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DC Universe™ Online Free-To-Play. Your Way.™
A while back, an OCD DCUO player put together a detailed map of the game's main hub for heroes, The Watchtower. Today, another industrious fan took it three steps further by building detailed interactive maps for all of DCUO's two major cities, Gotham and Metropolis, inside of Google Maps. And now he's in the process of adding icons to help you locate everything you could possibly want to find in the urban sprawl.
Going by the name Happy-Cat (located in "The Happy Cave" according to his profile) on DCUO's official forums, this hero didn't make the original maps, but has done a tremendous job of migrating and updating them to reflect the new positions of collections, briefings, bounties, and races as the game gets patched. He's still in the process of updating them with new information, so be sure to jump into this forum discussion to let him know what you'd like to see on the maps next.
You can find all four versions of his maps here:
Gotham map, no legend
Gotham map, with legend
Metropolis map, no legend
Metropolis map, with legend
As always, you can download and play DC Universe Online for free, and I highly recommend you do--especially after the latest content patch.
Like 'em or not, lockboxes are the latest craze in free-to-play games. These little chests of mystery show up on your fallen foes sealed alarmingly well, and often require a special key purchased from the cash shop to open them. DC Universe Online will be the latest to jump on this trend with next week's patch, but it will at least allow subscribers to open all of them for free. In addition, subscribers will be getting a few other nice perks starting next Tuesday.
My favorite of the new perks is the monthly stipend of 500 Station Cash, roughly $5 worth of cash shop currency that can be used to pick up all sorts of goodies. Also awesome: SOE is adding the ability for players to reset their instance loot lockout timers, which'll let you double-up on gear rewards if you have a free weekend. Resetting a lockout will cost a different amount of Replay Badges, depending on the type of content: 12 Replay Badges for a Duo, 29 for an Alert, and 87 for a Raid.
Subscribers will get 150 Replay Badges dropped into their bags every 30 days to let them run their favorite content more often, with additional Replay Badges costing about three cents a piece. The reason I like this new perk so much is that it adds an option that wasn't in the game before, and lets subscribers sample it for free without changing the experience of free-to-players at all. These two new subscriber perks are terrific, and are a show of good faith on SOE's part.
The third perk is more of a mixed bag: it's great for subscribers, but will likely annoy the majority of free players. Starting Tuesday, Promethium lockboxes will have a chance to drop off of every enemy in the game above level 10. These will contain random pieces of new, unique gear and Marks that can be used to purchase endgame gear. Subscribers will be able to open them at will (yay, free gear!), but free players will need to purchase keys from the cash shop to crack 'em open.
I'm not a fan of this kind of lockbox system, which fills free players' inventories with potentially useless items that constantly remind them that they're not paying money. But some free players will want to pay for these boxes and subscribers will definitely be happy to receive the extra loot and Marks while playing. And to be fair, no other free-to-play MMO is as generous with these lockboxes to their subscribers as DCUO is. Most other MMOs with a similar system require their subscribers to pay for the keys, just like free players. The big problem I have with DCUO's system is the price tag on the keys: $2.50 is abnormally high.
For comparison, Allods Online, which doesn't have a subscription option, has been dropping lockboxes that require cash shop keys to open for over a year, charging 50 cents per key and allowing them to be traded between players in-game. Since December, Lord of the Rings Online has run a similar gambling-style game with its lockboxes and treasure-hunting system, but it requires subscribers to purchase keys at $1.33 a piece, on top of their monthly fee.
Star Trek Online added Cardassian Lock Boxes back in December, which can hold anything from a super rare spaceship to crappy consumables, and charges $1.25 per key to open the little buggers—also not free for subscribers. And more recently, City of Heroes added some random looting with its Super Packs, which give five random items for $1. But CoH's super packs don't drop from creatures and can only be purchased in the store--a good compromise that keeps the packs from pestering those players not interested in playing a little gear-roulette with their money.
The big non-MMO to use a similar lockbox mechanic is Team Fortress 2, which also charge $2.50 for players to open a single lockbox, which will contain a random item.
So by comparison, DCUO's system treats susbcribers extremely well, although it isn't doing free players any favors with steep key prices. For more info on the changes to DCUO next week, you can see the official community post and FAQ.
It's never good when things come out of Tartarus. For those of you that slept through Greek mythology (that's a class, right?), Tartarus is a horrible, horrible place in the darkest corner of the Underworld where only the most foul and dangerous of monsters/Titans/gods/people are imprisoned and punished for eternity. If something comes out of there you can know it's going to be two things: incredibly powerful and terribly pissed off.
And that's right where DC Universe Online's latest DLC pack, The Battle For Earth, starts: über-villain Braniac waltzing out of the gates of Tartarus with a new arsenal of powers to obliterate mankind with.
Earth, Wind, Wat--no, cut the rest
Thankfully, the heroes and villains of the world have some new powers in their pack too, courtesy of the new playable Earth power set in the DLC. There's two things that had me really excited about this new powerset before launch. First, I was excited to try out Aftershock, the new mechanic the powerset's Seismic tree introduces that lets you cast a spell multiple times in a row before the cooldown goes into effect. The extra ability casts are usually increasingly more powerful versions of the original ability, but there are some unique effects as well.
I got my first ability with Aftershock yesterday: Upheavel, which launches a small tornado of dust that whips ahead, damaging and knocking down whoever it hits. Casting it once is pretty useless--the damage is underwhelming and the power cost is high. But with Aftershock, I can toss out four increasingly large and dangerous tornadoes that absolutely tear it up. One ability with all the Aftershocks was enough to clear most non-elite groups I faced. It's glorious and I love that it feels more involved than simply hitting the ability and moving on. Not to mention the tornadoes pick up, throw, and destroy other objects it runs into, which makes for a nice physics show.
Second, I loved the concept of a pet tank class. Earth powers let you build mini-me statues and divert damage headed towards you or your groupmates towards the little rock-people instead. It sounds like a fun mini-game to tank with, and a little more interesting than the other two tank power sets in the game, which never grabbed my interest. My new Earth powers character isn't quite high enough level to really use the tanking system yet (you can unlock your first damage-diversion ability at level 12), so I can't report on how that feels yet. I'll be leveling up my little earth stomper as quickly as I can, though, and will report back once I get in my first few alerts as a real tank.
The top-end stuff
The new power set is only one tiny part of the update. The majority of the new content is up at level 30, so I hopped over to my max-level Sorcery healer and headed out to South Gotham. It took me awhile to find Braniacs new minions roaming South Gotham (hint: they're mostly on the Eastern edge of the Old Gotham section of the city), but man are there a lot of them! I haphazardly stumbled right into a nest of tiny leaping brain bugs and within 10 seconds, I was getting gangbanged by 20+ servants of Braniac. It was insane.
I never found the new daily quests that are supposedly out there somewhere, but I did manage to join up with a roaming group of heroes battling the robots down there. There wasn't anything mind-blowing in this open world portion, but the robots are varied and have some interesting attacks. It's a fun new section of the city for new level 30s to explore and get beaten to death repeatedly, and a good challenge for geared players looking to push their skills in a 1-on-200 gauntlet.
Once I tired of being a solo badass (and the long death runs that accompanied that), I decided to queue up for the new Duos--the only max-level content in the new DLC I'm geared enough to quality for. The new Alert, South Gotham Courthouse, requires Combat Rating 53 and the two new Raids, The Gates of Tartarus and The Prime Battleground, require Combat Rating 70. So I took my embarrassing Combat Rating of 43 and queued for all three of the new Duos (whose entrances are located around that new open-world area along the coast of southeast Gotham.
I got called into Riverside Hotel, which is trapped inside one of Braniacs' giant bottles. My partner and I were tossed into the bottle and given a simple instruction: destroy 16 of Braniacs machinery inside. These objectives are semi-random, rotating between one of three possible objectives each time (the second time I ran the Duo, I had to blow up cables attached to the buildings and there were a lot of conspicuous pods with humans trapped inside them that I suspect is the third optional objective).
Once you're dumped inside the bottle containing your building of choice, you can move around the area however you like. It's not a large area, but being able to move about the whole place freely and approach enemies however you wanted to was a great change from some of the other Duos that funnel you straight down hallways. The enemies were pretty straightforward, replicas of the enemies found out in the open world invasion area. Tiny brain droids that leapt through the air to ambush me from scaffolding above the alleyways were my personal favorite, and always caught me off-guard.
Unlike earlier duos, this one doesn't drag its feet--after you complete that one objective, its straight to final boss time. Both times, I fought against a massive robot that could pull and throw me around the entire bottle, summon waves of minions, detonate itself like a bomb, and heal itself. With a lesser-geared partner, it's a very tough fight that'll require you to stay on top of interrupting the boss' self heal. On my second run, I was paired up with a DPS god, who (after wiping twice) was able to burn through the bosses health with very little problem--jumping out of DPS range only to avoid the boss' bomb attack a couple times.
It's a solid, fun piece of content, even if it doesn't revolutionize Duos. And I like the design--reminiscent of WoW's Scarlet Crusade dungeons--that breaks up what would've been one long Duo into three separate bite-sized chunks. My first run through the Riverside Hotel took 20 minutes, and the second run took 8. That's a tiny time investment for 4+ chances at a gear upgrade and a daily bonus. In under half an hour, my character got 3 pretty decent gear upgrades, and put me a few Combat Rating points closer to tackling the big chunks in this new content.
Should you buy it?
Without having played the high-end raids, I can't give an unequivocal endorsement for purchasing this content pack for $10, but from what I've seen, I think this will definitely be worth top-end players' time. As a new player (you can download and play the game for free right now), I'd recommend holding off on picking up this pack unless you have an intense, insatiable desire for Earth-themed powers. Play around with all the free power sets and see what role you like to fulfill in Alerts and Raids. Once you've figured that out, it'll be easy to pick between the 3 DLC packs when you're ready to throw down some cash. Hopefully by that point, you'll have a higher level character with decent enough gear to let you take advantage of the top-end content that comes with this pack too.
If you decide to jump into DCUO as a hero, this map'll help you navigate the Watchtower and find what you need.
The Battle for Earth DLC will finally give DC Universe Online players the chance to take down Braniac, who's been bothering Earth's citizens with his plans for world domination ever since DCU came out last year. As mentioned in our DC Universe Online update reveal, heroes will be heading to Wonder Woman's home town on the island of Themyscira, aka Paradise Island. It sounds like a nice place for a superhero to take a holiday but THIS IS NO HOLIDAY. Unless you count fighting a giant robot sphinx as a holiday, which Batman probably does.
Anyway, it's out on March 13, and promises extra stuff for players of all levels. There's a big invasion of Gotham to deal with and there will be a suite of new Earth powers to acquire, explore, reject and eventually embrace, as the typical superhero origin narrative arc demands. Find out more about the Battle for Earth on the DC Universe Online site, and check out these superheroic scenes from the battleground of Paradise Island.
Sony Online Entertainment have announced that the running of many of their games is transferring to German publisher ProSiebenStat.1 Games Group in Europe. Games affected include EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, and this year's Planetside 2.
While SOE will continue to manage the European servers for their games, European players will no longer be able to play with friends in the US. The two providers will use separate account systems and virtual currencies, effectively splitting each game in two.
Existing European players will be asked to create an account with the new provider, and SOE will be offering a way to transfer characters and progress as well as any virtual currency in their possession. European EverQuest II players, meanwhile, will be able to use their SOE accounts as normal after the handover is complete. All new European players will go through ProSieben, however, meaning that Planetside 2 will be region locked.
SOE's FAQ on the subject says that "generally speaking, prices for game content, in-game items and services will remain similar." We've contacted SOE for comment on what this means in practical terms, and whether European players should expect a price hike. We've also asked what measures are being taken to ensure that patches and updates are localised quickly. We'll let you know what SOE have to say.
That intergalactic jerk Braniac has been bottling the cities in DC Universe Online and stealing Earth's citizens for too long. His attempted take-over for Earth has been the primary storyline in DC Universe Online for the past year, since the game's launch in January 2011. A year and a few raids later, we're finally going to be able to go toe-to-toe with Mr. smarty-pants when the next content pack takes us to Wonder Woman's native island of Themyscira. We've got the exclusive scoop on what players will find there, and where DCUO is headed after its big, bad villain is down for the count.
PCG: Those hydras and architecture seem to indicate that we may be fighting on Wonder Woman’s Themiscyra. Is that where this screen is taken? If so, is it a whole new open-world zone, or just an Alert?
Jens Andersen, Creative Director: Yes, this is on Paradise Island, otherwise known as Themyscira. The situation is so dire they're allowing men on the island to defend it, which is unheard of for the most part. The Gates of Tartarus have long been guarded by the Amazons. Suddenly they are taken by surprise as Brainiac emerges from the gates of Tartarus, having stolen the power he sought inside, and is now assaulting Themyscira from within with a surprise attack. It’s a bad situation and the Amazons are looking for help from just about anywhere to aid the, in stopping Brainaic’s Avator of Magic from escaping the Island.
PC Gamer: Braniac is fighting us directly? I always figured he was more of a “sit back and let minions take you out” sort of bad guy. What is it that finally pushes him to face us personally?
Andersen: As a comic-book cut scene explains in-game, this was actually Brainiac’s final push, but Future Lex Luthor knew it was coming—and he hid the truth from everyone, even his past self. So, as history has unfolded, it's only now that we realize we’ve done little to divert Brainiac’s plans. Future Luthor wanted the confrontation to play out as it did in his timeline, so HE could seize victory from Brainiac at the last moment. Thankfully, Future Batman doesn’t break his promise that he will be "coming for Luthor," and he shows up at the end to save our bacon… or does he? It's a big cliffhanger to enjoy as we launch a new storyline surrounding these two mysterious iconics from an alternate future.
PCG: Braniac seems to be wielding some sort of demonic staff. Are those tentacles behind him coming from the staff, or is that his other arm doing something crazy?
Andersen: That's the Avatar of Magic. Throughout the fight, he will go through many different phases thanks to the power he obtained in Tartarus—the Flame of Change. It allows him to create Chimeric minions and alter his own form as he sees fit. Those are the Horns of the Bull he has on in the screenshot, and it lets him do some powerful charges.
PCG: It also looks like we might have just fallen in through that hole in the dome above. Will the fight feature changing terrain like that?
Andersen: The hole above is not where the players enter from, they can however look down into it from behind a portcullis at the start of the raid. The whole map makes a big loop around itself and you often get glimpses of what’s coming next along with some fantastic vistas.
PCG: Braniac’s been the ultimate bad guy of the entire game up until this point, is it time for players to take him out for good? It almost feels too soon for us to be taking him down. Is this the final act in the story arc that started at launch?
Andersen: Well, never count a comic book character out . But yes, this is Brainaic’s final push, but it will be an ongoing one as he tries to recover from the player’s resistance and future Luthor’s manipulation of everyone, including Brainiac. The presence of the new heroes and villains, our players, is what made us able to defeat Brainaic so soon in this timeline. The story will then move into a new phase, but Brainiac’s actions will always have a lasting effect on DC Universe Online as he gave birth to the exo-bytes which created many of the new heroes and villains our players created in the game.
PCG: Will defeating him affect the bottled buildings around the game world?
Andersen: Once Brainiac’s initial plans are thwarted in the raid, he is hamstrung, but not completely defeated. He will continue to try and regain control of the situation to continue his plan to assimilate the multiverse. Now the pressure is on for him to do that before Future Luthor takes his place. He’s relentless after all. So the bottles and the actions of the Union around them will always be something players can take part in—an epic battle to save the Earth.
PCG: Will another mega-villain rise up to threaten the world, or will it go back to a semi-normal state? If so, is the idea to rotate the game world through various crises over time, such as No Man’s Land Gotham? Roughly one year for every major crisis?
Andersen: We want to provide a many-colored tapestry for our players. Focusing on one storyline isn’t needed with the pace at which we release content. So players can look forward to the next chapter in this story, resolutions to some of our launch stories, as well as totally new things in the years to come.
DC Universe does a lot of things really well, but building easily-navigable hangout spots is not one of them. The Justice League Watchtower and Hall of Doom serve as the primary meeting points for all Hero and Villain characters, respectively. Both house a ton of useful objects—like the Phase Shifter, which allows you to swap between PvE and PvP phases of the server at will—but not all of them are easy to find.
The cryptically-named RedDragon74 over at DCUO Life has done heroes a great service by putting together an all-encompassing map that labels the locations of everything you'll need in the Watchtower and also provides a full list of bounty locations and a complete breakdown of how to earn the different PvE currencies at endgame. It's not the prettiest map ever made, but all the info is here.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an equivalent for the Hall of Doom quite yet (sorry, Villains), but the endgame breakdown list should still be able to help ne'er-do-gooders.
I've always liked DC Universe Online's twist on the classic tank-healer-DPS trinity that defines most MMORPG's group roles. DCUO gives everyone access to two roles—DPS and then either tank, healer, or control (CC and power-restoration), based on their power selection—and lets them swap between them whenever they want.
It's a hybrid system that lets players specialize, while limiting the usual problem of there being too few healers or tanks because most people want to be able to level and solo efficiently. As a result, the queue times in DCUO are much shorter than they are in many other MMOs. And with the Role-Optional Alerts SOE's adding in the game's next update, which use specialized buffs to make any combination of players an effective group, players should be able to form groups almost instantly.
When the tool puts together a group of players, it analyzes what key role(s) your group is missing, and grants the entire team a buff that helps shore up their weakness. Your group will still have to be organized however, as the buffs will only be effective when all four players are fighting together.
If you don't have a tank, everyone in the group receives a buff that reduces the damage they take. Not enough to make everyone tanks, but enough to make the incoming damage manageable for your healer.
Oh no! You're missing a healer too? Well, everyone in your group will receives a buff that triggers a "small amount" of regeneration whenever their health dips below a certain point. Tanks without a healer in the group will always be regenerating.
And finally, if you're missing a controller, your group will receive a buff that gives everyone "varying amounts" of power during combat
The game's Duos—which plant two characters in a more challenging version of a solo instance—already function off of a similar desire to get people playing together, regardless of their character type, and have been a huge success by all accounts.
In the same update, SOE is also adding Novice Raids, alternate versions of all existing raids with lower gear and difficulty requirements. Their goal is to allow everyone to experience the story arcs told inside the Batcave, Kahndaq, and the Fortress of Solitude, and to let players start raiding much quicker after hitting the level cap, if they want to. Novice Raids will award the same quality of gear that existing raids do, but reward less of it per run.
Jan 27, 2012
DC Universe Online's Creative Director, Jens Andersen, announced yesterday that they're undertaking a large overhaul of DCUO's holiday content. Thankfully, they're cutting the uncomfortably weird Valentine's Day event from last year, and building a new one from scratch. Their goal is to have four major events that each host open-world content, collections, and a boss encounter.
Most MMOs have at least a few holiday events, but BioWare has yet to reveal any of its plans for holiday content for The Old Republic. What's the best holiday content you've ever played in a game, and what do you want to see from holiday events in TOR, DCUO, or any other MMOs you're playing?
Massively multiplayer spandex puncher DC Universe Online has released it's second DLC pack, Lightning Strikes. The update is themed after super speed hero The Flash and will take players on a time travelling adventure back to his origins as a superhero, adding a new electricity powers into the bargain. Some of those sparkly new powers are on show in the trailer above, plus some clips of The Flash running on his cosmic treadmill. Yes, that's how he travels in time. Yes, we know it's ridiculous, just roll with it.
If you're not sure if you're going to splash the cash for the DLC, check out ourDC Universe Online Lightning Strikes preview to see what you get.