In so many ways, it has been the dream of many comic book fans to be able to don their own costume and roam the streets of Metropolis or Gotham City, fighting evil and taking a figurative bite out of crime. While neither of those cities actually exist in reality, those distraught fans are now one step closer to achieving their dream with the release of DC Universe Online! In the game, available for both PC and the Sony Playstation 3, the player creates their own super hero or villain and sets off into the world to do whatever comes naturally; be it saving lives or destroying them!
So why should you care about DCU Online? Partially because it is one of the most ambitious undertakings in video game history, but mostly because you can finally live the dream of suiting up and fighting side by side with Batman, Superman or any number of other classic DC Comics superheroes! If crime fighting isn’t your style, throw on your super suit and get out to the streets to wreak some havoc as a villain! Help The Joker take down the Batman once and for all, or assist Lex Luthor in finally putting superman out of his misery! The possibilities are literally endless in DCU Online!
Now that the servers have been live for almost two weeks, it’s time to sit back and take a look at the game. What works, what doesn’t work, and what really makes it stand out in a world already filled with MMORPG’s (Massive-Muliplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Game). As with most MMO launches, DCU Online has had its ups and downs, so the occasional downed server aside, here’s my first impressions of the game-
(I would like to note that I have never played an MMO before this. This is mostly due to my lack of a proper gaming PC, but as DCU is available for home consoles as well, I wanted to make sure I dove right into it! Just a forewarning that I may not be as knowledgeable about MMO’s as other reviewers may be.)
- Character Creation- I’ve played a lot of video games in my day, and as a guy that has utilized a lot of character customization systems, I’m still wowed by the level of work that was put into DCU Online. While it may not be quite as detailed as a lot of people were hoping, it’s still incredibly impressive. Unlike with most MMO’s, I haven’t seen any two characters that even looked remotely the same yet. You start off choosing the usual stats like sex and height/build, but after that things change up a bit. You’re given the option between becoming a hero or a villain, and then subsequently asked who you want to choose as your mentor. Essentially, who you choose as your mentor majorly affects your experience of the game, with both hero and villain being offered three Mentor options. Each Mentor is based in one of the three basic power assortments; Technology, Meta-human or Magic. Heroes are given the option to choose between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as their Mentor; with villains having the options of Lex Luthor, The Joker or Circe. Once you’ve chosen a mentor, you choose your movement type; which also greatly effects how you experience the game. Will you run through the streets with super speed, soar through the air with flight abilities, or simply jump from rooftop to rooftop with enhanced acrobatics? Once you’ve selected your movement type, the fun part starts- choosing your actual powers and combat types. While it may not look like a lot of options, regardless of what power type you choose, once it’s combined with a combat type, it will evolve to fit your play style. After that you design your starter costume (trust me, you’ll be changing as you earn better armor during play) and choose your color template before naming yourself and being thrust into the tutorial.
- Combat System- DC Universe Online uses a basic hack and slash combat system, and while it may seem mildly repetitive after a while, it certainly doesn’t get old. As you level up you can earn new combo-attacks and combat techniques to help spice things up a bit, turning every street brawl into an epic battle. You clearly aren’t pulling any punches while you’re bouncing back and forth between three enemies at once or combining your special powers with your basic fighting abilities. The fighting style you choose in the beginning of the game during character creation defines how the combat system will play out for you. While every fighting style has basic melee attacks, there are also several ranged combat styles that utilize guns, bows or even plasma energy blasts that shoot straight from your palms and into the face of your opponents! Speaking of plasma beams…
- Special Powers and Abilities- Holy super powers Batman! The powers and abilities offered to you in this game are amazing, plain and simple. You can choose one of several basic power types to get started, then watch your powers grow and evolve as you level up to achieve your true destiny as the newest hero (or villain) of the DC Universe. As previously mentioned, the powers you choose also combine with your combat type, giving each player their own unique fighting style. The only real downside here is that there are only about a half-dozen different power-type options; fire, ice, mental, nature, sorcery and gadgets (tech weapons, similar to Batman). You can unlock other ‘iconic’ powers as you level up, such as ‘Heat Vision’ or ‘Freeze Breath’, but the fact that they left out a super-power staple like electricity simple baffles the mind.
- Missions- If you’re even remotely a fan of DC Comics, be prepared to deal with your inner geek every time a new mission starts. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of your in game pager going off as Batman chimes in with “Harley Quinn has captured Robin! Get down to the Gotham carnival and fight your way through the funhouse to save Robin and take out Harley!” The general mission types are fun enough, but can get tedious and incredibly annoying at times. At their best though, the missions all feel true to the comics they’re based on, right down to the climactic boss battles between you and the infamous villain (or hero) that the quest line is based around. The best part of the entire game is easily when classic heroes or villains join in to fight alongside you to defeat your enemies. You could live the rest of your life never playing the game again, but you would never forget that time that you fought side by side with Batman to defeat the Joker and save Gotham city from his reign of terror.
What doesn’t work-
- User Interface and Communication- While the combat controls are smooth enough, the user interface for the game is generally pretty terrible. It’s far from being the worst ever seen in an online game, but the amount of time and effort that a player has to put in just to communicate with another player borders on ridiculous. The game is clearly designed for PC gaming (as most MMO’s are) but there doesn’t appear to have been any attempt at making the controls for the user interface any less clunky for console users. If there was a mouse available, as with PC games, the interface wouldn’t be a problem at all. Using the controller to access everything is both clunky and slow; very often taking longer than needed due to a delay in between menus. The communications menu is particularly hard to navigate, which is a devastating blow to any MMO. Unless you’ve got a mic set up (which is a chore within itself), don’t expect a lot of conversation from your fellow players. Hopefully a future patch update will take care of the clunky menu system, but in the meantime it remains the most notable disappointment the game has.
- Glitches- As with most new MMORPG’s, DC Universe Online is full of all sorts of fun little glitches. The major upside to glitches is that they can be fixed via a downloadable patch. The downside is that they can completely ruin a gaming experience if they hit you the wrong way. Sony Online Entertainment has already released a major patch this first week to resolve a ton of the early problems people were having in game; leading fans to believe that they will continue to do so as new problems arise. The glitches the game has are in no way concerning enough that you’d want to stop playing the game, and with the amount of support that SOE is giving this game, most glitches should be resolved in no time.
- Voice Acting- It’s very clear that SOE tried very hard to find good voice actors for DC Universe Online. The game features an all star cast of voice-actors who have been often used in the DC Animated films or series, like Kevin Conroy (Batman), Mark Hamill (The Joker), Adam Baldwin (Superman) and James Marsters (Lex Luthor). While some of the major characters featured in the game are given the classic voices that fans are used to, other lesser characters weren’t quite as fortunate. The voices of iconic characters like The Flash, Catwoman and Cyborg (to name a few) all seem a bit off, and in a game this massive that feels incredibly unfortunate. Not to be a nitpicking fan boy, but some characters just sound nothing like what you would expect them to sound like. It really takes you out of the game when you talk to a character and they sound nothing like they should.
This game is amazing in every sense of the word, easily being one of the best games I’ve had to chance to experience in a long time (and this is coming from a guy that spent five years working at a retail game store!). The gameplay itself is simple yet incredibly fun and addictive, keeping you hooked into your seat for hours of enjoyment at a time. The in game League-play is incredibly fun as well, giving players an excellent way to pair up with their friends to complete missions much easier than they could on their own. This co-operative mode makes the game that much more exciting, knowing that you and your friends have teamed up to create what is essentially a Justice League for the new generation of heroes (or a Legion of Doom for villains)! (Make Sure to check out our Comic Booked League in game!
If you’re sick of the same old same old from the MMO’s (or non-MMO’s for that matter) that you’ve been playing, DC Universe Online is like a breath of fresh air. A game like this has been a long time coming, and this one was well worth the wait. Where other games have tried and failed, DC Universe Online succeeds far beyond most expectations. It is definitely worth the price of admission to enter this online world filled with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of other heroes and villains striving to make their mark! DC Universe Online is available in stores now for both PC and the Sony Playstation 3 gaming console; a monthly subscription fee of $15 is required to play, although the first month comes for free with your purchase of the game!