Compared to day 1, the next couple of days were a mixed bag. For starters, I had to look at this as I tried to log in:
In a way its good news, people are obviously playing the game and there should be no dearth of players to team up with. A healthy player base is what defines how successful an MMO will be in the long run.
Once I do get in however, I get right into the business of being awesome. I had already picked up a few quests yesterday and it was time to get cracking. It did not take long to see that the quests are pretty standard fare. What makes it tolerable though is that respawn time for mobs and essential quest drops is pretty fast. This makes going through quests relatively quick. Teaming up with players is easy and instant and even if you don’t want to create a group, getting a few hits on a foe is enough to net you XP. This is a huge help as there is no unnecessary pressure to be the one to “tag” an enemy first or land the killing blow for that matter. As long as you made a worthy effort in the fight you get your reward/loot. There is also the added benefit of not having to run back to the quest giver for every single quest. Just clicking on the “done” button in the log is enough to get whatever reward is due. Even collecting loot is as simple as holding down the control key. No repetitive clicking on corpses here. Even if one has to look for an NPC, it’s a short trip from wherever the action is. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, travelling around is fun. The world does a good job of looking huge without actually being very expansive. At the moment, as a low level character, I am sticking to Gotham but it will be interesting to see how different Metropolis looks.
A bunch of quests later, I’ve gained enough levels to take a serious look at the skill tree. This where I realize there is one part of the game that does need to improve. The skills and powers on display lack any kind of concrete info to make an intelligent decision. For me to shed more light on this, I shall have to explain character development and combat in more detail.
Every character has a health bar and a power bar; the latter can for all intents and purposes be considered a mana bar. In combat, all skills and special abilities use power. Causing damage will replenish this. This makes pulling off combos and causing high levels of damage critical. Every character has 8 slots at the bottom of the UI, 6 of these can used for skills, 1 for a consumable item and 1 for a trinket. This means than any character “build” will rely heavily on those 6 skills. So far, so good. The trouble begins when it’s time to actually pick a skill and realizing it tells you very little. For instance “Inferno” will cause set enemies on fire and cause widespread destruction while replenishing health. Sure, it sounds cool but it does not tell to the details, ie, it has a terrible casting period, is easily interrupted and will heal you for a pitiful amount. Oh, and good luck guessing what the power cost is. What happens of course is that the player ends up spending a hard earned power point on something useless. And the only way to learn this at the moment is the hard way. (Edit: I found out much later that there is a way to re-spec your character but it costs 500 bucks each time you do this. Not an option for newbies.)
Well actually, you could ask for aid. This is an MMO after all. With servers running full, it’s not that hard to find someone who would be willing to help. This is where the game’s biggest and most annoying failing comes to light. The chat system is TERRIBLE. There is no other way to say it. It’s a terrible, terrible mess. In fact, the whole UI is. The launch may have been smooth and stable, but the games console focus really grates on my last nerve when it comes to the UI.
Now before this sets off any unnecessary alarms in your head, let me make it clear it isn’t bad enough to make me stop playing the game. But it is annoying as hell.
However, there are bigger concerns right now. Scarecrow is loose and Batman himself is looking to me for help. This is another example of how my inner fanboy is willing to let certain faults slide. It is becoming obvious that a showdown with the psycho is imminent. It’s a good time too, I have just unlocked a summoning power that allows me to call forth a minion. It’s hard to say how much of a help it really is, there’s no kind of feedback to tell me how much damage it does or how much health it has. If nothing else, it does give the baddies another target other than me. I have also managed to unlock a skill that allows me to rocket glide (essentially fly) at will. Moving around the city is now even more fun.
Before I can get to scarecrow however, I get another rude shock. A level 30 (that’s the level cap btw) player decided to make my life miserable and promptly attacked me. As a level 6 I obviously had no chances of putting up a fight. That’s fine; I knew the dangers of a PvP server before I got in. What made it frustrating was that he was camping out in an area where he knew newbies had to go. After getting my ass handed to me by this punk four times in a row, I finally put out a call for help using the bullshit chat system. Here is where the advantage of being in a busy server paid off. Within a few minutes I had a bunch of guys to come help me out. It was payback time. There were five of us, a mix of low to mid-level players with no level 30s but it was enough to send the evil doer packing. The only tragedy here was that I forgot to take a screenshot. Doh!
Anyway, after this little incident I headed straight into scarecrows hideout. Compared to all the quests I was doing so far, this one was a lot tougher. I got knocked out (there is no “dying” in DCUO) a few times before realizing I had to take things a lot slower. Timing my attacks and pulling off combos was absolutely essential now. The experienced gamer in me began to see how choosing a melee healer might not be such a good idea after all. It took a while but I finally made it to Dr Crane himself. For my first boss fight, it was exciting stuff. I got to kick Scarecrows butt while saving Batwoman’s. All in all, a pretty good day for this newbie hero I’d say.
Finishing this quest has also bumped me up to level 7. This prompts a visit by a funny dude called “Ambush Bug” who hands me a ticket of some sort. Using this ticket sends me to an area called “Joker’s house of fun”. At first I nearly crapped myself as I had just finished a hard quest and was not looking for any more action before repairing my equipment. However, I quickly realized this was actually a “Vault”, a repeatable instance where you go in to essentially play a game of chance. There are no enemies or missions, only random present boxes to break open. Doing so nets you some free cash and if you are lucky, some rare items. Usually though, it’s just “style” pieces. Speaking of which, one cool feature I nearly forgot to mention is how equipping new gear that is different in style from what you have currently donned need not make you look like an idiot. The equipment screen can be “locked”. So, if you really like the new cloak that gives you some stat bonuses but hate its look, you can wear it without the change showing. It’s a brilliant little trick and one that I’m sure I will appreciate even more as the game goes along.
I am certainly enjoying my time with the game, but still can’t shake off the feeling that this dual wielding sorcerer might not be the best combination for me. The next few days should clear this up sharpish.