Saturday, August 28, 2021

Tell Me Where To Go - DCUO's House of Legends

My plan for the morning, if you could call it a plan, was to write something about DCUO's latest update, the potentially game-changing House of Legends. I wasn't going to go into all that much detail, partly because Tipa already did that but mostly because I don't have much in the way of detail to offer. Just what I read in Tipa's post and what's in the official press release, update notes and forum post, really. There's a trailer, too. I've embedded it below.

I probably should have read the update notes before I logged in but I was in a hurry. I wanted to run around, take a few screenshots, check out the new systems and mechanics, maybe do a couple of missions to see what the xp and the rewards were like. 

I thought I'd take some screenshots, get a general impression, be out of there in a couple of hours, tops. Then I'd come here, bang out a quick thousand words or so and get back to what I really wanted to do today, namely play Bless Unleashed until my fingers bleed.

None of that happened. Okay, a some of it happened but not how I'd hoped. First, I had to get the update. I set DCUO patching, went to make a coffee, came back and it was done. That was fast. Then I logged in to character select to choose who'd get to check out the new stuff first.

I figured if I was going to do some levelling to see how the xp curve goes it ought to be a lower-level character. I have two or three of those. Of course, by DCUO standards, all my characters are low level. As is well known by now, or should be, levelling in DCUO is nothing more than an extended tutorial. 

That's a tad unfair. The levelling game in DCUO is more involving and interesting than that makes it sound but, as with Guild Wars 2, almost all of the game happens after you hit the cap. And in DCUO the cap is only level thirty.  

The character I usually play is level twenty-eight. That seemed a bit high for what I wanted. I had a feeling the update also included some kind of new New Player Experience, so I knew what I probably ought to do was make a completely new character, but I also knew that if I did I'd be an hour in character creation. Who ever got through character creation in a superhero mmorpg any faster than that?

Given I didn't want to spend much more than a couple of hours playing DCUO today anyway, that seemed a bit much. Plus, unless they've dropped the old "get off the exploding spaceship" tutorial at the start, that's another ten or fifteen minutes gone. 

I plumped for playing Cassie Praxis, level eight, ranged DPS, hero. Pretty much  all I could remember about her. I made her to test some other update ages ago and haven't played her since. 

I had no idea where I'd left her but she turned out to be idling on a rooftop in Metropolis. Par for the course for a minor hero, I'd say. Absolutely nothing related to the update popped when I logged her in. No introductory cut scene, no voice message from Oracle, nothing in the mail. If I hadn't known there was an update I wouldn't have known there was an update.

It occured to me I had not the least idea what Cassie's powers were. I had a vague idea she could fly so I ran her off the edge of the roof to see if I was right. I was. Lucky Cassie.


It looked like she'd been doing something in the immediate area last time she was awake so I got her to carry on with that just while I acclimatized. We took another mission from someone with a question mark hat we happened to pass. Cassie killed some killer bees. I helped by pressing left mouse button over and over. It seemed to work. They died, She didn't.

After that we followed the marker on the map to hand in a quest she'd done earlier and between those two missions she made a full level. That seemed like an awful lot from what I remembered. I was going to pursue it further but then I remembered why I was supposed to be there: House of Legends.

The House of Legends isn't just an update title. It's a new game hub for both heroes and villains. There's some backstory about how the Monitor, one of DC's numerous god-level entities, has called all heroes and villains to "train, coordinate, and prepare for a looming multiversal threat", to which end he's thrown open his own home base in somewhere called The Bleed.

The last time I was up to date with DC continuity was somewhere around 1989. I really did know my stuff for about fifteen years but by now that's on a level with having studied Classics at university. Actually, less relevant than that. I do roughly know who the Monitor is but The Bleed is a new one on me. Visually, it appears to be one of those liminal, metaversal interstices, a space between spaces. You can see it out of the windows from the House of Legends. It's red. Well, the parts that aren't green. Maybe that's why they call it The Bleed.

The HoL itself is a vast improvement on the two previous hubs, both of which, I believe, are still available should you prefer, although you'd have to be as crazy as the Joker to go there instead of the House of Legends. The new hub is, by DCUO standards, tight, organized and manageable. You can see all of it on the map without having to scroll, there are only three main rooms and they're all on roughly the same vertical plane. You can find what you're looking for in seconds not hours. It's astounding!

All the vendors are there and they're all clearly marked. Some of them have been consolidated. For possibly the first time since the game launched over a decade ago I feel I could go shopping without losing my patience or my mind. The teleports are also clearly marked and go where you'd expect, which is a huge innovation.

At this point I should probably have started to be suspicious at the complete lack of hints, nudges or basic acknowledgments from the game that anything had changed. It's very much not like DCUO to let a new update drop without having someone you're supposed to recognize pop up and lecture you about what's changed.

That didn't happen. What did was I got unreasonably involved in collecting blue exclamation points and yellow question marks from around the halls and corridors of the House of Legends. 

DCUO has always had an extensive collection system. Just about all SOE/Daybreak games have them. It's something of a trademark. For some reason I've never really bothered much with them in DCUO but this time I happened to notice when I picked up the first blue exclamation mark that it was a collection of just five items. 

Even I ought to be able to find five collects in a smallish, enclosed area like the HoL. You'd think. And you'd be right. I could and I did. After I'd gone and looked it up on YouTube.

The yellow collection needed twelve items. There were many possible spawns with a fast respwn time but the collects were not unique. You could pick up the same ones over and over. The blue ones were in five, fixed spots and each was different. All you had to do was find all five.

By the time I finally gave up and went searching for a solution I had 11/12 yellows plus a bag full of duplicates. I'd been around and around the HoL, methodically, and I'd found 3/5 blue spawns. It turned out that one of the missing ones was way up at roof level on a support beam, impossible to spot from below. The other one was behind a machine on the floor. I should have seen that one, at least.

There are several different types of collection in DCUO these days. This one seems to be a Briefing. It comes with a nice reward. I think most of them do. I don't know when that changed. One of the reasons I never really bothered with them in the past was that they mostly filled out a lot of lore, much of which, as a DC fan, I already knew. I'll be doing more of them in future, I think. I enjoyed these and it was profitable, too.

When I got the final one I stopped to have lunch. I'd already been playing about as long as I'd budgeted for but I hadn't gotten much done. I'd seen the new hub and taken some screenshots (most of which I later lost when crashed) but as for the other features of the update I'd done nothing.

After I'd eaten I logged back in and chose a different character. I did that because although I could look at what was on all the vendors there was literally nothing on any of them my level nine could buy. I thought my regular character, who's done a few of the events and has some of the various currencies, might have more choice.

As soon as I logged her in all those things I'd been missing appeared. There were splash screens introducing the House of Legends update and some of its features. The Monitor appeared and started lecturing me about my responsibilities as a hero. Harbinger (no idea who she is although I'm fairly sure I've met her before) kept projecting herself in front of me as a hologram to tell me about all the things I could do in the new base. Someone called Tempus Fuginaut, of whom I'm sure I never heard before (I'd remember a name as bad as that) tried to explain how the new gearing system works.

Why none of this happened for Cassie Praxis I have no idea. Well, I suppose I can guess. She's too low level I imagine. Or maybe it's a bug. Something must need fixing because there was a red warning in chat telling everyone the servers were coming down in fifteen minutes for a patch.

I ran around trying to get as much done in a quarter of an hour as I could but with about eight minutes to go I disconnected and the server kicked me back to desktop. I tried to log back in but although I was able to connect what I got next was the original launch cinematic, something I haven't seen for years.

I escaped out of that and it took me to character creation. It had to because I didn't have any characters. I'm guessing someone took the account management software offline before closing the game down. Either that or Brainiac has finally managed to kill everyone and we all have to start over from scratch.

Either way, that's me done with DCUO for today. I have this week off work so with luck I'll have time to delve a bit further into the new update and report back with something a little more meaningful. It definitely looks very promising. DCUO is getting stronger and stronger, I think. Maybe people are finally beginning to notice just how solid an mmorpg it is. Clearing away some of the more confusing legacy systems can only accelerate that process.

And let's hope so. We're going to need as many heroes (and villains) as we can get if we're going to be ready for that "looming multiversal threat."

1 comment:

  1. If you have a character of at least level 4, you can skip the tutorial (and should). I have mixed feelings about the House of Legends, now that it has gone live. Not about the location itself, but about the episode as a whole. Unfortunately, I can't play DCUO at the moment...


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