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.
Let's get this out of the way up front: yes, the Flash has a ridiculous contraption called the Cosmic Treadmill that he runs on to somehow transport people back in time. It's weird, it's goofy, and it's going to provide some of the coolest gameplay moments of any superhero game ever.
How can a treadmill of the cosmos possibly provide such mind-blowing gameplay experiences? Well, just think of the most memorable, awesome events in DC comic history. Now, imagine getting to play out all of those events and see them unfold first-hand. That's the power of the Cosmic Treadmill, my friend.
We sat down with DC Universe Online's Creative Director Jens Andersen, who walked us through all of the content in the big Flash-themed update releasing next Tuesday, and teased us about his big plans for the future, including revisiting the origin stories of DC's biggest villains and heroes.
The first origin story is coming in next week's big update and is, of course, centered around the Flash himself. In a new two-player Duo instance - balanced for players with top-end Tier 3 gear - you and a buddy will be transported back in time to stop meddlers from screwing with Barry Allen on the fateful night he gets struck by lightning and turned into the Flash.
The first portion of the Duo was my favorite: you're tossed in a long hellish hallway filled with crazy electric minions trying to sabotage your attempt to travel back in time. A whirling vortex of time is constantly moving up behind you, threatening to suck you in, and if you can't clear the baddies fast enough, you're going back to modern day and Barry Allen is doomed. I felt the same panicked sense of urgency I get on those Super Mario Bros. levels where the screen is constantly moving to the right. One slip-up and you're toast!
Once you break on through to the other side, you find yourself in a Central City police station from times-past, with all the colors bathed in a light sepia tone to complete the old-timey look and feel. I won't spoil the story of the encounter, but there were a few elements that I really enjoyed about it and want to point out. During the demo, Jens told me that one major thing they'd learned from player feedback on existing content is adding more interactive objects to Duos. So, Central City's police station is loaded with secret areas, computer terminals, and robots to interact with that can provide extra challenges or alter the way boss fights work.
For example, if you take your time and snoop around the office area, you can hack terminals to disable security robots that are protecting one of the bosses. In another room, prisoners are breaking out of their cells. Some of them start releasing their fellow prisoners, while others make a beeline for the wall of guns in the back of the room. Who you decide is the bigger threat and take out first will change how the fight in that area plays out. It's a lot of small twists that add up to a diverse set of possible outcomes that should make these repeatable instances more exciting for players tackling them frequently.
The other thing I love about the Duo is that it features The Pied Piper. I have to admit I'd never heard of this guy before, but he's a villain that plays a flute to mind control people (such as the well-armed cops surrounding him in the police station). It's a cool concept that allows for some very fun combat mechanics throughout the instance, and I'm really excited that the devs are using these lesser-known characters in DC history, who would never get a chance in the spotlight in a limited-world game like Arkham City, to create unique and interesting content.
Of course, the Duo is only one part of the content pack, which will be free for subscribers and 10 bucks to F2Pers--a tremendous value for all the content it opens up. The pack also gives you access to a huge zone loaded with new daily quests, collections, and gear sets; about 10 new bounties for both factions (villain players hunt the Teen Titans and hero players hunt the Rogues); and a brand new Electricty powerset that has DPS and healer roles.
The Electricity power set is a lot of fun to play as. A few of my favorite abilities were Lightning Arc, which shoots a bolt of electricity at an enemy that bounces between other people near him (the closer the enemies are together, the more times it will bounce between them) and Tesla Ball, which launches an orb of high-voltage pain in a straight line out from you, continuously zapping anyone too distracted to move out of the way. The overall flow of the power set was strong - the healing lands somewhere between Nature's high-burst reaction heals and Sorcery's slow-and-steady prediction heals, and DPS isn't quite as frantic as the other recently-added Light powerset, but has the same level of fun visual effects.
Central City, a modestly sized city plot instanced for 50 players at a time, is probably the closest thing we're going to get to a third large city for a good long while, now that DCUO is doing quarterly updates. (There's no current plans to build another city on the scale of Gotham or Metropolis, according to Andersen, but the team does want to start making origin stories a regular occurrence in DCUO.) The city offers some new areas to explore, but it's not the sort of place that you're going to be hanging out in during your downtime. Still, it's leaps and bounds more exciting to fly around a city with alleyways, shops, and little nooks and crannies than run around an island that you can see immediately see everything it has to offer, which is what so many other MMOs add in updates like this.
Andersen saved the best part of our demo for last, though. After we'd taken down the Pied Piper, he used cheat codes to summon all of the new characters being added as open-world bounty targets in Gotham and Metropolis to let them duke it out in front of us. With collective nerd-breaths held tight, we watched as the Teen Titans did battle against the Flash's Rogue gallery. Cyborg blasted Captain Boomerang with lasers, The Trickster chucked out toy helicopters and JLA action figures that came to life and harassed Donna Troy, and some weird "villain" named The Top twirled in circles semi-quickly to annoy everyone while Weather Wizard, Nightwing, and the rest duked it out. After the dust settled, Titan and Rogue lay side-by-side, and Cyborg emerged victorious. So there you have it, fellow geeks, we can all cross one "What if..." question off our comic book fight club lists. Cyborg wins.
The superhero MMO has been super-punching above its weight since its shift to free to play with news of a massive bounce in player numbers and profits since the shift. Massively spotted Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley tweeting some quite interesting stats. The superhero MMO has seen a "700% increase in daily revenue" since it relaunched earlier this month.
Smedley also says that "DCUO's playerbase is growing at 6% a day," adding that 47% of the boosted profits are coming from the PC version. The rest are from the PS3 version. Smedley also says "we are over 1000% of our pre-F2P concurrent numbers" and "more than 85% of daily log-ins are returning players."
Lag and long log in queues are proving to be a problem for many players at the moment. "We're very aware of the long queues and other issues. We're on it," says Smedley, adding "very bluntly this has been a wee bit more successful than we planned on." The DC Universe Online client is available to download for free on Steam.
Flash Fact #1: DC Universe Online's transition to free to play has been very successful, with huge numbers of players joining since the switch.
Flash Fact #2: Sony are capitalising on this by working on a new DLC pack called Lightning strikes.
Similar to the Green Lantern themed Fight for the Light pack, this pack offers a new set of content themed around one of the iconic DC characters, in this case The Flash. New with Lightning Strikes will be an Electricity power set, a new map based around the Flash's home town of Central City, new gear, new characters and more.
Check inside for a rundown of what's included and some early screenshots:
Included in the DLC pack are:
Electricity Powers - Including powers like Tesla Ball, Shockwave and Ionic Drain Central City - A new zone with solo and group missions New Gear - Including a Professor Zoom inspired set for villains and a Black Lightning inspired pack for heroes. New Characters - Including Livewire, Black Lightning, The Top, The Trickster and Static. The Flash Museum Duo - An adventure starting in the Flash museum where players travel back in time to make sure Barry Allen becomes The Flash.
My skin's a-crawlin' after playing Gyossait this week. It's an interesting and wholly creepy platformer about the creator of mankind burrowing deep below the planet's surface in search of his lost love - and despite its simplicity (or perhaps because of it?) it manages to be thoroughly disturbing. If you want a bit less darkness and a bit more colour, though, try out DC Universe Online, which is now free-to-play. Plus: the tale of Icarus retold, a two-player driving game where you can play as a road, and a simple but effective tower defence game. Read on for this week's best freebies...
Amon 26. Play it on NewGrounds.
Gyossait is a super-creepy platformer in which you play as Oyeatia, the creator of mankind, as he delves into the depths of the Earth in search of his lost love. Armed with only a shield, with which you can deflect enemies' attacks back at them, you'll navigate a series of disturbing levels, hunting for keys and avoiding the instant-death situations that crop up with an alarming frequency.
The low-definition world is, despite its blockiness, drawn with a crude surrealism, lending to the dark and menacing tone of the game as a whole. And the sound design is just lovely. The ambient noises loop awkwardly, droning away, as scratchy and imprecise as the visuals but adding yet more of the unnerving atmosphere that the game is drenched in. And while the controls could be a little more fluid, such issues don't detract significantly from what is a genuinely enthralling little browser game.
AutomaticJill. Play it at the Hand Eye Society.
You'll probably be familiar with the Greek mythology surrounding Daedalus and Icarus. This top-down adventure is an attempt to re-tell that tale, and it's an impressively creative re-imagining featuring a 20-something slacker who loves videogames and sleeps in his own filth, an unfortunately dead father, and JETPACKS!
While it looks almost like a top-down RPG, and has plenty of point-and-click adventure elements, much of the inspiration for Icarus comes from interactive fiction. There is a lot of reading. A lot. Reams of text are available to read in a library. The developer says much of this text is currently placeholder, but it reads fine, serves a purpose. The rest of the game comprises searching for essential objects and filling in the story, which can be a little tedious. That's a shame, but the story the game tells is well worth experiencing - so persevere through the less exciting bits.
Eventhandler. Play it on Kongregate.
This is a lovely browser-based driving game with a smart twist. Player 1 controls the car, player 2 controls the road. In Versus mode, it's the job of the driver to stay on the road as their opponent weaves and twists that road in real-time, hoping to throw the driver off-course. Not only can devilish turns be incorporated, you've also the ability to add a speed boost to both the road and the car in an extra effort to confuse your opponent.
There's also a co-op mode where your job is to work together to survive as long as possible. For this there's scenery to contend with: if the road hits a tree or a house, it's game over; if the car veers off the road, that's the end of your attempt too. Roadeo is surprisingly challenging, especially when the environment fancies getting in the way more than usual, but it remains compulsive playing with a friend. Good, silly, imaginative fun.
Vlambeer. Download it from TIGSource.
Hey, look, it's Vlambeer again, continuing to create some simple yet delightful games. This one's straight-up tower-defence, but what's impressive is just how hectic things become so quickly.
It revels in its own basic visual design, as well: a cream background, with small coloured squares indicating your approaching enemies. The story goes that you've been assigned to a planet with the objective of clearing out its wildlife, ready for new holiday resorts to be built - but that's all basically irrelevant as you work out how best to position your turrets.
It's still in alpha stage, which kind of shows, but it's already a lot of fun.
DC Universe Online
Sony/Warner Bros. Get started on the official website.
Although only launched back in January, Sony's DC Universe Online has already become the latest MMO to take the plunge into the free-to-play space. Everyone else is doing it, so why not, I guess. Sony's idea was to create a new kind of MMO: one with a focus on physics-driven combat scenarios. I haven't played it, I admit, so let's turn to Josh for a critique:
"Its action-oriented design is a bold step out of WoW’s shadow. From the consistently clever boss fights to the daily activities to the points-of-interest around the world, it makes it look effortless to create interesting activities to amuse players and immerse them in the game’s world."
I'd say that sounds pretty good. Have a read of PC Gamer's full review to find out more.
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John Smedley, SOE's President, announced on Twitter this morning that over 120,000 new players have signed up for their action-RPG MMO DC Universe Online on the PC since the game transitioned to free-to-play Tuesday evening. In the same tweet, he announced that the number of concurrent users logged into the game has increased 300% in that same time, and that they're planning to launch a massive TV and online ad campaign later this month. He did not mention any numbers for PS3 users.
Of course it's not all daisies and roses for players trying to get into the game during this massive spike in activity. Even during non-peak hours, servers are having stability issues and, anecdotally, login queues have thousands of players waiting to get in and play. SOE loves to boast about DCUO's "super servers" that allow all players to all play on the same realm within the game, which has a lot of awesome benefits (like never having to pay to transfer servers and always being able to play with your friends who are online), but hopefully they can resolve these stability issues before too many people run away from the game because of them.
If you haven't already jumped into DC Universe Online, you can download the client for free on the game's official site. Free players have access to almost all of the game's content and character power types, can join guilds, and all that good stuff. You can read full details on what's free and what's not here or read our review from the beginning of this year while you wait in the login queues.
Most of us at PC Gamer US are playing on the Hero side, and since the game's tech allows for all users to play on a single server (alternating between PvE and PvP phases at will), you're guaranteed to be on the same server as us! Send a message to any of the following characters in-game for an invite to the PC Gamer guild, and let us know if you're interested in being an officer!
If you're reading this, the chances are that you're a) not Batman, but b) would quite like to meet Batman. He is one of the many, many DC characters that you fight alongside in the fast, punchy MMO DC Universe Online, which is now free to play. You can download the client now from the official DC Universe site.
Free players get access to all current missions and areas, a couple of character slots and guild access. Extra mission packs will be available to buy, and as soon as you spend $5 your account gets upgraded to a Premium, which gives you more inventory space, and more wallet room in which to store more riches. You can also pay a $15 a month subscription fee to get access to all the new level packs, 15 character slots and 80 inventory slots.
We quite enjoyed DC Universe Online, but problems with the hacker attacks on Sony's servers earlier this year caused big problems for its burgeoning player base. Check out our DC Universe Online review to find out why it's worth a download.
Halloween is a time for many things. Candy, costumes, vandalism, paganism - you know, wholesome stuff. But Halloween also has its darker side. That's right: MMORPGs - perhaps the most evil, life-devouring game genre in existence. So clearly, it only makes sense that all of them would... OK, I'm done trying to make sense of this.
For some reason, MMOs take to Halloween like machete-wielding psychopaths to teenagers on camping trips. Why? Who knows? But it's stupidly fun, and you get to punch zombies in a videogame. That, like, almost never happens. Find out what the likes of WoW, Rift, World of Tanks, DC Universe, and many more are up to this Halloween after the break.
World of Warcraft -- WoW's brought back Hallow's End, which lets you "corral orphans" to earn candy currency, which is redeemable for holiday themed rewards. Or, if walking children down alleys isn't up your alley, you can light your opposing faction's Wickerman on fire and then rain on their parade with a hail of stink bombs. I guess the orphans are there to correct the karmic balance of you being such a huge jerk. Rift -- Rift's going with the tried-and-true tradition of a real-life costume contest. Winners in each of three categories (terrifying, beautiful, and bizarre) will pick up in-game items - including an owl! Also, Trion released this new Halloween-themed trailer, which is basically the best thing. Lord of the Rings Online -- Harvestmath is in full swing, with Mad Bilbo's Haunted Burrow is leading the charge. You can also win an Autumnfest Steed, which is great, because one can never have too many steeds. The real stars of LoTRO's show, though, are all the player-hosted events, which Turbine has kindly highlighted. Age of Conan -- Conan's "Nights of Lost Souls" bring two solo quests and one team quest that see you hunting and ultimately having a pleasant tea party with three of the titular Lost Souls. Wait, did I say "tea party"? Silly me. But this is Conan. Honestly, what do you think you end up doing to them? Champions Online -- This is already a game about running around in silly costumes; it may as well be Halloween year 'round. So Champions is having a real-life pumpkin-carving contest. Winner gets 1,000 promotional points, with second and third placers taking 500 a piece. DC Universe Online -- The Scarecrow's opened his "dark lair" to all the heroes in DC land. That, er, probably wasn't the greatest idea on his part. You can probably see where this is going: Repeatedly pound the Scarecrow's face into pumpkin mush, collect tokens, and exchange them for Halloween-themed trinkets and style items. City of Heroes -- Sure, other MMOs celebrate Halloween, but City of Heroes may just trump them all. In addition to a brand new co-op event called Dr. Kane's House of Horrors, there's a two-part (zombie apocalypse and deadly apocalypse) monster invasion event, and good old-fashioned trick-or-treating. World of Tanks -- For many years, I've petitioned for Party City to add a tank section. Giant, soulless hunks of steel and death, after all, are people too. Until society catches up with my forward-thinking ways, however, we'll just have to make do with WoT's costume contest, which sees players send in images of themselves playing the game while in costume. Winner gets a premium account for an entire year.
Sony Online Entertainment have told IGN that DC Universe Online is going free to play in October, which is great news for anyone tempted by the prospect of a flashy, accessible superhero RPG that makes excellent use of the world of DC Comics.
It's good news, too, for DC Universe Online players, who have suffered at launch from the hacker attacks that closed Sony Online Entertainment's servers for a while earlier this year. Can the free to play shift reinvigorate the plucky young superhero MMO? Read on for more on the pricing system, and Sony's reasons for making DCUO free to play.
Access to all current areas and missions Two character slots Can join guilds New game packs purchasable as microtransactions
Premium - if you spend, or have ever spent more than $5 in DCUO
More character slots More invenory space Can hoard more money
Legendary - $14.99 a month subscription
All new level packs included as part of the cost 15 character slots 80 inventory slots
IGN asked SOE executive producer Lorin Jameson why they decided to move DC Universe Online to a free to play model.
"In terms of 'Is it a result in a drop in subs' – absolutely not," he said. "This is the right business model. If I can be honest, the game ended up costing a lot more than we thought it would, and this was our preferred business model from day one."
"We are really seeing the benefits of free to play, and we're really liking it. "Needless to say we're paying close attention to it and maybe looking to make some surprise moves a little later."
Though there will be a price attached to new level packs and DLC for free and premium members, SOE say that items that improve character stats will not be for sale. You won't be able to buy the best laser weapon in the universe and then defeat everyone. That's Lex Luthor's job. For a detailed run down of the different pricing tiers, check out the DC Universe Online F2P FAQ.
We reckon DC Universe Online's mix of fast, punchy action and spectacular superhero powers is pretty great. find out why in our DC Universe Online review. If you're thinking of joining next month, be sure to check out the PC Gamer guilds. Swing by our forums to join. Will you be giving DCUO a go?
Just this morning, SOE pushed a new patch to live servers that adds an in-game cash shop to it's struggling superhero MMO, DC Universe Online. The shop uses the same Station Cash currency that all of SOE's MMOs use, but only two items currenty sit on the store's shelf: consumables to repair your gear or grant extra runs on the Vault, the smash-boxes-to-get-random-loot minigame that players can otherwise only play once every 24 hours. The prices aren't outrageous at $1 for each, with bundles of each at 20% off.
It's no surprise that SOE plans to add more items and services to the cash shop in the future (there's already a Styles section of the store, although it's currently empty). What surprised me, however, is that fan reaction on the forums has been extremely positive. Most of the complaints I've seen so far are people complaining that SOE isn't selling enough items to them for cash. Movement respecs and styles are things that players have demanded most often so far.
As much as I wish that this was an indication that DCUO will be jumping on the free-to-play bandwagon soon, I don't think that it is. The developers have talked about adding a cash shop to DCUO since before the game launched (the shopping cart store icon was even in early pre-launch builds of the game I played). But while they've had it planned for so long, if the cash shop does well, hopefully SOE will consider taking DCUO free-to-play. It'd certainly be a great fit for this excellent MMO that still falls a bit short on worthwhile content.