D.C. Universe Online MMO Log Part Three: In Blackest Night

The makers of DC Universe Online advised that some missions are unbeatable without resorting to that classic comic-book convention, the superhero team-up. Bogged down against the Sinestro Corps, I went in search of a big friend who wanted big action.

Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them.

I am a complete novice at massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Fahey is normally our man on the subject. But as D.C. Universe Online is a rarity - the console-based MMO - many will experience the genre for the first time with it on the PlayStation 3. I will be one of them, and that journey will be a part of Kotaku's review of the game.

What I Played

My self-assigned task list this week included several goals, all of which I missed. Life happened, unfortunately, and sprinting from level 18 to the all-important 30 just wasn't in the cards after losing two evenings to other priorities.

I did knock down at least a level on the other nights I played, which included mopping up the end of Zatanna's continuity against Trigon and Brother Blood; completing the entire Poison Ivy set of missions, a bunch of sundry sidequests and then finally joining the war with the Green Lantern Corps against Sinestro and his agents. I'm glad I bought a cheapie USB keyboard after last week's sessions.

How It Went

I've learned that standing around and asking "Who wants to help with X," is a good way to be ignored in this game. Then again, I ignore most of those shouts, too. Screw this, I'm busy, right?

Most of my game has been played in singleplayer so far, so my karmic deficiency came back to haunt me in a big way once I picked up Green Lantern's missions. The Sinestro Corps are flat tough. The quest was recommended for level 21, and at equivalent rank, these ring-dings will gang up on you if you make the mistake of fighting more than one, or a stray attack hits another who's engaged with an NPC. They just home in, often spamming a hammer attack and draining your health off with a yellow ray. The hard light shield, an iconic power, is absolutely recommended, and worth the re-spec if you don't have it before this set of missions.

After finishing off the exterior mission set, the game took me inside a shattered Metropolis City Hall for a showdown with Sinestro himself. First, I had to deal with a Manhunter who is insurmountably tough as a solo foe, at this level. It couldn't be more obvious that this was meant to be a cooperative mission. The Manhunter (an Alpha Lantern if you're a villain) regenerates health at a ridiculous rate.

I would get in and set him on fire, then use the heat drain to compound the damage, and the Manhunter just poured on the onslaught while I held block and struggled to recharge. I chugged Soder, crushed the one health barrel, and once lasted long enough to use Eternal Flame, and maybe got the Manhunter down to a third health left before he came back like Rocky IV and blew me away. The Lantern Corps is tits-on-a-bull useless to do anything in this fight other than recite their little poem.

What to do? The wait times in the alert queues were ridiculously long. It seems everybody playing at this time had the same idea as I - go grind in the Alerts and PvP arenas and come back to overpower a tough foe. That really wasn't an option here. It'd take forever. So I picked up the keyboard and asked for help,

No reply. I tried another angle. Checking who was near me, I spied a level 20 character, figuring he may either need help in City Hall himself or would like to knock out a bigger mission out-of-sequence. I invited him to join up. His name is Stavros.

Stavros, if you're reading this, you were a godsend. Back in City Hall we entered the atrium with the Manhunter, and I hung up on the breezeway to pick off the Sinestro Corps veterans. Stavros just jumped straight in, whaling away with a giant flaming sword - quite a site for a giant guy in a white business suit. Remembering that's how I got my ass kicked, I dropped down to go to work on the Manhunter.

We finished it off in less than a minute, with Stavros doing most of the damage. You can check it out in this video below. After that, taking care of Sinestro himself was crazy simple.

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The Story So Far

I owed you guys a better week than this, but my mulligan taught me the importance of teamwork, especially as one approaches the later levels within the game. Unfortunately, I still don't feel that I've hit an ah-ha moment yet with D.C. Universe Online. I'm still churning through the mission sets, mashing a ton of buttons and incrementally increasing my gear.

It's a lot of fun, still, but in a highly repetitive sense. Unfortunately, this exposes you to a lot of the game's glitches. For example, I got hung up on some world geometry at Metropolis General Hospital battling LexCorp and had no alternative but to teleport out of there.

Again, hitting level 30 is a priority and my singleminded goal this week, as it'll be imperative to writing a full review on this game. Playing at off-peak times to get in on some more of the alerts will also be on the to-do list.

Despite the glitches and the rather templatized mission structures, it's still an engaging experience, largely glued together by seeing what NPC cameos you'll get, and how the bad guy boss will play out. But it's very much an experience where you'll get out of it what you give. And if, like me, all you're doing is battling solo, you'll have a bland experience through your late-teen levels, until you hit a wall at 21.