The MMO DC Universe Online has since become free-to-play, and that’s the type of price that can call to anyone, especially me. I downloaded the client and thought that I would give it a go. And why the hell not? I liked Champions Online, at least for a little while and in DCU:O I can hang around with a higher quality of Superhero or Villains. Look at that I’m a superhero snob.
However, it would take more than a few superhero celebrities to penetrate my hard MMO-ambivalent shell and I wondered if DCU:O had what it takes. I’ve only played for a few hours, but it is these first few hours that are the most critical. If they fail to rope someone in within that time, that’s it! They’ll be crawling back to WoW, or Rift or some other such clone.
I should also say that there is going to be a lot of comparison between DC:U and Champions Online in this review. This may get people’s backs up but at the end of the day these are the only two modern superhero MMO’s (I think City of Heroes and Villains is still out there, but as Champions Online is pretty much it’s sequel I didn’t count it.)
Let’s start with character creation. This is the players’ first chance to show their individuality. The first point where they, like the child at the end of The X-Files’ credits, can shout ‘I made this’ with pride.
The character creation options in DC Universe: Online are plentiful, there are a number of different body types, hairstyles and costume parts that you can kit your character out in. The number of options is impressive, but Champions Online does have a lot more . Although what DCU has that Champions doesn’t is the ability to base your costume on an already existing hero or villain. A nice premise but to me this isn’t as exciting and well thought out as it could be. There seems to only ever be two designs per hero or villain, a male design and a female design. No matter which body type you select or however many times you do it, your character will always look the same it is then your job to tweak it to make it look different. Probably not a bad thing really in retrospect, everyone should at least have some say in to how their character looks. It’s not a giant pain, but I would have liked at least a little variation with the costumes.
Within the character creation process you also get to choose a mentor, the Villains for example get (Lex Luther, The Joker and Circe) the Heroes get Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman) your choice here dictates your starting position and your quests.
You also get to choose your powers and skills. The powers such as fire, ice, nature, gadgets etc provide the more visual and fantastic side of your arsenal. You can choose only one, so you should choose one based on your play style, some provide support, others defense and others just honest to goodness blow your face off offensive power.
The second choice is your weaponry, which from what I can tell function as a lesser but costs no energy to execute kind of attack. You can choose all manner of weapons, from dual pistols, staffs, swords, rifles, or bare fist fighting.
Finally you can choose your travel power, there were only three open for me at the start, Acrobatics, Flight and Super-speed. I’m not sure whether this is because I was playing it free-to-play or if they are unlocked later or whether there just aren’t any more.
That’s is pretty much it. To be fair to it if there wasn’t Champions Online to compare it to this would be a very nice creation process, there’s enough options and there’s lot of different things you can create. Unfortunately, I can’t help to compare it to Champions so it just looks like a poorer less thought out cousin.
As the game starts it’s tutorial-style early levels it doesn’t look much different. OK you haven’t got that annoying thick black line around everyone but graphically it looks similar. The controls are as you would expect, mouse and WASD keys, easy nothing different here. A quick communicator message comes through and you face your first enemy. According to the on-screen prompts all I have to do is hit the left mouse button to attack melee and the right mouse button to attack at long-range. Before I knew it was hammering my right mouse button more than I ever had in quite a while.
If there’s one thing that stands out about the way you play this game it’s that it has clearly been built with a console in mind (the PS3 I believe) that level of button bashing is fine on consoles but my finger’s weren’t use to it. I switched to my xBox controller and suddenly everything was a lot easier. It felt a little weird, as it always does sitting at my desk with a controller but it was quite an enjoyable experience.
I fought my way through several waves of these aliens, even the larger ones which looked like giant beetle things. I was taught how to use my travel power, throw things and level up.
Ah leveling up? Is there ever any better reason to keep playing then to hear that little ‘ding’ or that flourish to tell you know you can get that new skill or get that little bit tougher. Well, probably yes, but it’s still a good thing.
I have only reached about level 6, but from what I can gather you get one of each of the two types of skill point alternatively allowing you increase your fire, ice gadgets etc and the other allows you to increase your use of the weapons or at higher levels your travel power.
The gear in DC Universe can be equipped in all the usual places, chest, boots, legs. As you equip a new piece of gear the look of your avatar changes accordingly. I know what you’re thinking ‘but if I spent so long creating my perfect hero/villain why would I want that look to be overwritten by some crappy generic stuff”. I know you’re thinking that because I thought that too, it’s ok though you are able to change your appearance to reflect your original costume.
Questing is also nothing new really. You get quests entered into your journal, these quests have you visiting the various parts of the city to defend or attack the general populace. Nothing here has really grabbed me as being different but I do have high hopes for this element. I suspect that later on there is going to be some pretty nifty quests types to achieve.
So, with just over a few hours worth of play these are my pros, my cons and my verdict.
- You get to fight alongside some nicely voiced and famous heroes and villains such as Superman, The Joker, Catwoman.
- The more action orientated approach makes a nice change, providing you have a joypad to make full use of it.
- It’s free-to-play
- Graphically it’s good, the various comic books have been brought to life well.
- It can be a little buggy at times. I had to perform the opening mission three times before it allowed me to continue through to the next stage.
- Good luck trying to log on quickly at peak times. I didn’t even try to log in when I was 2400th in the queue. Even if I got in everywhere would be rammed with player.
- Not as many character design options as in Champions Online.
- No matter how cleverly or fantastically you design your character, it is an MMO so like always you have to be prepared for all the mood breaking names and character designs. Not everyone can be a hero-creating genius like yourself, the odd ‘Spongmaster’ or ‘Crockrider’ is bound to get through.
You know what? It’s alright. It’s not Champions Online and so far it seems like a good thing. Maybe it’s because it’s new, I dunno but I am keen to keep playing to find out what else this game holds. There’s bound to be some PvP stuff in there somewhere, maybe even crafting. I don’t know.
The words ‘Part 1’ in the title of this review indicate I will be uploading a second part.
- PSA: DC Universe Online is now free-to-play (gamesradar.com)
- DC Universe Online boasts 1000% playerbase growth (massively.joystiq.com)
- DC Universe Online FTP Starting Area [HD] (gamingphanatic.com)