Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
Although this game is available in several versions, I bought the Collector's Edition for the Playstation 3, so here's what you get in that package:
The game disc in an exclusive slip cover instead of a snap case.
A comic book version of the opening video sequence which was also the six minute game trailer from last year.
I also broke down and got the game guide for half price (PS3 and PC versions available), which I almost never do, but made an exception because I'm new to online games and wanted some help with character creation and some hints. With a game like this that will continue to grow and change over time, there's no walkthrough, but I found a lot of the information vital as a "noob" and managed to read half of it while waiting two and a half hours for the initial game download and installation to finish (and that's with a 16 meg/second connection). The first day there was already a patch, but once the actual game starts downloading and installing, feel free to make a nice dinner and eat before you're ready to start the character creation and playing.
But don't worry. You don't have to go through this every time you want to play. Plus it may have just been slow the first day since everyone was downloading from the same servers at once. A few days later, I had another update that took about fifteen minutes to load and I expect that will happen from time to time.
I created a few characters with different powers, alignments and appearances. You can create a character completely from scratch or start with a layout that's similar to one of the available hero designs and tweak it from there.
First choose a server to play from. The main options are whether it has a high or medium population of other players and whether or not you want other players to be able to attack you outside of the designated arena.
Choose to be male of female.
Pick a character size. There are three options.
Select a morality alignment and be either good or evil.
You can even choose how your character stands and moves around. For instance you can be serious and stand up straight, look like you're ready to brawl or appear like you're just hanging out.
Choose a mentor who will help you out from time to time. The mentors on the side of good are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The bad guy mentors are Lex Luthor, The Joker and Circe.
The primary super power options are flight (like Superman), acrobatics (like Batman) or super speed (like The Flash).
Then you can select your power base like fire, ice, sorcery, gadgets and so on.
And then there's an option of how your power is delivered, such as hand blasts, guns, mental or from a variety of other weapons.
Finally, you can decide how your character will look. There are dozens of potential designs in every category from the boots, gloves and capes to the emblem on your chest. You can alter the colors however you want to. You can even choose to just go in briefs for male characters or a bikini for female. I haven't tried it, but I doubt you can just go naked. Although, I assume it's possible to make the clothes the same color as your skin. I might have to try that out at some point.
Then name your character.
The character I've played the most so far is named Infinite Man. I had the idea to make his powers as much like Superman's when he was electric blue in the comics of 1997-1998 as possible. The most I could do was make him look similar. So I went with sorcery and hand blasts. There are no electric power options, at least not yet. I chose to be able to fly, which is a helpful power to have early in the game, but it takes FOREVER to fly from one end of a city to the other until you gain enough experience points to reach level 9 and unlock super speed flight. Frankly, it should have been available much earlier.
I ran a quick mission in Gotham, but haven't explored it too much just yet. I assume it's as detailed as Metropolis. If you go to a police station, there's a kiosk where Booster Gold will give you a recorded tour of the particular section of the city you're in. There's a lot to miss out on, so check it out. It may be a different person on the villains side.
No matter what options you choose, including to be good or evil, the initial practice area is always the same. You start on Brainiac's ship and fight his robots. Oracle or Calculator walk you through what's expected and tell you how to use your map. It's virtually impossible to die and it takes at least 20 minutes to complete. It's a good way to start the game because it allows the player to learn how the character's powers work. The second character I created was a short speedster villainess named Biznitch. Flying was an easy way to get around, but when I played through Brainiac's ship with her, I had to learn to run up walls, which was helpful when I reached a city and had to do a lot of that.
At the end of the level in Brainiac's ship, your mentor shows up and helps you defeat the last bad guy before you teleport out to a police department if you're a good guy, or a Legion of Doom HQ. From that location, you can buy items, check email and go to the Watchtower on the moon (again, if you're good. I haven't played the bad guys enough yet to even know where you go with them). It's also the place where you'll meet a lot of other DC characters, but they won't have anything interesting to say until you reach a point where Oracle, Calculator or your mentor say they have orders for you.
When you're a good guy in Metropolis, you have two series of missions to choose from right away. There's a two part mission against Brainiac and a four part mission against Gorilla Grodd. To make things easier, I recommend starting out with the Grodd missions until your mentor tells you to go and save The Flash. Then the Brainiac missions will be easier since you'll be at a higher level. Then you'll most likely be at level 5 or 6 by the time you have to take on Grodd. And here's a hint on fighting Grodd himself: DON'T. All you have to do is avoid him and maybe use some ranged weapons. The Flash does most of the work. I've heard that it's possible to go in as a team, which might be a lot easier.
After those two sets of missions, a lot of other options open up. Each mission will be marked with a recommendation as to what level you should probably reach before starting.
Is the game any good?
I have never played a Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) before. I still prefer solo games where I'm the only player. But I made an exception for this one because of my love for the DC Universe. It's a lot of fun and I certainly enjoy it. But so far, I haven't been sucked in to the point that I care to play for more than a few hours at a time. This is not the standard experience I've often heard from World of Warcraft fans, but to each their own.
Even though the missions are all different, they are still a bit repetitive. You have to reach certain benchmarks to complete a mission, such as taking down a specific number of a particular kind of bad guy. The problem with playing along with other players is that sometimes I will attack a bad guy and reduce his health, but another player pops along and finishes him off, receiving the point. Or you have to shut down a machine, but have to beat up some bad guys first to be able to do it. A few times, I was keeping the bad guys busy and someone else came along and shut down the machine I was working on. I suppose these things are prone to happen in multiplayer games, but it certainly made me think twice about switching to a server where I could hurt other player characters.
Frankly there's a lot of dying. When your character dies, you have to wait 10 seconds to respawn, which is fine, but often your last checkpoint can be pretty far away from where you died. So dying over and over again can be a real pain in the neck.
The biggest problem in the first week after the release was the servers. It wasn't possible to play most of the day on the Sunday after the release because of server issues. It's not unheard of for a game of this scope, with so many players trying to log on, to have a few problems in the first few days. It's annoying, but still understandable. The best way I've found to keep up with server status information is to check the DC Universe Facebook page. And I certainly don't expect it to be a major problem in the future.
It's still very cool to interact with my favorite characters from the DC Comics and I have every intention of continuing to play in the coming months.