There’s a lot of speculation about what the new shiny of 2009 will be. Though at best it’ll garnish nothing larger than a niche group of players (if it’s any good–or in fact, more than vaporware) I’m intrigued by Darkfall. Any move away from the gear-based, Barbie dress-up game that all major fantasy MMOs have become has potential in my book–and FFA looting ensures that your character won’t strictly be what he or she wears. I’m certainly willing to forsake somewhat outdated graphics for a change of pace–but I tend to enjoy PvP. Most don’t. And FFA looting has the potential to become very frustrating very fast depending on player culture and maturity levels.
But the big slugfest of the upcoming year will surely be between DC Universe Online and Champions. DCUO will no doubt win out on the sub side since they have the big name license and the big name company behind them. But which will be the better game?
The recently released preview of DCUO fell short in my eyes. The city (presumably Metropolis) seemed too “clean,” the character models didn’t scream “Jim Lee,” and the screen was overpopulated with glowing orbs and floating whirligigs, hearkening back to the power ups and hovering coins of arcade games of yore. I loved Crystal Castles and Double Dragon, but the thing is, I wanna forget I’m playing a video game every so often in an RPG.
Both DCUO and Champions promise an “action-oriented” game too. This is another cool idea that has yet to be executed well. One of them has gotta pull it off, right? But let’s get back to the subject at hand–MMORPGs–and what they’ve been sorely lacking. Story.
Now before you start up, I don’t wanna hear how the Death Knight is really cool and Blizzard really outdid themselves with adding quirky quests and fun twists to WoTLK. Stitches by any other name is still Stitches and I’ve been there, done that, it was fun, but it’s over.
This is where Champions hooks me in. Their Nemesis system allows you to create an archenemy for your hero who plays a significant role in your game play. Now this creates some solid potential for unique storytelling, one that moves away from the cookie cutter quest lines we’ve all been ushered through for the last half decade. You’ll not only be able to customize your character with an even greater breadth than Cryptic gave us in CoH, but you’ll be able to customize your powers and how they look.
The main thing that troubles me with superhero MMOs is that I’ve never found it an adequate fit for existing MMO conventions, like the tank/healer/DPS archetypes or the raid/dungeon crawl-reskinned-as-instanced-evil-scientist’s-underground-lair-crawl. Since those mechanics are so rooted in fantasy tabletop RPGs, they’ve always seemed strangely forced to me in any other genre.