There are only a handful of MMORPGs available for console gamers at the moment and there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, console gamers tend to not like the idea of paying a monthly subscription fee for a game and secondly, controlling a game which requires you to use half a dozen abilities in a matter of seconds is awkward without a keyboard. Being a seasoned MMO player I was looking forward to see whether or not SOE had cracked it and finally produced a console worthy MMO, so let’s find out.
For any of you haters of installing and updating games be warned, when you first boot up DC Universe Online you will be made to install the disc and then download a pretty hefty update in order to have all the latest files and be able to visit any of the new content SOE has added since the launch of the game. If you didn’t know already, DCUO will be updated every few months or so with new content that you can download and play with no extra charge. With that warning out of the way let’s crack on.
After installing the game, an opening video is shown that sets the story of DCUO. Set in a not to pleasant future, a battle between our heroes and villains is taking place in the ruins of Metropolis and ends with the death of Superman by Lex Luthor’s hand. As Lex Luthor is about to take in his victory, the skies are filled with Brainiac’s fleet and this is when Lex Luthor realises he has made a terrible mistake. To try and fix his error he goes back in time to warn our heroes of the impending attack and thus changes the course of history. With this knowledge, the heroes and villains we all know and love must find new successors to stand up to the might of Brainiac and that’s where the character creation screen kicks in.
Character creation is very in-depth and aside from the typical body shape, face, hair and voice you can also customise a variety of other features. To begin your life as a hero you are going to need some powers and you have a large choice from sending lightning from your fingertips to having a belt full of gadgets. After selecting a power you then need a weapon which can range from swords or guns to simply relying on your fists to cause damage to your foes. The final choice you must make, and one of the most important ones, is to choose a mentor. If you want to play a hero you have a choice of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and if you side with the villains you will be taught by The Joker, Lex Luthor or Circe. Depending on which mentor you choose will determine which special ability you will be given, flying, super speed or acrobatics. With my experience of all three I found flying to be the greatest asset as you are able to pull away from battles quite easily and reach the tops of buildings faster than any other hero.
Once you are happy with all your choices you are thrown straight into the action and a nicely put to together tutorial that teaches you all the basics of the game. Combat is a little different to a typical game in the genre, which usually have you pressing a button to execute a spell or ability. Although your spells relating to whichever power you chose such as fire, lightning or gadgets work this way, the abilities that are executed using your weapons are different. By inputting different combos you can unleash different abilities once you have unlocked them in the talent tree screen. Those familiar with talent trees will know what I speak of but for those who have never touched an MMO, a talent tree is a tiered system that requires you to spend a certain number of points in lower tiers to advance to the higher ones and unlock more powerful abilities. To gain points that you are able to spend in these talent trees you must gain experience points and level your hero up. You can gain experience points in a variety of ways from killing enemies, performing missions for the heroes of your favourite comics or finding the large amount of collectables hidden in Metropolis and Gotham City. The maximum level you can obtain is thirty and sadly this can be reached very easily once you become accustomed to the way an MMO is played.
This does come with a few upsides however, one problem some MMOs tend to have is content gaps where you have no more missions or quests to complete and you are unable to take on the next ones because you are too low level. Not once did I come across this problem in DCUO as there are plenty of quests spread across the city and you also spend a good portion of your time inside instances, closed off areas that a group of players can enter together and kill much harder enemies for greater rewards and experience points, which meant the entire journey from level one to thirty never saw my character standing still. Aside from the levelling process there are plenty of side activities to take part in such as time trials using your special abilities like flying, collecting objects that teach you about the lore of Metropolis and Gotham City and the PvP (Player vs. Player) Arena.
In the PvP Arenas, which are set in various famous locations from the DC world, you take on the role of super heroes such as Batman and Superman and battle other players while attempting to complete the objectives that you are required to do which can range from capturing flags and returning them to your home base to securing areas around the PvP Arena. Completing these objectives will grant your team points and when one team has collected the required points to win they are rewarded with tokens which you can spend on better equipment for your character. This would be a good time to mention that there are two different types of servers you can play on which you choose in the character creation screen. If you choose to play on a PvE (Player vs. Environment), other players will have to agree to fight you outside these arenas but if you play on a PvP server you can be attacked from anyone of the opposite faction at any time, so depending how you want to play the game depends on what server you choose.
With so many MMOs borrowing concepts from each other these days, one way to stand out from the crowd is to have better graphics without spoiling the performance of the game as there’s nothing worse than having your game slow down when you are battling your foes. DCUO does look very nice when you are up close to your character and the enemies you are fighting and the high level of customisation means you get to see every little change whenever you put a new piece of equipment on. However, when flying around the cities you will notice that enemies that are further away from you look very strange and move in a very odd way because they seem to be half loaded to avoid causing any lag between you and the game. When you move closer they begin building into the form they should take but it was a little strange to see these rigid creatures in the distance all the time and with the power of the Playstation 3, I was surprised they couldn’t have worked around this somehow. That said it wasn’t a main concern as your eyes tend to be on what you are fighting at the time and it never caused any errors with the game.
It’s difficult to describe everything that exists in an MMO without writing an essay but I hope what I’ve written here has helped you make up your mind whether or not to play DCUO. One thing that will be the deciding factor is the game does have a subscription based fee of around £10 a month which you must pay in order to play any aspect of the game, so just be warned before purchasing.