Review: DPS Only! Brings e-Sports to Tapas

DPS Only! is a new exclusive webcomic created by Vel for Tapas Media. Vel, known for their previous webcomic Countdown to Countdown and illustrations for Boom! and the League of Legends EU Championship series, brings their polished technique to the world of e-sports.

DPS Only!

Story and Art by Vel
Colors by Dojo
Flats by Serpyra
Letters by Claire Alacapa
Tapas Media
2020

Cover image for DPS Only!!! by Vel for Tapas

Vicky Tan’s older brother Virgil is a popular competitor and streamer for the game “Xenith Orion,” while she supports him from the sidelines. Little does anyone know that Vicky dreams of making it big herself, but the harassment and hate female gamers receive every day keeps her from pursuing her goal… until a competition at her local gaming cafe pulls her in. With a disguise and the pseudonym “Aegis,” Vicky joins the contest at the last minute, surprising everyone with her clever tactics.

There are only six episodes up on Tapas right now, with a new episode coming every ten days, but the story so far seems promising. Vicky is a sympathetic and relatable point-of-view character, and her struggles with being a woman in gaming are easy to understand. The supporting characters introduced so far all have distinct motivations and personalities of their own and the character designs are very appealing. It feels too early to really review the story overall, but it’s fun enough. 

There’s a scene in chapter 3 that made me feel legitimately tense when Vicky assumes she’s being stalked by a creep as she walks home from the gaming cafe at night. This dovetails nicely with her concerns about being a girl in gaming, reminding the reader that it’s dangerous to be a teenage girl in the world at all.

I don’t know much about e-sports or even video games in general, but the way the gaming segments are presented and explained makes it easy to follow the action and get invested. Instead of showing everyone typing away at their computers, their Xenith Orion characters battle it out in action-packed sequences. Gamer terminology like “DPS” and “Tank” is clarified with asterisks when it appears without feeling awkward. I understand how Vicky plays and why she finds this fun, even if I don’t participate in this activity myself.

The characters in the fictional battle game are beautifully designed, speaking to the artist’s familiarity with this genre of games. I like how the players’ personalities are reflected in the characters they choose, with the “Ctoothlu” Eric is playing being softer and happier than the version of Ctoothlu on the opposing team. It’s clear a lot of thought went into this fictional game experience and it really pays off.Splash page from DPS Only! showing the team Vicky plays on in the competition.

Where the art could benefit from more specificity is the backgrounds. I understand this comic is about characters, not environments, but it’s distracting how vague and impersonal all of the settings are, especially when the dialogue mentions specific locations like Brooklyn and the East Village. I wouldn’t have known the characters were based in New York City if it wasn’t explicitly stated. The environments are simplified and stylized to an absolute minimum level of detail. The backgrounds don’t clash with the character art, but they don’t really add to the characters either. It makes me wonder what exactly The Caf-E looks like on the inside beyond a few silhouettes of gaming chairs. It appears that the gaming cafe is going to be a recurring location, so I wish it looked like… something. Dingy, playful, comforting, cold, anything more than a beige void with a watercolor texture overlay. Panels from DPS Only showing the generic and sparse backgrounds of the Caf-E interior.

Overall, as of Episode 7, DPS Only! is a fun, fairly light read that, while not my favorite thing ever, is enjoyable enough to make me keep reading.

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