What’s all this nonsense about free-to-play games?
We used to proudly pay to play Everquest, even before the epic elephant mount in the room took over subscription based gaming, relegating smaller subscription based games to sit in the corner with a niche cap on.
Now, Everquest itself is going free to play next month, the Star Trek massively multi player online (MMO) game is free-to-play, and a while ago DC Universe, the multi-platform MMO went free-to-play too. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
I pledge to find out for you whether any of these free-to-play games deserve your attention, time and vastly superior intelligence. Now, on to my thoughts about the first victim, DC Universe.
I see a dichotomy in the comic book arena that I can’t ignore: comics are still struggling to sell well and comic book shops have almost disappeared, but Hollywood has made a few pieces of gold off of licensed comic book based movies. So comics are for the few, the niche lovers, the geeks, or the strange collectors who seal their comics in an oxygen-free environment. Yes oxygen is still free by the way, we haven’t figured out how to tax that yet.
So where do games fit into this picture? If comics are already a niche, but mass consumers are happy to pay money to see movies about characters they’ve never heard of before, how will a massively multi player game be able to score any points?
DC Universe Online does it by putting a powerful character creation tool in your hands, weaving an intricate story that fits, and making you feel like you are a super hero and you can make a difference.
So many choices
I had to choose a race, a gender, a costume, a super power affinity, a mode of travel, a name, my mentor, and a few other things to create my hero. When I finished I felt proud of my creation and couldn’t wait to see how powerful she would be.
I chose to be a hero, not a villain, but building a villain gives you different mentor options for obvious reasons. The mentor is the character from the DC Universe that you will be taught by and who will sometimes fight with you on some of the tougher missions.
I’m not kidding, I really felt like a lot of the fun to be had in DC Universe Online was in creating my character. If you want to make more than two characters you’ll have to check under the couch cushions for some change, as it will cost you at least $9.99 a month. So now you know how this free-to-play game makes money.
Phone a friend
My experience with this game was incomplete because I didn’t play it with anyone. I dove into the quests and had a blast unlocking new powers and taking down the bad guys, but I was all alone (sad face). I would have had twice as much fun if I was playing with a friend or two. If you decide to play DCUO I suggest you find and join a league before you even create a character.
Regardless of my loneliness, I found the main story very interesting, especially for the DC Universe. I wasn’t sure how they could make a game like this, but since some time travel and a very powerful element are involved, millions of people with super powers makes sense. And you know how much I like a story that makes sense.
Fly high, so high
Another thing I like, if you have a cape or you chose flying as your mode of transportation, you can glide or fly. The controls aren’t too confusing and the camera isn’t screwed up, so it just works and flying is fun. I don’t think I’ve played many games with flying that worked, and Mario doesn’t count.
A bunch of times I just climbed to the top of the highest building in Metropolis or Gotham and glided to my next objective, even if it wasn’t far off. Not that I was trying to avoid fighting. My character wasn’t as powerful as I was hoping when I created her, but she still had some tricks up her sleeve. For instance, I could fool most any minion with a disguise to pass as one of them and sneak around, or I could use telekinesis to ensure their demise.
Overall I liked DCUO, but if I played again I would join a league. My character just wasn’t strong enough on her own and I needed a guide to tell me what to do next in some quests. The free features are plenty to keep you occupied for months of solid playing, even if you play nine hours a day. The add on packs include classic DC characters which you can use in the player vs. player arena, plus new quests and story branches.
If I had to say anything bad about the game it would be that there are some annoying bugs and the graphics could probably stand to look shinier. But that’s MMO games for you, always toning down the graphics. If you’re looking for a great free-to-play title to play for a while until you can afford the next big release or you’re just a huge DC Universe fan, there is no reason why you shouldn’t download this game to your PC or PS3 and play it right now.
If all you do is create a character, that alone is worth it.
(featured image courtesy: playstationlifestyle.net)