Written by Josh Perault
Sony Online Entertainment has put out some serious MMOs in the past. EverQuest? Check. Star Wars Galaxies? Hell yes. DC Universe Online? Well, it just came out , so do players have to cross their fingers and hope for the best? Totally unnecessary. Judging from the game so far, you can bet that Sony hasn’t dropped the ball in the MMO gaming industry and it can definitely stand up to similar games, such as City of Heroes/City of Villains (COH/COV) and Champions Online.
A question comes to mind when thinking of a game about being a superhero in the DC Universe: Are you the already known heroes and villains, or are you someone new? Players of the game are not known DC characters and the way they describe the inclusion of new superheroes and villains into the universe was cleverly done. The game begins with a cinematic showing the epic clashing of the bigget names in the DC world: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Lex Luthor, Joker, Deathstroke, and a few others. In this fight, the unthinkable happened: the good guys lost, and when I say lost, I mean killed. As soon as Lex and the others won, Brainiac’s forces moved in because there was no one to stop the invasion anymore and Earth was doomed. Lex traveled back in time to inform Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman while also spreading exobytes into Earth’s atmosphere, infusing regular people with superhuman abilities so that when the time of the invasion comes, Earth will be prepared. All in all, its a very solid introduction to the game (and incredibly bad ass to watch).
After the main introduction, the character creation screen pops up and you can spend as much time as you would like designing who you are, whether is is completely custom or based on an already existent character. Any Green Lantern fans, I warn you now: you cannot choose to be a Lantern. I can see quite a few people being pissed at this, especially since it is a DC game, but I think it was an intelligent decision on Sony’s part. To get into some comic lore, Lanterns are chosen. They can not be given that position by the exobytes released by Luthor, so it is ridiculous to think that the Guardians will decide that Earth can now have hundreds of Lanterns, especially with their usual disapproval with human Lanterns. That aside, you can choose your look, mentor, power, travel ability, and primary weapon (although you can gain proficiencies in other weapons later on). Compared to COH/COV and Champions, the character customization options were a little on the light side, but then again most games don’t have the benefit of as robust a character creation process as COH/COV. After the creation of your alter ego superhero (or villain), it is time to explore the DC universe.
So what is it that puts DC Universe Online on par with, or possibly better than, its brothers and sisters in the superhero MMO genre? For one, it has Batman. How can anyone in their right mind argue, let alone compete, with that? All kidding aside, DC Universe Online has quite a bit to offer in the realm of game play. In COH/COV and Champions Online, it seemed too repetitive and got to be a little boring after a couple days of play. After getting a few abilities and fighting the same enemies constantly with a loose storyline, the games lose draw. With the help of DC writers Geoff John and Marv Wolfman, the stories are better made and bring the player into the lives of the opposing force. For example, after the tutorial mission and going into Gotham, the first set of missions set the character on the trail of Batman’s enemy Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow. He let fear toxin out into the streets and it is your job to save the citizens affected by the gas, help the city’s hazmat team in controlling the fear gas outbreak, and fight Scarecrow’s crazed thugs. After a few missions guiding you to Scarecrow, you must then defeat and arrest him in an epic battle in the sewers with the assistance of Batgirl. Upon completion, a well animated cut scene occurred stating what happened to Crane after the battle. Instead of completing tasks for unknown reasons, DC’s writers guide you through a well planned story so that you might feel what it’s like to live in that world, do the jobs of your most beloved heroes or villains, and enjoy your time doing so.
As for the rest of gameplay, combat is pretty straight forward. With the combination of different left and right clicks, the character can perform different combos, which is actually more than most similarly styled games offer. The combos are unlocked by leveling up and investing skill points within the skill tree of the character. It is a little rough to pull off some of the combos at times, so that at least has a little getting use to. Spamming clicks isn’t too bad of an idea to start off with. Traversing through the city is quite fun. You can either have the power of flight, acrobatics, or super speed, so getting around the town is very easy. Through your exploration around Gotham, Metropolis, or the other areas that your missions may bring you, there are different “!” and “?” icons laying around that has information about the DC Universe. The more you collect, the more complete your collection will become, and the more items you will get to apply toward changing your costume, armor, and weapons. In addition to the world that you walk through, there are PvP areas where you can fight as legends in the DC universe, “alert” areas that are like instances. In short, there is always something to do and if you get bored with what you are doing, go somewhere else and do something different. In comparison to it predecessors, DC Universe Online kicked them square in the ass in terms of gameplay.
The game is absolutely beautiful. Comic book artist Jim Lee had a large part in bringing the DC world to life in this gaming experience. The characters look amazing, the environments are realistic and stunning, the cinematic portions are incredibly done; in short, the graphics are hands down awesome.
Looking at the game as a whole, and the trajectory of where it I headed, I can say that anyone who enjoyed DC Universe Online‘s counterparts will thoroughly enjoy it. If you like comic books, play it up. Anyone who is feeling skeptical because it is a PC game and they are used to consoles, or vice versa, do not be alarmed. The game is releasing on both PC and PS3, although it won’t be able to be played cross platform. Ever wanted to see the Earth from the Justice League Watchtower? Pay your respects to Thomas and Martha Wayne where they were murdered in Crime Alley? How about fight alongside Superman versing Brainiac’s minions or Nightwing against the venom-pumped Bane? Thought so.