Last January I had the pleasure of jumping into the beta for the DC Universe Online Game. Here are some thoughts and impressions that came to mind. Now mind you my impressions were based on the beta and covered a few levels before my time expired. I wish I could have gotten more gaming done with the time I had however that’s life for you. I really recommend people to try it out. A lot of initial issues you may have heard about have been addressed when retail and the first patch hit. But I was most pleased none the less with what I had seen so read on.
First off this is a superhero MMO obviously which brings us into the world of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a plethora of other DC heroes. But what makes a superhero MMO work. How do we explain such a surge in the hero population in the context of the DC Universe all of a sudden? Well this is done rather interestingly.
If any of you missed out on the opening cinematic for DC Universe Online then I highly suggest you check it out. I was fortunate enough to play this on the PS3 which is a change as it is one of rare MMO to actually make it to a console. I was very curious as to how an MMO would handle on a console. I never played Final Fantasy XI on the PS2 having only played it via PC. I wasn’t sure what to expect at all.
Since I was not fortunate enough to have a disc of the game, I had to download the client followed by the game files. This went relatively quickly having taken only two hours. You get a lovely wallpaper to stare at and unfortunately did not have the chance to download in the background. I think that would have been more handy a feature having to wait two hours.
Once installed your greeted with the cinematic I mentioned before. We get what looks to be a huge battle going on in a wrecked city. Batman is wearing some sort of armored cowl which struck me as odd, Green Lantern was duking it out with Black Atom, Wonder Woman was kicking all sorts of android ass and we see Green Arrows slumped over body. What the hell is going on?! Wonder Woman even looked a bit older then I imagined. Lex was all armored up and hanging out with some other villainous chick. Finally though he jumps into the fray taking out Wonder Woman with this chicks help. He is wanting someone and that is Superman. Which made me think, where the hell was Superman? Green Lantern was taken out by Black Atom, Flash as well went down and Superman who was floating in front of the sun came down with a vengeance. He literally torched Black Atom and started to rip away at Lex. But the fool had to just check on Wonder Woman whose body was loaded up with Kryptonite and Lex ran Superman through with a Kryptonite tipped spear. Superman mind you looked with he was middle aged. Greying hair and looking more worn down with years of taking crap. This bring us eventually to Lex talking to the major three (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman). Lex has travelled in time back to warn the three that Braniac would conquer all in the end. Lex had also brought robots that took powers from the heroes of that time and unleashed them on the present day saying they would need training for what was coming.
And enter me!! I decided to created a character who was more acrobatic but welded dual pistols. I thought that would be kind of cool. The character creator is very friendly for customizing your hero. You have big, small, powerful looking types and you have various subsets of looks whether it be cyborg, acrobatic, etc. Literally the options are incredible. It reminded me a bit of City of Heroes….only better. I went with an average muscular character who was partially cybernetic but who costumed himself in a futuristic outfit with a helmet to hide his cyborg features. For powers I selected he would be a gadget hero type who was acrobatic and of course had pistols. So I did not really have any special powers but you could say my acrobatics were enhanced more then the average person. The archetype of gadget man is more of a controller type of hero so will be good in crowds so ok, sounds great. And Feroximus was born.
So I had Feroximus was born, into a braniac vessel. I was surrounded by pods of others being enhanced. Oracle (former Batgirl) freed me and helped guide me on my escape. This is obviously the introductory adventure. So let’s get used to how things work. The PS3 remote was very efficient at doing what I needed. Square was my punch (basic attack), triangle my dual weapon power. If I pressed L3 down I could activate my acrobatics. It gave me this cool looking sprint but more then that I was able to grip up walls. I felt very much like Batman at this point. And better yet when I had acrobatics activated and jumped from a height I could hold X to glide down. All of it was pretty intuitive. Going through my menu was a matter of pressing start and L2 or R2 to go through the options. It was very solid thus far. I made my way though the base using my abilities to handle Braniacs android minions. I eventually made my way to the end where I was swarmed by bad guys. I had to knock out four shield generators so Superman could teleport in to help rescue me. So once I did my job, he appeared and helped me sweep up the bad guys. Now what is really cool is that it was not just Superman owning everyone. You actually felt like you were working together to handle the bad guys so it was a bit of a geek payoff in this respect. Finally when your all done you teleport out to a location of your choosing. So Gotham, Metropolis and….somewhere else I forget. I chose Gotham. Batman seemed more like a mentor for my style so why not.
By this point I am Level 2 and gained a power point. This let me spend a point towards my weapon ability to enhance it or I could open up another weapon utility tree. I was tempted to try staff but figured let’s try expanding my gun use first. Basically your skills, weapons, whatnot all have a tree like structure much akin to other MMO’s out there. Obviously you need to have the appropriate level as well as the proper points alloted to the previous enhancement on the tree.
I am slightly more buffed, level 2 and now I am in a Gotham City police precinct. Apparently this is a sub JLA headquarters which also contains a teleporter to the main JLA headquarters The Watchtower which is orbiting the earth. I have to admit I was rather lost at the start. I was in a room filled with other players running around, a few police NPC and no real objective aside from Oracle telling me to walk around. You eventually discover your initial surroundings and meet Nightwing, Robin, Commissioner Gordon which I found somewhat odd. I would not have minded meeting one hero there to start but seeing two iconic heroes and the commissioner makes me wonder why they are not out there fighting crime.
Suffice it to say, I got my initial mission from a communication from Batman himself. Scarecrow is on the loose causing havok in the city and I need to investigate and stop him. So out into the vast world I go! And boy is it rather big. My initial mission was right near the starting area which was great and typical. Combat was smooth and refresh rate was quick considering all the noob players like myself. Visually I can see Gotham being like it is represented in the game. Dark, moody and grimy. Scarecrows men have been infecting the city with fear gas so you see people hallucinating, henchmen causing terror and even as you spend time in the gas, you as well will see hallucinations. It’s very well thought out.
After completing roughly four to six mission I am now level 6. I have gained some power points but also skill points. Since I am in gadgets I could put towards things like traps or a special taser weapon. I also had another move for my weapons. The first was I would hold square down and I would dash forward shooting. The other move I would tap square three times and do a fancy combo kick attack. The missions all seem to arrive mostly via email from Batman and send you to an NPC. Sometimes you will run by a green I icon. You can interact at these points and investigate gaining a little clue to some mysteries going around.
Some elements like crafting are non existent. While this may not be a terribly bad thing I would have liked to have some side things to do. I am a gadget sided person so I should be able to create new gadgets to help along. Often crafting is inserted in a game to further draw our time into it trying to farm items but we will need to see how this will pan out later on. I think if there is one feature I would like to see in one superhero game is have a secret identity. Have your little roost with a career that could offer some small income but also offer some side quests that could lead to a new skill. A heroes life especially in DC is not always running around but also about their personal lives and how they divide the duality of hero / Average Joe.
The PS3 visuals are top notch. Everything was detailed and had a comic book feel to it. One surprise I forgot to mention was with my characters acrobatics I was able to climb up buildings and to my enjoyment you can reach the top no matter how high it is. I had even discovered an investigation point on one of the roof tops which was pretty cool. The menu’s were easily navigable however there is no voice chat as of yet and to chat you will need the PS3 chat pad to save yourself some frustration. Network wise I experienced some lag but I think it was due to the fact there are only 2 PVE beta PS3 servers up so hello population. Otherwise network wise it was smooth sailing which is very pleasing as I was also wireless.
Overall I think DC Universe has a very solid foundation. I think what will define it even more is end game progression and the new features it implements. The base foundation is there but as I mentioned I would like to see some sort of crafting going on or a base, apartment to make your home. With the possibility of comic book storylines coming over to DC Universe Online you see that the potential for expansion is huge. So more will come no doubt and patience will be needed but I think it is one of the first Superhero MMO that is really worth sticking by. At any rate in this persons opinion even in the beta state that I played it has thrown the gauntlet down to the other competitors.