Alter-Ego: Building a better costume

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Alter-Ego: Building a better costume
In last week's Alter-Ego column, I went over some of the basics of creating a character as well as my own view on the costume creator. This, in turn, set off a small firestorm of remarks in the comments both for and against the way DC Universe Online's designers have handled costuming. One thing was made fairly clear to me -- there are lot of people out there who don't entirely understand just how costuming and stat-based gear in DC Universe Online actually work. While you do start off with a limited number of options in the creator for costuming choices, a great many open up once you actually start playing the game. As such, I wanted to take some time in this week's column to really dig into how gear and costuming works in the game. Hopefully, it will help to clear up some confusion for people who haven't had a chance to actually play the game as yet.

So if you're curious about how to build your super costume choices or how the nuts and bolts of stat gear work for heroes and villains, then join me behind the break for this week's edition of Alter-Ego!

The first costume is basic but short-lived

The first thing you can do to ensure that you're going to have the coolest costume choices that will fit your concept as soon as possible is to choose your mentor wisely. As my character is based on a sci-fi concept, I chose Batman as a mentor for my hero. Many of the pieces you'll receive while following a particular storyline will fall in line with what each mentor represents. If you want more technological exoskeleton-like armor for your character, consider Batman or The Joker as your mentor. If you're more the type that prefers classic comic book styling, then you should look toward Superman or Lex Luthor. If you're more metaphysical and want a demonic-influenced magic-type character, Wonder Woman and Circe are where it's at.

Now, before anyone jumps on this, let me note: At around level 12 all of the mentors for your side (heroes or villains) will open up to you, and you'll start picking up different costume styles like mad. So if you're favoring a tech look but wouldn't mind having some of those cool magic-themed costume pieces (like yours truly), jumping over to Metropolis and working through Wonder Woman's storyline will net you tons of great options to mix in. At no time are you locked into only one look, save at creation -- and even there you'll start picking up costume pieces in the tutorial if you look around.

There's stat gear! It's [insert MMO here] all over again!

If you don't enjoy playing DC Universe Online, then sure, getting improved stat gear might seem like a tremendously tedious grind, since you pretty much just pick it up by playing the game. However, if you are playing the game and you don't enjoy it, I'd counter by asking why you're not playing something you would enjoy instead? (Sorry for the pants-on-head obvious question, but you'd be surprised how many people have told me that they play games they don't like. No, I don't understand it either.)

The truth is, most of the gear you get (short of doubling back and picking up lower-level missions from people standing around in the street) is generally level-appropriate and will have roughly equal or improved stats. Sometimes it's really not a gear style or mix of stats that will fit in with your character's concept. Thankfully, you don't have to look like everyone else who is the same level as you, in the same gear, at the same point in the story. All you have to do at any point -- literally -- is to open up your style tab and mix and play around with your character's unlocked styles until you get the combo that screams awesome to you. It's really that simple. You also have the option of locking styles into place so that your cosmetic choices don't change even as you improve your gear. This is really handy if you're one of the folks (again, like yours truly) who prefer to stick with one look and sort through all the new shinies later when you're somewhere safe.

For example, I got this awesome illusion as a random vault drop -- free!

Picking up more costume choices

There are two types of costume pieces in the game. There's gear, which I'm defining as a costume piece that has both a cosmetic component and stats that may or may not be useful to you. Gear can be picked up from mobs, mission arcs, bosses, and vendors. If it has a style you want to collect but horrible stats, just equip it and then switch back to the gear with the stats you want to keep. That way you unlock the new style and apply it to the piece of gear that has better stats. Some of the gear available in game requires certain specifics, such as levels, renown from running missions for a specific mentor (think: faction), or from participating in different types of PvP or PvE content in addition to the main story arc. All of those are optional, as with the tier gear. At no point are you ever forced to keep a particular look, outside of creation as mentioned before.

The second type of costume choices you can get are purely cosmetic options. You can pick them up from vendors, collection completions (represented as yellow ? orbs in the world), investigations (the green ! orbs), and player briefs (blue ! orbs), as well as through your visits to the Vault. As Chris Cao noted in the interview we had with him recently, some of those pieces are only unlocked through collections, so if you're really out to look incredibly unique, this is probably one of the best things you can focus on.

Ultimately, there are tons of options for players to build their own iconic looks and tons of different ways to do so. Unless you are an OCD completist who will force himself to do every possible path to get every possible costume piece on a dozen alts, this part of the game shouldn't feel like a grind since cosmetic options are insanely plentiful -- and with the auction house opening soon, costume parts should be even easier to get than they are now. DCUO's method of costuming offers something for those who are the most casual to the hardest-core PvP fiends and everyone in between. At no point are your stats tied to how you look as they are in many other MMOs, and you can indeed be as unique a snowflake as you'd like. That way when you're ready to stand toe-to-toe with characters in DC Universe Online's highest echelon, your character will look just as awesome as he or she is.

Every week on Saturday, strip off the mask of your Alter-Ego and soar through the world of DC Universe Online with Krystalle, then catch up with Larry on Wednesdays as he showcases the superhero game on the Alter-Ego livestream. Send up a bat-signal to ping Krystalle or Larry with your burning questions. (Packages wrapped in green with a purple bow will be returned unopened.)
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