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Sony Online Entertainment is known for its huge cache of MMORPGs, with titles that stretch all the way back to the great-granddaddy of the genre, Everquest. With such a library, SOE has shown no sign of stopping as the latest game, DC Universe Online, is set to be released next week. It hopefully will reveal itself as a game that takes in the lessons of its elders and contemporaries; it has trumpeted several innovations to the genre that is supposed to shake up the online landscape.
Although the setting is in the present day, the future has been revealed as one where both the villainous and heroic elements of the DC roster have been engaged in a long war, only to fail against a new threat generated by Brainiac and eventually be overrun. Lex Luthor utilized a technology of Brainiac’s in the future to send back a desperate message to the heroes of the present. Essentially, to prevent Brainiac’s domination of Earth, the DC heroes and villains must prevent him from cultivating an army of super-powered metahumans that have been popping up over the world by finding them themselves and training them as superheroes under their own careful eye.
As one of these metahumans, Players will create a new, custom superhero that attaches to either the good faction (the Justice League) or the evil faction (the Legion of Doom). Depending on which faction the player chooses, the player will then choose their mentor (Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman for the JL or Lex Luthor, The Joker, or Circe for the LoD). These decisions mold the character in the mentor’s image, as initial starting location, loot and rewards are altered in order to accommodate each stream, although players can customize their characters to some degree.
While the DCU:O uses genre conventions like leveling systems, endgame instance raiding, and inventories, it breaks from tradition through dynamic generation of content. Quests are presented to the player in a variety of ways, with primary missions given out by both their own mentor and others of that faction through a radio that each player is provided with. Other missions are given out by local quest-givers, and dynamically-generated crimes may be helped or hindered, depending on faction. As players develop in level and in renown, a threat rating instructs NPCs on how awed they will be by the player.
Instances will come in several different varieties, with stronger emphasis on PvP over PvE, although the conventional raid-style encounters will still play a part. PvP includes Legends, Arena and Raids, each with increasing intensity. Legends are smaller instances wherein players take control of major DC characters to battle each other; success unlocks more characters from the roster for more impressive fights. Arena battles are small-scale PvP fought using the player’s own characters, while Raids are large-scale battles between factions as a whole. PvE success is rewarded with cash and equipment, while PvP provides unique equipment to use.
So far, it looks like a decent game that might come out the maelstrom of MMORPGs that have cropped up from a multitude of developers. DCU:O will follow the standard subscription format, around $14.99 monthly, and is set to be released on Windows and Playstation 3 on the 11th of January (the UK on the 14th). Try it out if you’re a fan of MMORPGs, you might find something better than the usual offering.