis which has players turning into giant wind-up toys and running amuck or flying through the sky blasting evil toys with lasers. Does that make sense? Probably not, but you’ll just have to try it at level 30.
The real kicker though for DCUO’s ability to maintain a subscriber base will be if they can keep adding content as quickly as they propose. Because of the briskly-paced nature of the game, the hardcore will wind up in fully-geared and with as many skill points as they can get within the first two months. And as raiding and token grinding is likely not for everyone, a lot of folks will rely on new added content and raising alts to maintain interest in the game. February’s Catwoman and Valentine’s Day themed content patch seems like a step in the right direction. New missions, new Duos, new PvP features, even a new Raid. But can they keep that up every month? How soon will new powers that didn’t make launch be added? These are the questions that SOE will have to answer in time. A very solid groundwork has been laid, now they just need to come through on their promises.
As stated at the outset, DCUO is most definitely a game that will divide MMO players. Some will adore it for what it sets out to do, and others will deplore it for what it does not do. Some will decry its lack of crafting, while others will spend hours scouring Metropolis for the game’s collections. Some will be happy for the brisk leveling pace and rise to end-game, while others will cry foul and say there’s not enough meat to chew. The reality, in this reviewer’s opinion, is that DC Universe Online is an exceedingly fun game held back from greatness by only a handful of extremely annoying neglects. Where it triumphs, it does so with grand aplomb. When it fails, it crashes with a resonating thud. I struggled with assigning a score to the game, because some of its flaws are absolutely enraging. But ultimately, the fun of the title still outweighs the missteps for me. SOE’s latest effort is absolutely one of the most entertaining MMOs to come out in years. I haven’t had this much fun in an online game in I can’t remember how long. DCUO is a great way to start a release-packed 2011 and is only going to get better with age.