DC Universe Online
With games like World of Warcraft, Aion and Rift, the MMO market is more than overly satisfied for the PC gamer. However, the contrary can be said for console gamers. An uptapped stream of money is probably what Sony Online Entertainment thought when they decided to release their MMO DC Universe Online also for the PS3.
It quickly became clear that Sony wouldn’t just deliver an average product because they just happened to have the DC license. They asked artist Jim Lee and writer Geoff Johns to work on the game. Lee is currently co-publisher of DC Comics and “creative director” of the game while Johns is Chief Creative Officer at DC and responsible for the reboots of The Green Lantern and The Flash. But how does that make the game any better?
After an hour installing and downloading a gigantic patch you get a spectacular cinematic trailer that shows the comic book heroes in all their glory. You get to see the state the world is currently in and why you need to use your superpowers to save this beautiful planet.
Just like with any other MMO you then get to create your alter ego in spandex. The casic customization options like male/female, hero/villain, big/short, and thin/fat are all present, but that’s where the comparison with most other MMOs ends. Fighting style isn’t linked to the class you choose so that a healer doesn’t only get a staff as weapon but can choose from a wide area of options like martial arts, bow, dual pistol, handblasters, and so on. The overall quest is divided in two large parts depending on whether you’re a hero or a villain. Do you choose Joker (Tech), Lex Luthor (Meta) and Circe (Magic) as mentor, then it’s clear you’re not one of the good guys. Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are present to bring a natural balance.
Once you start playing you immediately notice what a die-hard PC gamer would call “consolitis”. DCUO is clearly designed with the console community in mind. The game has to be playable and accessible for those who only have a controller at their disposal and the makers clearly succeeded in that. The many combos are easy to be found and also the menus are simple. What makes this MMO so good for console is the playing style of the game. It’s more like an action game where you just do one combo after the other.
Next to gameplay and content, team play is very important for an MMO. Nothing is more fun than taking on a big endboss with an army of 30 people or more. In DCUO you can work together, and it may even be advisable, but I didn’t succeed in that. The problem is the lack of efficient communication. A chat screen of only seven lines is enough to set up a battle according to the makers. Next to that we certainly wouldn’t advise on typing with a controller so best to buy the small keyboard that Sony released last year, or plug in a simple USB keyboard. Also the voice chat doesn’t really work all too great and we urge Sony to release a patch for this quickly.
The quests are very simple and rather unoriginal. The “Kill 20 agents”, “Bring me 10 rocks” and “Return me safely to Point A” missions are omnipresent and rather boring. To compensate you can do some infoquests that provide more information on the neighborhood as well as yourself. Next to that there’s also a bounty system where you can earn special items and XP by hunting someone. Best to take along a couple of team members as these missions are pretty difficult. The levelcap is 30, which is pretty low for current standards.
The world of DC Universe Online is pretty well-known and not only for comic fans but also anyone who has ever seen a Superman or Batman movie. The game is set mostly in two big cities: Metropolis, the city where the sun never goes under and where everything shines by the gold that’s used, and Gotham, a city where darkness rules and the bat signal always appears in the sky. Both cities have their well-known comic locations going from Crime Alley (where Batman’s parents got shot) to the big LexCorp building, from superhero prison Stryker’s Island to the well-known Arkham Asylum. Next to the cities there are also two main HQ’s of the Heroes and Villains: Justice League Watchtower and the Hall of Doom. Here you’ll find more quests (especially for the endgame) as well as people who sell the various Iconic Armors.
Graphically things look a bit sterile and static. Many buildings look alike and also the interiors of the “dungeons” can’t really bring forth a “wow”-feeling. Next to that the PS3 seems to also have some problems with streaming the textures of the huge world which results in annoying popups flashing up. The world also looks very empty and dead as you won’t notice much movement other than that of other players.
A nice extra for heroes is the catching and punishing of burglars and purse thieves who are present here and there. Also the villains have something similar; they can help depressed people with their decision to jump off a bridge.
Although DCUO has its flaws, it does remain a fun game for comic fans. The atmosphere and gameplay are pretty good and you get into the action immediately. There’s plenty of potential but also plenty of bugs still. Looking for a cool action game? One that you can play with others in a well-known and beloved setting, then DC Universe Online is a game for you. If SOE makes up for its promises, fixes the bugs and delivers new content on monthly basis, this world may become one that players will keep visiting.