In the world of videogame reviewing ‘but’ is akin to a cooked grenade. It’s such a small word, yet it has the potential to explode a positive into something much more damning. ‘But’ is a game-changer.
Think about it: How many times have you read a review that seemingly dispensed praise only to blast said praise to pieces courtesy of ‘but’ or its literary cousins ‘however’, ‘although’, or ‘nevertheless’?
DC Universe Online’s sixth piece of downloadable content, Home Turf, is good but ultimately flawed.
Home Turf adds player lairs to the PC and PS3 superhero MMO. Well, they claim it adds lairs, two and a half empty buildings would be more apt.
Free players – players who have yet to spend over £5 on content – are gifted the ‘dive’ base, which like the name suggests, is a dive. Amidst the dilapidated building, users may only place items they’ve found in their travels. Should they wish for more features and space, they can fork out cash for the full version or upgrade to a Legendary Membership – the game’s monthly subscription option.
Upon purchasing the full version of Home Turf, players are sent a deed to buy a plot of land to house their lair’s entrance along with two themes: gothic and deco. Both themes expand the player’s lair area by adding two extra tiers of housing space.
Here’s where the first issues arise. Let’s say you want to purchase an entrance to your lair. Having spent £7.99 ($10) on the DLC, you’d expect this to be fairly straight forward, and it is, until you realize unless you’re a Legendary Member, you can’t have the entrance wherever you want, as the in-game price of certain entrances cost more than the amount of cash non-Legendary members can carry.
Premium users can only carry up to $2000 cash at any given time. If they earn more, it goes into a vault that they must pay real-world money to withdraw from. While most plots cost less than $2000, there are those that cost more. One of which costs $2050. It’s easy to see a move like this as a slap in the face to anyone who’s just paid the asking price of Home Turf. Is this how Free-to-Play works; those of us who don’t want to lock into a pay monthly plan get punished when they do spend?
The other issue with the lairs is that they’re empty, bar three items. Of course, part of the fun is going off and looting the Home Turf items from the in-game world and it does give users an extra incentive to play. But, what’s been advertised is a Sims-esque style of DLC, where players can customize their lair from a plethora of furnishings, as oppose to what we got — two and a half empty buildings.
I spent eight hours running a test to showcase why giving us empty, undecorated building is a terrible idea. Over the eight hours I received four items to kit out my lair. This is all fine until you factor in how many characters DC players have — I myself have eight toons. If we assume a base can be fully furnished with twenty items, the math breaks down as so:
20 items to finish one lair divided by the original 4 items equals 5.
From this we can deduce it would take 40 hours on average to complete one lair (5 x 8 hours). Then if we take that 40 and multiply it by 8 characters, it would take around 320 hours to complete all the lairs attached to one account. Then if we remember that Legendary Subscribers can have up to 16 character slots, we realize just how ludicrous an unfurnished lair is. [Editor’s Note: Every player will have a different perspective on the amount of Home Turf items they find. For me, the above is what happened in my game.]
Are we willing to put 40 hours into doing up a lair? Yeah, I can see me doing that, it is an MMO after all. But are we willing to sink 320 hours into customizing a lair for each character? Not on your life.
Normally, adding a ton of play-time would be commendable. But I can’t help but feel that after a while, this will become tedious and in turn take away from what we love about DC Universe: the over-the-top superhero mayhem.
It’s not all grinding and decorating, though. Home Turf also introduces perks, which works surprisingly well and adds a new depth to the combat.
Each lair comes equipped with a mainframe and a generator. To power the generator, players use in-game currency to purchase different batteries, each of which brings the option of making perks more powerful through a three-tier crafting system. Again, the issue of the currency cap comes into play. Legendary players can buy each energy cell with their accumulated cash. However, Premium users have to buy a cell, go off and earn another $2000, buy another cell, then earn another $2000 to reach the final tier. It’s baffling as to why Premium users are penalized in this way – is Premium spending not as valued as Legendary?
As for perks, players can call in supply drops, hire henchmen, bring in a sidekick, and even order orbital strikes. These all work and are great for turning the tide of battle when a boss is decimating your team – I’m looking at you Brother Eye. But, there’s an issue of currency … again, albeit a slightly different one.
Each perk costs Marks of Triumphs to craft. Marks of Triumphs are awarded when level 30 characters finish a specific type of mission or raid. They are also used to buy newer, more powerful armor. The problem being that those of us who don’t have the best armor, are having to sacrifice buying new armor in order to pay for perks. New armor means new missions, but if you want to bring a sidekick into these missions, you’ll burn through your Marks of Triumphs and have little to show for it.
It’s not a problem for the hardcore playerbase who already have the best armor available and thousands of Marks stacked up; ready to spend. But for the rest of us, it means choosing between gear and perks. A choice we shouldn’t have to make.
This issue only helps to exacerbate the problem further. Also included in Home Turf are new missions centered around T.O. Morrow. This is something DC players have been crying out for. Better yet, it’s Player versus Environment; giving us all a reason to get back on the streets of Gotham. The downside of course, is that you need to have a high combat rating to access the content.
Think of a combat rating as a level that only increases once you hit the cap of 30. When you hit 30, equipping new gear increases your rating, which also unlocks new content to play. To buy the armour, players use a mix of currency and Marks of Triumphs … the same Marks of Triumphs needed to buy perks.
If you’re a player who has caned DC Universe to death and have an active subscription, you’ll be able to experience everything Home Turf has to throw at you. If you’re not, prepare to witness some baffling decisions that’s sure to leave you feeling a tad cheated.
It’s painful. The biggest compliment I have for DC Universe is that I play it in my spare time. When I’m done talking about games or writing about games, I log in and unwind to the sound of super-heroes stomping villains. It’s not that this DLC is bad – it’s actually quite good – but (there’s that word again) it’s flawed and highlights many a problem.
It’s great to have a place to call home, it’s great to have a place to hang your cape after a hard day of thwarting evil. My gripe here is that Home Turf brings to light the many flaws in DC’s structure and payment model; Legendary players are vastly more important than Premium players.
With a game like Defiance on the MMO horizon threatening to steal DC’s console crown, Home Turf should give us a reason to pick up the controller and don the spandex once more. As it is, it does – kind of. It just does so in a very, very peculiar manner.