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In this era of a hundred comic book movies a year plus spin-off shows, it’s getting harder and harder to remember that not so long ago trying to take a superhero off the printed page and onto some kind of screen was basically a recipe for failure, mockery, and a way of flying a promising creative career into a great big rock. Hell, even now most superheroes without the word ‘Bat’ in their name are still waiting for someone to even attempt a game, never mind make a good one. For every Batman on NES or Arkham Asylum, there’s an Aquaman or Superman on Nintendo 64.
On PC, it’s always been particularly weird. Especially when you look at which companies have tried and failed over the years to bring us the ultimate superhero RPG. Is there anything out there that comes close? Ignoring Freedom Force, since that’s not an RPG? Well, some! Enough not to have to hold out for a hero, at least.
Hello there. This week, I’m writing not just as an RPG columnist, but as president of the newly formed League Of Folks Who Don’t Really Play MOBAs But Are Bizarrely Hooked On All The Trappings. As far as I can tell, our membership is roughly a billion people and counting. That’s what happens when the likes of Blizzard and Riot spend literally tens> of dollars creating gorgeous videos to promote their worlds, yes, but it goes somewhat deeper than that. Have you ever watched a new character reveal for a game you know you’re never going to play? Then the sickness might have spread.
Are you playing DC Universe Online? The F2P MMO is trundling along, just adding its new DLC pack Hand Of Fate, but you don’t hear too much about it. I always feel a bit sorry for DC. Marvel has, well, all the cool superheros, and DC have that utter dick Batman, and Mr Boring Cape, Superman. (That’s an uncontroversial statement on which there’s unanimity, right?) This is the fifth DLC for the free-if-you-want-it-to-be world, only a year and a half into its lifetime. You can see the somewhat uninformative trailer below.
We live in a terrifying world of constant change>. You might, for instance, neatly tuck each of your games into bed a night and gingerly kiss them on the cheek, safe in the knowledge that – when you awake – they’ll be there waiting, same as always. But honestly, who knows? They could just suddenly update and transform into strange, multi-tendriled monstrosities. You could awake from your dreams right into a living nightmare. Or, you know, you could just get some Earth-bound levels in Mass Effect and – oh gosh – Aquaman in DC Universe Online. OK, yeah, I’m sticking with the nightmare thing.
The third major expansion for DC Universe Online is due to launch on March 13th, adding Earth-based powers as a ninth set of abilities. With powers such as construct creation and quaking of the earth, this lot are most suitable for players in damage and tank roles. The expansion goes by the name The Battle For Earth and a new raid takes the spandex society to Themyscira, home of the Amazons, so expect plenty of Wonder Woman’s chums and rogues to crop up. Overarching plot elements will move along as well, with preparations for the battle against Brainiac underway and a new quest-line that involves scrapping with Proto-Avatars.
This is big news for all SOE games, actually, including EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, and Free Realms. PCG points out that SOE are signing a European publishing deal with Germany company ProSiebenStat. According to SOE’s proposals this could mean that SOE customers will no longer be able to play on both American and EU servers, and in fact existing European players are going to be asked to create an account with the new company to transfer characters and continue playing. Of course, people aren’t too happy about that, what with them having relationships with real people outside international boundaries and so forth. The inevitable internet shouting resulted in this response from SOE, indicating that they are “listening”. The upshot of the current proposal would be that Europeans would not be (easily) able to play Planetside 2 with American chums. The RPS Planetside 2 outfit would be divided! Those are tears running down my cheeks.
Just in case there were any doubt left that the owners of Lego Universe were completely bonkers to just close down their subscription game without trying a free-to-play model, DC Universe is reporting a slight increase in revenue since they made the switch. The small matter of an extra 700% per day. Eurogamer spotted that the very enthusiastic Sony Online Entertainment president, John Smedley, tweeted his good news. News that will surely be yet another blow to the subs model.
As promised back in September, DC Universe Online is now free to play. While the combat isn’t quite as smooth as Mr Wayne’s moves in his Arkham adventures, it’s a lot more punchy than what passes for fisticuffs in most massively multiplayer efforts. Playing for free only provides two character slots and there are limits on inventory size among other things, including an inability to trade. You can see all the difference between paid and free subscription at the site.
I’d say it’s well worth a look for anyone interested in the characters and world, and it’s an entertaining solo game for a while if nothing else. I’m hoping this helps to repopulate Gotham since DCUO is the only online RPG I actually play. It’s lonely in there with no one to watch me brooding in the shadows. Get it here.