Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two MMOs

This past summer DC Universe Online went on sale so I couldn't resist giving it a try.  The first surprise (and a disappointment) is that it's largely a fighting game even down to using combos.  Maybe this works better on a console but I have trouble doing quick-right, two quick-lefts then hold right down even out of combat so mostly I gave up doing anything but the most rudimentary combos.  DCUO also lacks much of the non-combat stuff that fill most MMOs and while some might see that as a plus it eventually means the game becomes more grinding than it really should.  Admittedly it's hard to see how a superhero game could support much in the way of crafting, gathering, exploring, collecting, etc though there are token efforts made in all those areas.  City of Heroes had the same problem and seems to have resolved it partly due to allowing user-created content that fills the game with so much other stuff that you don't miss the crafting etc (though I played the free CoH for only a couple of weeks and don't really know if that worked). 

DCUO also has problems with balance and PVP/instances.  The latter might be the easiest to fix since the issue is really just one of delays - it's not uncommon to wait 30 minutes to an hour just for a routine instance.  I never got to do enough of them for a good feel but the instances worked ok if a bit too complicated while the PVP never seemed as structured as say a WoW battleground.  The balance problem, though, is really something I'd think would have come up in the beta.  Most of the quests are chains that eventually lead to a boss instance.  The chains are often fairly easy (though at least twice I got trapped in some that were almost impossible to do at my level but there was no other way to level up) but the real catch comes in the instances where bosses can be ridiculously hard even when they're supposedly below your level.  I'm not sure if we're supposed to group for these and silly me is soloing them but there's no warning in the quest info.  I typically do the chain until the end then go level a few times before coming back to finish, almost certainly not how it should be done.  Then again maybe if I could learn those combos.....

Still the appeal of DCUO is pretty clear:  you're in the freakin' DC Universe!  Zipping around an abandoned Gotham fairground taking out Joker thugs or flying through Metropolis hunting renegade Atlanteans is pretty cool.  The real big guns like Batman or Superman appear mostly on radio but it's nice to see all sorts of second and third tier characters like Zatanna, Booster Gold, Swamp Thing, a swarm of Green Lanterns and so forth.  And of course it's now free.  There were glitches when it went live but mostly those have been resolved and the limits it places on free accounts are much less severe than other games.

For instance Everquest II.  Free players only have access to four races (out of twenty) and eight classes (out of twenty-five).  You can't sell on the auction house, have limited bag space and so forth.  The reasoning is most likely to tempt players to shell out cash for the full experience but I wonder if that works to any significant degree.  People like me who just want something entertaining that's also free may wish for some of the off-limits combinations but don't care enough to spend real money for them.  The auction restriction is just annoying but then there's a cap on how much money you can have so maybe it's just as well.

Overall EQ2 works pretty well though it definitely suffers compared to WoW.  Crafting for instance is basically a mini-game and one that's so involved that I just gave up on doing any of it.  The graphics are overly detailed so that it's not at all uncommon to have trouble figuring out what you're looking at - the maps in particular are difficult to use.  Quests too often send you back and forth from the same location (admittedly also a problem with early WoW but one mostly gone now).  There are some control issues such as trying to retreat from a fight but the game keeps turning you back around to face the mob.  The lack of aggro is almost laughable - several times I attacked a mob who's right next to another without aggroing the second.

Still if I played it more some of this would probably work itself out and hey free is free.  EQ2 is mostly pretty effective and for some reason the backstory sank in with me more than WoW (where I still know almost none of the "lore").  But it rarely has that "just five more minutes" catch of WoW - to the extent that I'm not sure if I'll ever play it again especially with free time on WoW that a friend just gave me (haven't played in eight months) and Guild Wars 2 coming up and a free trial of EVE Online and.....