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Hands-on with DC Universe Online's Hand of Fate DLC


Ah, DC Universe Online. It's what I like to call a vacation MMO. It's so easy to run that even older machines can tackle it, yet it still looks great even in screenshots. The action-based combat seems odd at first, but within a few minutes, you realize just how much fun it is to pick up cars, fly straight into the sky, and jump off buildings, landing with a massive THUD. It's just fun to play, and on top of that, its character creation is often overlooked. It gives players satisfying control over how a character moves and feels. I've enjoyed making smaller scrapper-types so far, but I played an entirely different character for this press tour.

Yes, I said press tour! I joined DCUO Creative Director Jens Anderson for a hands-on with the latest DLC, Hand of Fate. We found ourselves in a PUG -- yes, a PUG -- and took orders from Doctor Fate himself. Read on!

DC Universe Online screenshot
I joined up with Anderson, a writer from another site who remained mysteriously quiet, and a random player to form out our four-player group. The DLC can be enjoyed by eight-player groups as well. Evil players join with Felix Faust to start off the mission, but groups on both sides are now featured in the cinematics alongside iconic characters. (I wonder whether the random player knew he was on a team with the head honcho?) We made our way to Dr. Fate, a mysterious good guy who asked us to help him defend dead bodies from Faust and his minions, who were trying to inhabit the corpses. There are a lot of magic themes running through this DLC, so I hope you like to walk on the mystical side.

"Despite my complete and total newbness, I held my own. DCUO is splendid at making even a rough player feel powerful from the beginning."

After we defeated the waves of enemies, we were sent out into the greater Gotham open world. I was loaned a large, green character in fatigues. He felt powerful, but I realized that I had not played enough DCUO when Anderson asked me which role I was going to play and I had no idea. But despite my complete and total newbness, I held my own. DCUO is splendid at making even a rough player like yours truly feel powerful.

Players were everywhere, seemingly hunting after many of the same mobs we were. Fortunately, mobs spawn often and can be engaged by many players at once. DCUO uses a surplus model instead of a scarcity model. In a game like World of Warcraft, for example, the first person to attack a mob encounter-locks it. In DCUO, any player who attacks the mob and contributes to a certain degree gets credit for the attack. This also helps to ensure that players don't have to worry about splitting loot. As we killed different mobs, other players were willing to stick around and help us if it looked as if we needed it. Since everybody potentially benefited, there was reason enough to help out your fellow hero.

The team was encouraged to split up. If we'd been particularly shy, we could have stayed together to pick off mobs. During my run, the team often found itself split into two, but we were able to mark enemies off the list much more quickly together. If we got into trouble, we got some help from other players or simply ran to each other's aid. It was chaotic, sure, but it felt as if all the players were participating in the same larger battle.

DC Universe Online screenshot
After we masterfully (OK, I died a lot actually) defeated our enemies, we were sent to find one last interactive item. Anderson found it first, and I used my acrobatic ability to run, jump, and climb my way to him. Once we were together, he fired off the next segment, and we found ourselves absolutely trounced by a truly tough enemy. My unfamiliarity with my tour character meant I found myself waiting for a rez several times. After a while, though, I learned to stay at a distance, fire off a few special abilities, and save my melee attacks for the moments when the monster was weakened. The fight reminded me of an old-school raid boss fight or even a console game's tricky end-mob, but we were in a non-instanced space, surrounded by our fellow players. It was pretty darn cool.

Open-world fights and amazing boss mobs are not the only goodies that come with this latest DLC. There's also the utility belt, a handy extension to a player's current loadout that allows players to equip more gadgets and items. Being the newb that I am, I completely forgot to put anything in the utility belt, but I still felt cool wearing it. I can only imagine how handy it is when it carries, you know, actual hero stuff.

Players can also go after the new runic sets of armor: bright, powerful sets that look like "Tron meets sorcery." The items drop from special bosses, and there is even a set that can be aquired through crafting. Final bosses will drop the pattern needed to make the armor. I can hear the loot drama now! There's also a 130-DPS weapon coming for those who can kill a final boss. I don't expect to make it to that level of awesome any time soon.

DCUO is truly a vacation from other MMOs. It's an instant-combat, wonderfully customizable, immersive, and beautiful playhouse of a game. While it looked good and ran fine on my older machine, it looked amazing and ran even better on my new machine the next day. But the laughter and exclamations of "awesome" on both runs sound exactly the same.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

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