DC Universe Online - Comic Book Icons Come To MMOs (PC)
Publisher - Sony Online Entertainment (SOE)
Release Date - January 2011
Platforms- PS3, PC
By Matthew Hibben
MMO's (Massive Multiplayer Online) are the big thing in gaming, and with comic books gaining huge momentum in entertainment, it was only a matter of time before the gaming industry would bring us a merger of the two. DC Universe Online is the latest entry in MMO gaming. DC Universe Online or DCUO seems poised to capitalize on what super heros did for Marvel and DC in the movie industry. This week's Game Tech article will be reviewing DCUO and seeing if the title lives up to its heroic aspirations.
Out of the Box
Out of the box DCUO installs like a charm and setting up an online account is also a super breeze. New users should be happy with a 30 day free trial (US$14.95 after the trial expires). The first true taste of anything other than something enjoyable comes with the patching. Now I have played many MMO's and came prepared for some last minute patches and tweeks as the Dev's (Developers) make the transition to live play, but DCUO was something new altogether. I spent the first hours of my online experience with DCUO downloading a 6GB (Giga Byte) patch. I have a pretty standard DSL package and the initial patch took about 6hrs to get through. I say "initial" because there were 2 more patches that week and the next with a few more GB thrown in for good measure. This certainly left a sour taste in my mouth, as I had rushed home from the store to play the title.
Creating the Avatar
Character creation in DCUO is very straightforward. Players can decide either to base their character on a preset hero or villain or fully customize the body type and costume. In addition to the look of the playable character, players can select the "Morality" (term used in game to determine if you are a hero or not) and the powers you start with. Players can create multiple characters so don't be afraid to experiment with power combinations and physical looks.
For the Beginner
My first impression of game play was quite easy going. For players just starting out with online play or perhaps someone just starting out in the world of gaming, DCUO is a breeze to pick up on. The first level of game play is a pretty standard "lets get acquainted" zone. Movement, combat, and interaction with the environment are all clearly described. Progression through the initial level is further made user friendly with a very intuitive mini-map that clearly states which direction the player must go to progress through the mission, as well as letting the player know where hostile NPC's (Non Player Characters) are located. Once the initial mission is completed the player is clearly shown how to interact with the environment in order to exit the level.
Questing in DCUO seems to be the primary formula in place to enhance your character's power or levels. Questing begins for the new hero or villain (you can pick your faction during character creation) in the city of Gotham. Quest givers as well as quest progression are also very easy to follow.
For those familiar with WOW, DCUO follows the question mark and exclamation formula, meaning quest givers will have these icons above their heads. Quests and questing seem a little formulaic in DCUO but they function well and the pace seems to flow without any hitches.
Combat in DCUO
Combat in DCUO is a mixed bag of mouse clicks and keyboard commands. The player begins at early levels with simple mouse left and right attacks typically a melee and a ranged attack. As the player gains levels and acquires power points many new abilities and attacks are added to the player's arsenal. These new abilities, such as deploying gun turrets or snaring long range targets, are loaded into what is called the "Tray", a visual receptacle which will seem very familiar to players of MMO's also known as an action bar.
For Group Play
After the player completes a series of quests the formula of DCUO seems to be to take the player into an instanced (areas segregated from the rest of the server population) dungeon. Within the instanced dungeon or area the player battles through many groups of enemy NPC's and finally arrives at a "Boss" ( bosses are usually very strong NPC's that have some fanfare revolving around their entrance). These bosses seem to be the first taste of where group play comes into affect. The first few bosses in DCUO are difficult at times but soloable.
I can see how players just starting out or players with less patience would want to do these in groups, as they sometimes took me multiple attempts to get down. In addition to instanced group content there are also other areas where group play exists. There are queued grouped PVP (player vs. player) events as well as numerous outdoor bosses to conquer. In my travels in DCUO I saw numerous examples of players grouping for PVP content and outdoor as well as indoor (dungeon) bosses.
Completionists in DCUO
For those that enjoy unlocking every achievement and discovering every element of content then DCUO will not disappoint. First and foremost the DC world environment is massive and I mean Massive! Simply exploring the world will keep many players occupied for many days. Within the DC world are countless collectables scattered around. Many of these collectable items are obvious and are located near quest areas, while others will take a fair bit of time and searching to uncover. In addition to these collection style achievements there are also many "hardmode" (hardmode refers to completing content under more difficult then normal criteria) achievements.
Achievements in DCUO are not just for show. Achievements award items and talent points used to further progress your character. Most of the outdoor collectables in DCUO are part of "collections" which once fully acquired award items or power points. Items in DCUO awarded through the achievement system are usually awarded via the in game mail system.
About the world of DCUO
I mentioned earlier that the in game world is massive. I explored over the course of this review small portions of the two zones I had quests in, Gotham and Metropolis. I could have easily spent countless hours and most likely days simply exploring the outdoor zones without touching the actual content.
The renderings of the city are decent but what grabs you is the level of randomness, the lack of repetition one often finds in sprawling city renderings. All of the landmarks of the DC universe are there to explore and travel across. The span of say Gotham will take you from one iconic point of reference to another. Followers of the comic book exploits and new comers alike will be able to visit all of these locations and get nice sound bites recapping the various site's significance to DC lore.
DCUO is a nice addition to the MMO marketplace and certainly has a lot of growth potential. For buffs of the comics or superhero fans in general this is a must have. DCUO is a little formulaic at times in terms of quest structuring and PVE grouping likened to WOW. However I can't seem to fault any MMO for modeling themselves after such a successful franchise. With DCUO's pleasant game pace and ease of learning I can certainly see players having fun with this title.