Previewing DC Universe Online's Home Turf update

DCUO Header
Over the last couple of days, we've seen some pretty cool clips and snippets of DC Universe Online's Home Turf update. Due on January 29, Home Turf brings an innovative system for player housing, new challenges for heroes and villains, and a 1:1 PvP matchmaking system that lets players duke it out in the comfort of their personal lairs. Don't let the focus on housing fool you, though; Home Turf introduces a host of new features that have the potential to change DCUO as you know it.

We sat down with creative director Jens Andersen for a closer look at Home Turf and the many ways in which it deepens and expands upon DC Universe Online's existing content. Put simply, this latest batch of DLC offers more than just a place to hang your cape.

Building your lair

Every superhero needs a safe haven, and every villain needs a spot from which to plan his next big heist. Home Turf offers players the opportunity to build just such a space, but it's not quite as simple as finding an empty cave and parking your Batmobile inside. When you first log in after the Home Turf update, you'll be offered a quest that starts you along the path to lair ownership. Assuming, of course, that you purchase the update or already a Legendary player; if not, you'll be able to create a "hideout" in lieu of a lair with some of the deeper functions stripped out.

First Look Up close with DCUOs Home Turf update
Here's how it breaks down: The look of each base is determined by its theme. At launch, there will be three free themes available to players (Dive, Gothic and Deco), along with four premium themes for those who want to drop a few real-life dimes. Themes borrow from a wide range of hero/villain influences and familiar DC spaces and include a certain number of similarly themed decorations for you to place around. However, the theme of your lair is more than simple aesthetics.

Lairs are connected to actual in-game locations, and the addresses available to you depend on the depth of your pockets and the type of theme you've chosen. A sewer theme, for example, must be entered through a manhole, while a more above-ground-type of space needs a doorway. You can place your lair on any eligible spot in the game world, but different addresses will come at different costs based on their desirability. Iconic locations like Arkham Asylum will require Marks of Triumph in addition to small piles of pocket change. You can move and re-name your base at any time, so don't feel as if you have to find the perfect spot on the first go-round.

Sprucing the place up

No base or lair is complete without a few decorations. Your theme gives you access to a few initial items, but all the rest of the stuff you put in your space will need to be discovered in the world. Decorations and accessories will drop randomly as you play, and all are tradable, meaning SOE is essentially birthing a secondary furniture-driven marketplace into DCUO. Items are placed on a one-to-one basis; if you have one lamp in your inventory, for instance, one lamp is all you can place.

DCUO Screen
When you first start customizing your lair, you'll have to stick items in pre-determined areas known as "hard points." While it sounds constrictive in text, hard points are found all over your lair and will provide plenty of flexibility for you to decorate as you see fit while helping newer players sharpen their interior decorating skills. Hard points have an additional bonus: If you move your base to a new location, all hard point-placed items will stay exactly where they are. Once you've filled a few hard points, you'll be able to drop items wherever you please.

Decorating your lair is just one tiny aspect of Home Turf, however. More important is the addition of the Mainframe, a special computer that runs your lair and gives you a bunch of new game functions. There's the obvious stuff, of course: You can use your mainframe to give other players or Leagues access to your hideout and permissions to modify the layout. But the real fun comes in what your Mainframe does for your gameplay. Using the Mainframe, you can give your character cool abilities like dropping orbital strikes on demand or summoning henchman (or backup, for heroes). You can even recruit yourself an AI-controlled sidekick who levels up in power and appearance, if so desired.

DCUO Mainframe
The abilities to which you have access and their power levels depend on how much energy your Mainframe gets from your in-base generator. More energy means stronger abilities, such as more powerful orbital strikes or a greater number of henchmen summoned to your side. Your generator, naturally, has a monthly service fee depending on how much power you want it to put out. Some of the upgrades you purchase through your mainframe are permanent, but others are temporary boosts that last for 29 days (temporary boosts require Marks of Triumph). Hey, even superheroes have to pay the bills.

The final important part of your base is the Dispenser, which gives you the items you need to use the abilities created by your Mainframe. If you want to summon an orbital strike, you'll need a radio receiver with which to do it (stored on your utility belt). The same can be said for henchmen or sidekicks. One cool thing about themes and Dispensers, though: The abilities and looks of your henchmen or backup are determined by your base's theme. If you have a tech lab, you'll summon mad scientists. If you live in an ancient battleground, you'll get stone guards. When you have multiple bases, you can choose the henchmen you want to summon by picking the appropriate Dispenser item.

DCUO Henchmen
Finally, special hard point spaces exist for certain items offered as rewards for completing Home Turf's DLC missions. You can place a broker in your lair, for example, or a soda machine. More than just a place to hang out while chatting with friends, your lair is an extremely versatile tool that provides you with everything you need to run a fledgling criminal empire or shining beacon of hope and justice.

Oh, and yes, you can warp to your base. With a cooldown, of course.

Looking for fights

Home Turf centers on player lairs but also brings new content to bear in the form of four new open world areas with instanced encounters and new bosses. Heroes will be able to visit Striker's Island and Ace Chemicals, where they'll participate in a number of daily quests that eventually unlock two new solo instances. The same goes for villains, who can adventure in Arkham Asylum and Steelworks. All locations have a set of story-driven quests and a new mentor with whom to hang out.

DCUO Content
Additionally, a 1v1 PvP option is being added in which you can queue for fights with other players whenever you feel like punching something that isn't an NPC. PvP matches take place in your lair (the computer randomly chooses one of yours or one of your opponents), and each round forces you into a new spot within your secret hideout. First person to three victories wins. These fights (and things like the Mainframe) are only available to players with full lairs.

Overall, Home Turf is a massive expansion that should dramatically change the way you play DC Universe Online. The new functions made available through your lair will open up more interesting ways to fight, quest, and adventure through the world, and the PvP matches should prove a welcome distraction from mercilessly pummeling dozens of henchman into dust.

Look for Home Turf on January 29th (30th for PS3 EU players), priced at $9.99.

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This article was originally published on Massively.