This on-going feature serves as an evolving review of the game, complete with personal anecdotes and opinion. For more editions of Going Through The MMOtions, click here.</em>
As an MMO newcomer, I'm starting to appreciate that the beauty of these games (or certainly DC Universe Online in particular) is not so much in the variety of the gameplay, but in the variety of options. Loading up DC Universe Online this morning I had a list of quests as long as my arm to complete. While the gameplay offers very little variation, I found myself mixing things up for myself.
"Right, now I'm going to head to Gotham," I said to myself as I put the finishing touches to a quest-line in Metropolis. The gameplay may well stay static, but there's plenty of different environments and quest givers to keep things interesting. In just under four hours of play I'd ventured through Area 51, had an encounter with Harley Quinn in Joker's fun-house, and taken a tour of the Watchtower. Despite only having three main areas available, DC Universe Online's world is pretty rich with different components.
That said, for as interesting as the world is to explore, the limited variety in mission structure is starting to get me down. Moving around the universe with thousands of different live players hasn't exactly worn off yet, but some of the combat has. Essentially the problem is that the mission structure very rarely changes. Quest-givers such as Batman or Superman will tell you to head to a certain area of the over-world, and once you reach there you'll be tasked with a series of milestone objectives. Usually these quests involve nothing more than rescuing someone, arresting someone or destroying something. In reality, there's little more to the game than beating people up. I'm informed this is an issue with most MMOs.
Perhaps emphasising the dull structure is the way so many quests rely on the repetition of certain tasks. It's not enough freeing one Gotham City police officer, most quests will require you to free 10 or 15. And yet it's addictive. While I can physically feel myself tiring of the repetitive mission structure, I keep going. There's something reassuring about watching a progress bar fill up.
Most quest-lines end with a specific instance. These instances take you to a specific linear environment populated only by yourself and enemy characters. My progress today took me into Joker's fun-house, a really interesting sub-environment packed with zany music and a really unusual art aesthetic. These instances provide some much needed variety to DC Universe Online's locales. While the world itself is divided into specific sections, the overarching visual style remains consistent through. The instanced areas allow the game to offer something completely unique. These sub-levels typically end in a boss battle. In this case I was paired up with a captured Robin to help defeat Harley Quinn. I still enjoy these fights alongside the super-heroes, and while the bosses feel a little grindy to me, it at least gives the illusion of a power struggle.
In addition to blasting through a series of mission quests, I also joined the queue for an Alert in Area 51. Alerts are essentially grouped instances like the Joker's Funhouse mission I mentioned earlier. In this case I was teamed up with three other super-heroes and packaged off to a desert instance where I took on Brainiac's minions alongside my group. Unfortunately these instances don't offer much variety to the core mission structure. It's still a case of killing groups of enemies or protecting certain NPCs. The instance ended with a pretty epic boss fight against a giant robot thing (sorry, his name escapes me) which, to be honest, was pretty exhilarating. The boss fight was a challenge but once we started to work as a team it felt like we had the run of him. I adopted my Controller role for the instance, but I'm still not entirely sure what effect that had. Aside from allowing me to adapt my loadouts, I still don't feel like I really have a grasp of how to use my character's sub-ability. If anyone wants to drop hints in the comments, that'd be nice.
As a reward for completing the instance, I unlocked a comic-book cut-scene that added some purpose to the game's narrative. The storyline still doesn't particularly have me hooked, simply because of the way it's delivered. In a normal game you're constantly progressing the story with every action you do, but it doesn't really feel like that in DC Universe Online. From what I can tell the story's pretty slow moving anyway so it's not necessarily a big deal.
I think I'm resigned to DC Universe Online being more of the same from this point forward, but I am curious to see how my powers advance as I level up. I'm also really interested in the various instances and environments that I'm going to unlock so the game definitely has me hooked. I'm starting to get a little concerned about what's going to come when I reach the level cap though. The game definitely needs something else. Hopefully Sony Online's got some pretty big expansions in the works.
Current Character Details:
Mentor: Wonder Woman.
Server: For All Seasons, PvE.