As some of you may have heard, another MMO of the capes and cowls sort has gone the free-to-play route (following Champions Online) - this one, however, is from a major (though not for the PC) publisher - Sony Online Entertainment. How good is the F2P experience - especially compared to Champions Online?
Surprisingly, it's not bad.
First off, it's using an old (but tested) game engine - the same one as Unreal Tournament 3 and Gears of War 2. Like GoW2, it scales amazingly well, even on plebian hardware - my HD5450 GPU and E3400 CPU had nary a quibble even playing at desktop resolutions and refresh rates - not on Windows 7, and not on the Developer Preview of Windows 8, either (both x64). This alone trumps Champions Online, which has issues at even 1680x1050 on the same hardware with the same level of detail. Also, unlike Champions Online, it uses real (in the comics sense) heroes (and villains) from the DC Universe - both as genotypes *and* as NPCs. (Yes - in DCUO, you can play a baddie-based character. However, I've also seen several baddie-based good guy characters (including not a few based on Lex Luthor or even Braniac- the major protagonist of DCUO). I've already completed two multipart missions (the beginner mission teaming with Superman against several Braniac minions, and a second teaming with the Flash against Gorilla Grodd's monkey-business). I also have one mission that it turns out I am WAY too UNDERPOWERED for (the first encounter with the HIVE in the Metropolis Metrodome), so I am going back to tackle some missions I accidentally skipped (as I went right from Grodd to the HIVE missions) to buff up. This mirrors Champions Online (in fact, most MMOs), in that you don't necessarily have a *set order* for quests/missions.
My own character is *loosely* based on the Superman genotype (a brawler with the same suit-scheme) - however, other than flying, he's nada like Supes. (If anything, he closely - and on purpose - resembles my character from Champions Online, who also is a brawler/flier - both characters also have ice-based powers. So it's a deliberate cross, as if Supergirl and Bobby Drake from the X-Men had twin boys. The very fact that it's possible means that other than keystrokes and power levels, there's no real learning curve. It's also reflected in that I'm level 9 already - and i just installed the game (on Windows 7) last night. (I had not even reinstalled the Developer Preview yet.
However (as I found out) don't be deceived by the fast trek leveling through the first two missions - after that (like most MMOs) it's a rather hard slog. (In fact, in Champions Online, I've walled two levels back, at level 7.) If you find yourself at a wall, chances are, you have have *accidentally* skipped some buff-up missions (the J key, by default, brings up your Journal, which lists all your missions, especially the ones you haven't done yet) - go back and try some of them.