Review: DC Universe Online / Developer: Sony Online Entertainment / Format: PS3 and PC
DC Universe Online has just become a free to play game and after a six hour download from a Sony Station account (incidentally faster than Steam) I've entered the DC Universe world. Having tried several MMORPGs and finding most of them wanting DC online is actually a sound looking game at first glance. No sword and sorcery in sight. If like me you have more of a Sci-fi bent then this game may be the one for you. The servers are broken up into PVP and PVE and wanting to play other people I've gone for the PVP server and found it to be quite a surprise.
The initial training level is quite short and you can whiz through it with ease. Controls can be either your keyboard if you are using a PC or a controller for both PC and console. Given the three dimensional movement I opted for using a controller which isn't my ideal but does make the game simpler to play. For the record I've created a flying villain and I'm glad I did. For those of you that have ever wanted to experience flight in the superhero world then this has been realised really well, from little sonic bursts to casually patrolling just above the streets. Amongst other options are acrobat or speedster if that floats your boat. Upon leaving the training level you teleport to a bar as a villain and I believe a police station as a hero. (The latter is an assumption based upon a gang of players outside one as I hunted down one of their compatriots).
As with most games of this kind levelling up is via missions which for me was offered in the bar along with some vendors and a safe haven if you need to hang out. Now personally I hate the grind and have always found it more than a chore. For me a game is player versus player and running back and forth becomes a little dull despite teaching you your profession. In this game missions aren't that bad. They either fall into a quick easy task or a longer segmented mission. Riddled with famous voice overs you are led through your missions to boost up your stats via experience and statted clothing. Not out of the norm. But on the PVP server there is the added risk of being attacked by other players. At first this becomes a little tiresome but after reaching level 10, which took about two sessions, you are given the option of bounties which is hunting other players no less than 5 levels below you or above. On the PVE server there is a PVP toggle option but how much PVP will be on offer is beyond me.
Combat is a combination of button mashing and special attacks. As a tip you need to keep an eye on the Loadouts menu or your new attacks won't be an option on your controller. For a few hours I ran about with only a few attacks available to me, which didn't stop me beating higher level players but didn't help either. Getting the right attack keymapped to the right button is a skill in itself. The game is definitely geared toward console. This also becomes apparent as mouse movement is a little sticky. Targeting is one of my only gripes in this game, I do miss scrolling through targets and having a target lock. Periodically you will attack someone or something and find that the targeting has found something else, possibly quite far off and re-finding the enemy can be a bit of a pain.
Despite seemingly being on one mega server there is little or no lag at all. My internet isn't great and being a Star Wars Galaxies player from a ways back I was expecting a lot more. Nothing like the slide show SWG became with it's spaghetti coding but I expected far more battles being a bit more spotty. A welcome surprise. And with such a huge community throughout the day and night there seems to be plenty going on. As with all games you need to read the instructions. And as with all games I decided not to bother and just took things intuitively. That isn’t the ideal way to go and my frustrations are down to my own stubbornness. Being a download and not having the tangible product in your hand means reading up isn't an easy option so I have missed out on a few key points. The game progresses enough that it is a fun learning curve. If we were to talk reality then there wouldn't be a handbook for becoming a hero or villain and I enjoy working things out for myself.
I've been playing on the US server. The download for the game didn't show me the choice and the EU world has been inaccessible to me all week. And yet as I say, no lag which is quite impressive. The graphics are good, movement and combat are well realised and it looks like a game that you can drop in and out of quite easily.
It's also quite easy to find a pick up group for instances. The missions instances aren't entirely soloable (possibly by design). It's a game for players to come together and finding a league to join will make this game much more enjoyable. Yet, if you are a little anti-social you can queue for an instance and find yourself playing with other players (of varying ability) within seconds. Loot drops aren't the be all and end all so whether you win or lose it makes no odds. Despite your level there always seems to be a little leeway between winning and losing against other players. Against the environment level for level it's a decent challenge.
Dying is easy. With no losable buffs or too much damage to your kit you won't find losing overly frustrating. Heals for my class are earnt and consumable. It does make you use them more wisely and for me that's just for PVP. The 'world' economy doesn't look to get out of control as it doesn't offer too much via reward, just enough to get along. I'm sure there are ways but this will just be for the uber-player.
It's the DC universe and I'm a fan. If this was a Marvel game I don't think I'd care to play or let it grip my interest but as it stands I'm in. The game has three options for play and pay. Free, five dollars for a few more slots, characters and options or pay fifteen dollars a months for Legendary which gives a lot more. Given the free nature and the amount of content so far I'm leaning toward 8 stars. If it was still fifteen bucks a month as it was before the new deal then 7 stars. Making the game free to play was a good plan on Sony's part. An enjoyable bit of escapism to realise the action from the comic books. And if I can find Mr Miracle and Big Barda in there somewhere then I'd be pretty happy. The game seems huge and the likelihood that your favourite characters are in there somewhere is pretty good. Given that The Old Republic is out soon I expect a drop off in players over Christmas. Saying that though it is one of the better MMOs I have played. Not as good as SWG in it's prime but better than all of the other Sci-fi games that have fallen by the wayside. Whether you are a casual or diehard player it's a good bit of fun in a game with a bit of life in it.