Saturday, November 7, 2020

In The Phone Booth


I have an odd relationship with DCUO. In one sense, I've been playing it since beta but it would be more accurate to say I don't really "play" it at all. 

Mostly, I log in when I notice there's free stuff. It's a game that gives away quite a lot of nice things. Sometimes you have to do something to earn it, a mission or some quests, perhaps (Do superheroes do quests?) but more often than not all you need to do is log in.

Of late, I also try to remember to pop into the game as each new Episode arrives. Some time ago Daybreak (or whatever the new spin-off company's called... hang on... I should know this... no, it's gone) changed the way the regular content updates work. Instead of only being relevant to veterans there's now a limited period when the new content appears in an "event" version which anyone can enjoy. (Okay, anyone over level fifteen, but you can get to level fifteen on your first day. Probably. Don't make me go prove it).

Unlike others, I wasn't all that taken with the last update, Wonderverse. I'm not much of a Wonder Woman fan and I found the open world area quite confining and claustrophobic. I love the idea of open world raidlike bosses that never stop popping and which you can zerg down. I just didn't much like that particular implementation. 

I had higher hopes for this latest update, which follows much the same format, not so much because I'd heard the devs had iterated for user-friendliness but mostly because it's set in the thirty-first century and stars the Legion of Super Heroes.

I love the Legion. As I may have mentioned. I was looking forward to meeting them and taking a good look around their version of Metropolis, maybe getting a peek inside the clubhouse. I don't imagine they call it a clubhouse any more, come to think of it. They're all kind of grown up, now. Well, compared to the thirteen-year olds they appeared to be in the 1960s stories I grew up with. Although not as grown up as the magnificently cynical and jaded thirty-something Legion Keith Giffen gave us. 

Yeah, okay. Point taken. If I start critiquing the comics this is going to run long. Longer. Stick to the game.

This afternoon I ran all four of the big boss fights, some of them several times. I also did all of the daily and weekly missions. I haven't yet done the instanced mission, set in the Legion's headquarters. 

I was going to do it before I wrote this, for completeness sake, but then Mrs. Bhagpuss came in and asked if I fancied some sausage rolls and we had a cup of tea and watched an old Only Connect on YouTube and then she casually dropped into the conversation that Biden had won Pennsylvania and by the time I got back to my computer it was getting to be too late to do the instance and write about it tonight so I thought I'd leave it for tomorrow. Maybe it'll deserve a post of its own, although I doubt it.

What I've seen of the DCUO version of the thirty-first century so far I've enjoyed but I can't say it feels much like the future. It doesn't look an awful lot like any version of the Legion's Metropolis I've seen before, either. There's always the caveat that I haven't read any comics featuring the LSH that were published after the turn of this century. Last I heard, the entire Earth had been destroyed anyway, so you can see how far out of date I am.

For all I know, the current official take is that every building in Metropolis a thousand years from now is panelled with jade. The ones in DCUO certainly appear to be. They look very pretty. Not particularly fututristic but, hey, how would we know? 

There's a minor controversy on the forums over the phone booths. For some reason that particular form of street furniture, already archaic in 2020, has become an essential part of life again a millennium from now. They even feature as a key part of one of the quests. While it's obviously a cute nod to the origins of the Legion as an artefact of the 1950s, the time when Superman still looked around for a handy phone booth to change out of his Clark Kent duds, it does seem kind of hard to imagine exactly what the functionality might be.

The phone booths confused the hell out of me for an entirely different reason. I was fighting Validus when I happened to notice my character looked absolutely nothing like herself. She had somehow acquired a form-fitting body suit and a full-face helmet, neither of which I'd ever seen before. 

I spent a few minutes playing with the options but I couldn't work out how to change back. I wondered if it was something that some villain had done to me in the fight. After all, both the Emerald Empress and a mind-controlled Saturn Girl were running around Metropolis. Either of them could have mesmerized me into thinking I was a chicken if they wanted so no doubt they could convince me I'd changed my wardrobe.


Eventually (and I'm talking about twenty minutes later) I worked out I'd done it to myself with the phone booth quest. If I'd bothered to pay attention I'd have seen the line in the description that told me to use the booths to disguise myself as a Legion trainee. This is how they dress, it seems.

The big fights were fun although as usual I suffered from playing the wrong character. I really should re-roll or respec or something. I have several characters but the one I like to play is basically a brawler. She likes to get up close and hit people, repeatedly, with a big stick. Occasionally she kicks someone up in the air for a change of pace. 

As a tactic this does not fly when fighting open world raidlike bosses as a level 26 with a CR of 310. As soon as the big AEs go off, down she goes. I'd be a lot better off playing one of those super-types who stands a hundred meters back, channelling beams of colored light. I saw plenty of those. My character does have a ranged attack but it's pretty feeble and I have to keep hammering the right mouse button which makes my hand cramp.

Even so, I had a good time fighting two-fifths of the Fatal Five and the corrupted versions of the three Legion founders, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad. The fights were fun (we didn't win all of them, either), the loot was good (I got several upgrades and some nice furniture for my Lair) and I dinged twenty-six. I'll try and remember to run the sequence a few more times before the open access goes away. Maybe I'll even get to thirty, which is the cap for actual levels, after which it's the infinite CR hamster wheel. 

While I was playing DCUO something else good happened. By sheer chance it happened to be the day of the Extra Life Twitch fundraiser (I have it runing in the background as I type) and there were gifts. Very nice gifts, incuding an awesome flying pet and some great "postcards" that turned out to be enormous posters to put up around the walls of my base.

I probably spent longer fiddling with that than I did fighting baddies. It's the housing options that have kept me logging in these last few years, if I'm honest. I like the combat well enough and I'm always curous to see the various familiar characters but DCUO is not what you'd call a narrative-driven game. I don't think anyone logs in for the stories. There'd have to be something more to hold my attention and base-building is that something.


We'll see if this turns out to be my bi-monthly visit done or if the lure of the Legion pulls me back a few more times. I guess if they can't do it, no-one could. I did get a trinket that procs Quislet as a combat pet and I haven't had a chance to try it out yet. I ought to give that a go.

Come to think of it, that means I got two different flying, silver metallic drone pets in the same session. That's kind of weird...

Anyway, if anyone wants the Extra Life freebies (there are a lot of them and they're good) they just said on the stream that they'll be available in-game until the end of this month. The Legion episode is available in its Event version "for a limited time", which probably means until the next Episode, which certainly won't be until next year.

Don't miss out!

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