I swore off MMORPGs a while back because I found that they have a tendency to consume my life; plus, at $10 or more per month, they also put a drain on a my bank account. It was usually the emptying of my wallet that gave me the extra little push I needed to stop playing games like EverQuest, Dark Ages of Camelot, Lord of the Rings Online, and World of Warcraft (that is, when I wasn’t play my Dad’s accounts. Hey Dad!). So, you can imagine my dismay when I began to see advertisements online that these games are now, for the most part, free. Much like a heroin-addicted monkey with an eight-ball dangled in front of his face, it was only a matter of time before I gave in to the cravings. So it was, just last week when my wife was out of town, when I noticed that DC Universe Online was free to play through my PlayStation 3, I might as well have been picking up a syringe instead of a game controller. At least we’re getting this nifty review out of my relapse, right?
The thing that drew me in to playing DCUO was the fact that I have never played a MMORPG where you get to play the role of a super-powered hero or villain straight out of the comic books. All the MMORPGS that I have played before have always been sword and sorcery based, so I was curious as to how the game would play out in the capes and tights setting. A little background, DC is the line of comic books that encompasses the universe of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash. So, if you are looking for Spider-man, Captain America or Iron Man to pop up, be prepared to be disappointed (although, on a side note, the character appearance customization can allow you to get pretty close to looking like some Marvel characters; for instance, I saw a really good likeness of the Incredible Hulk, named “Tank-Smasher” just the other day). In this game, your character, along with everyone else’s, was created by an future version of Lex Luthor using small, bio-mechanical creatures called “Exobytes.” Lex Luthor has returned to the past, and introduced the Exobytes into the atmosphere in order to aver the domination of the world by the forces of Brainiac. Don’t skip out on the intro video that tells the backstory: it is definitely worth watching.
The first thing you do in DCUO is create your character. If you are like me, this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. First, you select whether you want to be a hero or a villain. Both the of the characters I have created are heroes. Once you select your path of either good or evil, you then select a mentor. On the hero side of things, you can select Super-man, Batman or Wonder Woman. The mentor you select affects the missions you get, as well as your beginning location in the world. You can then decide whether to go with an archetype for your characters skills and powers or you can customize your own character. I have done both, having chose Wonder Woman as the archetype for my first character, and I have to say that customization is the way to go. I found that being stuck with a power and skill combination based on an already existing hero (or heroine) was pretty restrictive. In creating my second character, I set the goal of being able to fight enemies at a distance, while avoiding incoming damage. To that end I selected gadgets for my skills, duel pistols for my battle-style, and super-speed for my mode of movement. There are a variety of other kinds of options for each category that you can choose including hand-to-hand combat and bow-and-arrow for battle-style and acrobatics or flight for movement. While it was fun to be able to fly about all over the place, I found that super-speed was much more advantageous in combat. As I talked about before, you can then customize the look of you character including all of the typical MMORPG elements like size and facial characteristics, as well as some other elements that are usually off-limits like the color-scheme and style of your costume.
Once you have finished creating your character, you enter the world aboard one of Braniac’s ships above whichever city coordinates with your character choice. You are guided by Oracle, a character from the Batman menagerie. This, of course, is the perfunctory training portion of the game. While in the process of escaping Brainiac’s ship, you are prompted to learn how to use the different skills and powers at your disposal. This part of the game is pretty easy and basic, and culminates with a battle where you get to fight side-by-side with Superman, which is pretty darn cool. After escaping the ship, you are then taken through a few other basics of the game before getting your first eath-based mission. The mission you get will depend upon the Mentor you picked at the beginning of the game. I found that it was pretty apparent that Superman was a much more popular Mentor than Wonder Woman, since I had to compete with about ten-times as many people on my beginning mission in the Little Bohemia (Superman) part of Metropolis as in the Chinatown section (Wonder Woman).
Overall, I found that the combat controls were much more difficult to execute than I have been accustomed to when playing computer-based MMORPGs. This may not be a fault in the combat system, as much as it is a sign that I have become accustomed to playing these kind of games with a keyboard and a mouse instead of a game controller. To execute most of your skills, you have to mash the L2 or R2 keys at the back of the controller in combination with one of the shape-based buttons (triangle, circle, X, or square). You have to do this while, at the same time, using the square and triangle keys for your standard attacks. The problem this caused for me was that I had a difficult time coordinating my special attacks with my standard attacks; that can be a problem when one of the special attacks is causing your “pet” sentry gun, which aids you in fights, to explode in the middle of a pitched battled with about a dozen devolved Gorilla-men.
I have spent about a total of 4-5 hours playing this game between my two characters, and have managed to level both of them up to level 7. To me, that is pretty fast leveling, which is probably a smart move on the part of the game developers. It is enough to keep leveling interesting without making the distance between levels so far that players are discouraged from continuing to play. I hope that I can break new habit before I spend too much more time playing this game, as fun as it may be. However, for those of you out there who actually have the time to play this game (that would be you, high school and college students), I would say: give it a shot. It is a decently entertaining game with just enough interesting elements to differentiate it from the standard stable of MMORPGs out there.
Score: 3.5 out of 5 Green Power Rings.