Thursday, December 15, 2011

DCUO Holidays And Endgame

This week's patch introduced DCUO's Christmas event. 

The event is not especially deep - the heroes must literally Save Christmas (tm) from the greedy Orange Lanterns, who want to steal all the presents and trees from the decorated cities of Gotham and Metropolis.  In exchange, you get three holly leaves per day for your currency tab.  Leaves can be used to purchase the eight pieces of a Holiday Elf outfit, cosmetic weapons named for candy canes, rings (which actually have stats), and some consumables.   What is interesting is how it fits in DCUO's endgame.

DCUO uses its feat system - similar to achievements, deeds, and similar systems in other games - to dole out skill points.  These are used to unlock special attacks, additional weapon types, and stat bonuses.  The stats aren't that high - I have around 950 Might in basically the gear I had on when I dinged 30, and might get as much as 20 Might from an additional skill point - but they can eventually add up.  The raider who skips PVP, outdoor race courses, collecting cosmetic armor, and, yes, holiday achievements will eventually fall behind the player who does everything.

Meanwhile, DCUO also has a relatively linear gear progression.  A new stat called "combat rating" is effectively your gearscore in other games, determined by the average level of your gear and used to determine entry into content (including the new DLC).  Once I complete the last few normal quests, I am expected to move on to solo "challenges" (effectively heroic versions of solo dungeons), followed by 2-player duos (with auto-grouping), 4-player alerts, some combination of "hard T1/T2" versions of the above, and eventually raids, each with its own CR requirement. 

In other words, a holiday event that sounds repetitive is, for better or worse, what this game is about once you reach the level cap.  The system tells you where you can go, you go there and get tokens, you buy stuff from the vendor, and eventually you unlock new skill points and new things to work on. 

It sounds bad, and I suppose it is if that's not what you're looking for.  Then again, DCUO is ultimately as much about the fast-paced action combat as the story behind why established heroes need your help. It's good to have the occasional change of scenery and tactics, but they seem to know what their core game is and they're sticking to it. 

Meanwhile, the game has quietly rolled out its second new DLC in three months, with another new powerset - lightning powers with a ward-based healing option that sounds intriguing.  For the first time I'm starting to see something that resembles a reasonable path where I might eventually contribute to the upkeep of this product.  I won't be playing this thing each and every day to grind out tokens or buying every powerset just to see what it does.  Still, $10 per DLC and maybe $5 for a character slot once I run out is not a bad price for a new powerset and a slightly different path from 1-30 under a different mentor.  I still think this game has a tough path, but perhaps they at least have an idea of how to approach that challenge today. 

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