My reaction to the combat in this game: This feels so right. Why hasn’t anyone else done this before? This is the way it always should have been. Sadly, the problems with the game are evident after just a few hours, and I’m all but certain they aren’t going to be fixed.
The designers at Sony Online Entertainment have an almost tyrannical approach to level progression and player creativity. Some of the changes I suggest in the article are (relatively) easy, but would require changing fundamental assumptions about how these sorts of games should work. If the designers were capable of that sort of maneuverability, they wouldn’t have made these mistakes in the first place. So while bugs may be fixed and rough spots may be smoothed out, I do not expect the sorts of changes needed to give this game the depth it needs. If players get bored and leave, as I predict, the designers will blame it on Champions Online going free-to-play, or the bad economy, or any number of other obvious scapegoats. But I stand by my thesis: This game is in a straitjacket, and people will get tired of it quickly.
As I discovered this morning, you don’t even have freedom in where you quest. If you roll a Superman-based character but decide you don’t care for Gorilla Grod as an adversary, you can’t just do the Batman quests in Gotham instead. The quest givers won’t speak to you. This means if you hit a tough spot you can’t go elsewhere to level. And it means you can’t just really run around the world and sample the content buffet-style. In World of Warcraft, I can roll a Gnome and then do quests in the Night Elf area if I want to. Why? Because there’s no reason to deny the player that choice.
(EDIT: Looks like this was a bug. You’re SUPPOSED to be able to do other quests. But they pop into your quest log automatically. Odd way to do it, but you can change quest hubs.)
In DCUO, everyone is locked into a fixed chain. Same progression. Same powers. Mostly the same costume pieces.
The production values here are enormous. The visuals are wonderful. This game could have bitten deep into the player bases of Champions Online and City of Heroes. But the depth isn’t there, and an MMO can’t survive on graphics and spectacle the way single-player games can. I predict that a year from now, DCUO will be in third place among these big three.
And since I’m in a predicting mood, I’ll predict that the reaction to my Escapist article will be met with some hostility, just like my critique of Champions Online. Fans may even accuse me of being a hater. But the fans who rage against me today will be the same ones who will look at the DCUO icon a month from now and try to think of a reason to log in. This won’t be true for everyone, of course, but the narrow design will naturally lead to narrow appeal.
I’m having fun now. I’ll be very surprised if I’m still having fun in February.
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A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
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