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Alter-Ego: An overview of the trinity in DC Universe Online

In DC Universe Online, all of the different powersets can pump out DPS -- however, the trinity is alive and well even in this superhero game. Thankfully, due to the way the powers are designed, our ability to stack effects, and the heavy utilization of combos, grouping or raiding in DC Universe Online doesn't generally feel like you're stuck simply mashing buttons. If you get in with a regular group, you'll learn the ways you can play your powers off each other using synergy, thereby adding an entirely new level of awareness to encounters.

Unfortunately, endgame isn't just about going into an instance and unleashing everyone's max damage to tear through the place. While all characters can do damage in DC Universe Online, roles are still vitally important for group PvE and endgame content. As a preamble to a series that will look at builds for each role in the game and what they can bring to the table, I thought it would be a good idea to take this first week to look at which powersets go with the roles players use in endgame. Join me behind the break as I break it all down for those who are new to the game or perhaps are looking for a refresher.

As mentioned before, the trinity in DC Universe Online isn't necessarily the one many players may expect. In this game, the primary roles used in endgame are tank, healer, and crowd control. All three of the archetypes actually start the game in a DPS role, thanks to a toggle system in the game that enables two different loadout types for each character. This DPS set is your damage-heavy loadout, useful for leveling, soloing, or PvP content since it relies only on itself. At level 10, you gain the ability to toggle into your secondary role for the first time. This is important because the first group alert in the game, Area 51, opens up to players at level 9. As I mentioned in the Area 51 guide, it's advisable to hold off running the instance until 10, if only to get your first taste of using your role in a group setting. The secondary role becomes critically important as you continue leveling, so you'll be glad of the practice.

To break it down a bit further: Each of the different roles in the game has two different powerset choices at creation. Inside each of the powersets are an additional two trees, which give players a great deal of choice in terms of how they'd like to build their characters. As in all MMOs, there are those players who have spent a great deal of time min/maxing stats and picking out optimal builds that best provide utility in each of the roles. Just precisely which are the best builds is still somewhat in flux, as the game is still in its early post-launch period.

With that said, for tanking, there are two trees that give players the ability to soak up the damage and keep coming: Fire and Ice. From my personal experience, it seems like Ice is primarily suited to soaking damage through armor and offering mitigation, while Fire is fabulous for generating threat and offering survivability through self-heals. Neither of the two trees is a slouch when it comes to doing damage, but I do notice myself having to be a bit more careful with power management on the Ice tank than I do on the Fire tank when I'm actually tanking (both will chew through your energy if you aren't careful!). Then you'll get to deal with grumbling from the rest of your group due to your loss of aggro.

This, of course, leads into the next two trees: those for controllers. Players who are all about making sure the tide of the fight goes their way may well enjoy playing controllers. That said, it's not just about controlling enemies but about offering vitalization -- DCUO's energy buff. The two trees for controllers are Gadgets and Mental, which give players the ability to keep bad guys busy while keeping the rest of the group full of energy so they can perform their roles. By giving this important buffing role to the controllers, the developers for DCUO have ensured that the controllers aren't looked at as purely DPS or crowd control, since a properly played controller can really make or break a group. If they're fabulous, you'll be in great shape. If they're horrible, you'll know very quickly.

Finally, we have the trees for the healer, an important role in pretty much any MMO. Let's face it -- taking damage and locking guys down is all well and good, but none of it means a thing if you can't survive through the fight. Nobody likes dying and running back over and over, and a great healer will save a group no end of frustration. For those who are interested in pursuing this role, you'll want to look into the Nature and Sorcery trees, as those two offer not only the best heals but some group-oriented buffs and debuffs. They also bring their own DPS to the table.

For each of the six powersets and trinity roles, there are additionally secondary skills that offer the best combination for your buck. But it's not cut and dried as to which one will fit each person best. For example, Fire tanks rely on a certain amount of self-healing to keep themselves from sucking up carpet. As such, while defense and health are important for tanks, a Fire tank might also find it useful to look toward using a weapon that might be better for a healer. Ultimately, you'll also want to think about how you intend to play. The first skill choice will define you until level 10, when other weapon options will open up. There is a fabulous thread on the DC Universe Online forums that I highly recommend if you're looking for specifics on coupling skills with powers, as other players have already done the theorycrafting for you.

I'd also note that no post on the potential powers and their interplay would be complete without pointing you toward that well-loved MMO staple: a build calculator. DCUO Source has taken the time to create a fantastic build calculator, which is well worth playing with when you're thinking about which powers you'll want to take -- or if you're looking into a respec for raiding, PvP, or the like.

That's all for this week. Next week I'll jump into looking at some of the pros and cons of tanking and some of the different build options, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, you can catch Larry livestreaming DC Universe Online every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EDT, or you can join up with us on the Zero Hour server in the Massively Overpowered hero league! Just send an in-game email to Shaddoe or Shambleau to get in on the fun.

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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