DC Universe Online—First Impressions

DC Universe Online is a new MMO for the PC and PS3 where you play as a hero or villain and have the opportunity to fight alongside some of your favourite DC characters to save or destroy the world.

Like other MMOs, DC Universe Online, is structured around a two-faction structure of good and evil, or in this case, superheroes and villains. It includes extensive character customisation allowing you to completely modify how your character looks and choose their powers to create something unique. There is also a great feature that allows you to create a hero or villain inspired by one of your favourite DC characters and start playing after only a few mouse clicks. So while you can’t play as Superman or Lex Luthor, you can look very similar to them and have the same type of powers. These powers also determine who mentors you throughout the game and sends you on important missions.

These iconic characters are voiced by some great actors including Gina Torres as Wonder Woman, Adam Baldwin as Superman and James Marsters as Lex Luthor, to name but a few. The look and feel of your character is limited only by your imagination. It’s very addictive and I could spend hours creating endless weird and wonderful heroes and villains.

The game is primarily set in two cities, Metropolis and Gotham, but I suspect there will be add-ons in the future that will introduce new locations. Each city bears all the hallmarks from the comics you would expect, with Gotham seemingly locked in perpetual gloom and Metropolis is bright and with lots of parks. The mood and atmosphere of each city has been captured and the cities themselves are fairly extensive with several districts to explore.

The questing system is much like other MMOs, with independent quests and others in a connected chain. At the end of the quest chains there are usually mini-dungeons with a tougher boss to battle and a special reward.

A lot of thought and work has gone into this game but there are some differences from other MMOs. Because the game is for the PS3 and PC platforms, it feels more like a console game that was also made available for the PC, but was not designed for it. For example there is no mouse pointer during the game only a camera point of view, but when you open the menus and effectively pause the game, one appears. Also combat requires lots of mouse clicking and holding of buttons to create combinations that inflict maximum damage, a style more suited to a controller with several buttons than a mouse and keyboard. A simple way around it is to buy a controller for the PC to make it easier in a fight and I know of a few people who have done this. Also there is a lack of trade skills, such as being able to manufacture your own gadgets, weapons or armour which you find in other MMOs.

All MMOs are built around quests and combat, but players often log in for other reasons as they want to fully immerse themselves in the world. In DCU Online you can receive bonuses for exploring the city and accomplishing non-combat related tasks, such as collecting sets of information bulletins, or taking a tour of certain areas under the direction of Booster Gold. It’s also a lot of fun to just fly over the city and patrol like a superhero, and occasionally you will come across a criminal trying to break into a building who you can apprehend. A minor concern is that there might not be enough of this type of content to ensure the game has a long life, because it only takes a couple of weeks of casual play to reach the current maximum level (level 30). At which point you can take part in bigger group events (dungeons) to tackle big bosses for special rewards and work your way towards earning the ultimate suit of battle armour.

To be fair, DC have promised fresh content on a regular schedule and the game is still very new, so my concerns could be eased with the addition of more non-combat related content or a scheduled increase in the maximum level beyond 30. Also the bugs and minor issues I’ve had with the interface have been resolved quickly, so the developers are listening to feedback from players. One of the more intriguing aspects that was hinted at, a secret identity, has not been mentioned since, so I am curious to see if this element will be added at a later stage.

This game is a lot of fun with many hours of game play for the casual fan as well as the devoted MMO gamer. I am a little uncertain about its longevity, but also acknowledge that it is still early days and changes are being made all the time to improve the game and its overall experience. Comic book fans will get an extra thrill meeting famous and infamous characters, and taking orders to save the world or unleash more destruction. Even if you’ve never played an MMO game before, this is easy to get into and very addictive.

Stephen Aryan is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction and fantasy. He co-hosts the Comic Book Outsiders podcast and writes fantasy and comic book reviews at Walker of Worlds.


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