DC Universe Online's PvP gets a well-executed overhaul in the latest DLC pack

Josh Augustine at

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I've always enjoyed DCUO's PvP. The complex combo, blocking, and interrupt systems for all weapon attacks make player skill paramount, and the Legends system that lets you play as pre-made iconic DC characters provides a gear-agnostic zone to duke it out on a theoretically level playing field.

But while PVEers have gotten three huge updates since the game's transition to free-to-play late last year, PvPers have been chugging on mostly the same content. Yesterday's DLC release, The Last Laugh, makes up for lost time with huge additions that dramatically improve the PvP experience and reward cycle.

PvP changes that are free for everyone

Before we get into the Last Laugh DLC content itself (which subscribers get free, but F2P players need to pay $10 to unlock), let's take a look at the free PvP changes that came to everyone in the last two patches. Game Update 13 upped the skill ceiling by adding a Counter-Attack Immunity buff that grants complete immunity for a very short period after a successful Block Break, Interrupt, or Block Counter.

For those of you unfamiliar with those fighting-game terms, players in DCUO can block at any moment by holding the Shift key. While blocking, the player takes significantly reduced damage and counters any heavy attacks made against them. So if you see someone executing a big attack, a quick tap of the Block key at the right time will not only reduce the enemy blow, but knock them on their butt too. As the attacker, you have to be aware of when your target is blocking and use a specific attack combo or power that has the ability to break through blocks. On top of that, some powers or combos channel over a period of time, and defenders can interrupt those channeled attacks or heals with the right moves. In this environment, the Counter-Attack Immunity buff rewards players who fight smart, watch what their opponents are doing, and actively work to counter them.

And because no amount of content can make unbalanced PvP fun, Game Update 14 brought a huge balance sweep of all the iconic Legends right before this DLC pack launched. I still find myself getting beat down by a few Legends in particular, like Bane, but I suspect that my ignorance of Bane's moves is as much to blame as any balance issues. The same update also added cross-faction PvP queueing to speed up queue times, with an option for roleplayers to opt out if they simply refuse to play on the other side's team.

Me? I'll punch whoever they want for PvP tokens.

Gear + progression changes

Without this DLC pack, PvP is a fun diversion in DCUO, but the progression path and the breadth of activities simply aren't wide enough for it to be a "lifestyle" within the game. You could technically PvP all you wanted, but you really had to do other activities if you wanted to stay sane while playing the game regularly. The Last Laugh pack tacks on a lot of extra goodies to the PvP lifestyle: new quests, gear, and—of course—maps.

The quests are my favorite addition to the PvP package, giving you mini-objectives within PvP matches to keep each session feeling different. I've gotten straightforward quests to KO 30 villains in PvP, but also quests to take out specific iconic characters like Harley Quinn in Legends matches. Quests come from the other big addition to your daily PvP activities: reward boxes. Completing the daily PvP Arena or Legend will give you two reward boxes.

Boxes are great, but winning a 10-hour staring contest is its own reward.

One box will contain a piece of low-tier PvP gear and the other a consumable item. The gear will be useless for anyone already decked out in fancy PvP duds, but it's a great way for noobs to get competitive quickly. The consumables, on the other hand, will be incredibly welcome for everyone. They're the perfect mix of useful and fun to keep me using them constantly. Just some of the consumables I received are a healing barrel summon, explosive oil barrel summon, buff cola, healing cola, seeds that cause AoE freeze, an explosion with AoE knockdown, and good ol' Mark bundles to help you purchase gear more quickly.

The new tier of PvP gear (tier 4) included in this pack that you'll be working towards is modeled after the Checkmate security firm in the O.M.A.C. comic books. It looks great, but it's still as out-of-reach as ever, priced way too incredibly high, it seems, to simply to keep you playing the game. The stat difference between Tier 2 and Tier 3 PvP sets is less than seven percent, but the cost is more than doubled, with each piece of the Tier 3 set costing at least a week's worth of effort in PvP tokens. Each piece of the Tier 4 set costs a month's worth of effort.

A full set (minus weapons and trinkets) of Tier 4 gear costs 270 Marks of Strategy, and in the past week I've earned four. It feels completely out of reach as it stands. At the very least, the lower Tier items should be given at a faster rate to help motivate us PvP noobs to press onwards.

When the gear grind gets me down, I hop into Legends mode, where gear doesn't matter.

A new challenger approaches!

Robin, Harley Quinn, Joker, Two-Face, Batman, Cat Woman, Huntress, Nightwing—have you noticed the trend yet? Every playable iconic in the Legends PvP mode before this pack is a part of the Batman family. The Last Laugh DLC almost doubles the roster size by adding seven new iconics, all from the Superman and Green Lantern families. Kilowog, Power Girl, Arkillo, Jon Stewart, Bizarro, Ursa and Amon Sur all join the fight, and you get one for free with the DLC pack (via the opening quest). Unlocking the rest doesn't take too long as their Marks of Legends costs are quite reasonable.

Being a Batman fan myself, I wasn't too excited about these characters before they came out, but I've really grown to appreciate them this past week. Even if you don't like playing as the new Legends, it's refreshing to have a whole new set of enemies to face off against. Ursa has become my new nemesis, constantly flying around and punching me in the face.

Power Girl doing what Batman's wanted to do for years. (Please ignore my failure on the right side of the screen.)

Don't tell Two-Face, but Bizarro has actually become my new favorite Legend. A flyer with knockbacks and AoEs is a great change of pace. There's a sense of incredible force behind his punches that gives a similar satisfaction of the Barbarian's corpse-punting in Diablo 3. I burst into laughter the first time I KOed Robin in the Batcave with Bizarro's charge ability and his tiny, helpless body went flailing off the edge of the platform into the stalagmites below. Take that, Boy Blunder!

The voicework is as amusing as ever, with Bizarro throwing out quips like, "Bizarro kill you with kindness!" as he sends his foes packing. I was impressed by how many interactions the iconics have between each other that at least seemed to be custom-tailored to who they were fighting.

On the next page, we look at the new arena PvP maps, the Shield weapon type, and the new Duo.