Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
Is It Worth Playing? DC Universe Online
Superheroes and villains have captured the hearts of fans for so long and they’ve successfully pooled into a mass of media that aren’t comic books. Batman: Arkham City is lauded as one of, if not the best, Superhero video game. The Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan are near household movie titles. DC’s animated department spit out some of the best feature length animated flick such as All-Star Superman, Green Lantern: First Flight, and Batman: Under the Red Hood. See a theme here? The DC Universe is indeed invading everything we have. You see their trademark heroes all over the place and we have access to them on nearly all our devices. You can watch them on TV, buy the comics, read them on your tablet, play the games, and even wear the memorabilia. The one thing that not everyone can do is create these legends. A few games have tried and while some succeed to a point, none of them really make you feel like a hero or a villain. Sony Online Entertainment knew this and tried to figure out how best to fit you in. Well, what would make you feel more like a hero than fighting alongside Superman as he tries to take down Brainiac? Or Batman as he clears out the streets of Gotham? How about even earning your own entry into the Green Lantern Corps? That is the best marketing point for DC Universe Online.
The game has been out for over a year now and it has been a rocky one at that. Just10 months into its lifetime SOE had to throw out the subscription model in favor of the Free-to-Play/Optional Cash Shop route. If one internet source is to believed, before going free-to-play there were only about 30,000 players flying around Gotham and Metropolis before the 900% raise after switching. It seemed like DCUO was in much trouble. After the switch was flipped to free, the game has seemingly balanced out and is now enjoying a healthy player base. SOE has just recently released the third DLC expansion to the game, entitled The Battle for Earth. Much like the other two expansions, this one adds more solo content, Duo content (two-players), Alerts (four-players), raids (eight-players), and a new power. So far the game has finished three story arcs and is nearing the end of the current event. Players have been battling Brainiac since launch and the fight has reached prime locations such as the Batcave, Fortress of Solitude, and Themyscira. Each arc in the event is dedicated to one of the three hero mentors: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Aside from these arcs, three DLC expansions (like the Battle for Earth I mentioned) have released to give players some side events to do in order to take the complete focus off of a stale Brainiac. These expanions have dealt with the Green Lantern Corps and Sinestro Corps, The Flash and the Rogues, and now South Gotham’s problems. With each side event we’ve gained access to new powers such as Hard Light (Green Lantern constructs), Electricity, and most recently Earth. Each DLC expansion costs $9.99 or is free to those who give still continue to give SOE the $14.99 monthly payment. As you can see, there is no shortage of content in this MMO and they are steadily releasing more and more.
Now, let’s go over the main aspects of the game and see if it’s worth playing. Even though the game is free to play on the PC and PS3, some may still be wondering if the download is worth sitting there.
DCUO may not have the most options during creation like Champions or City of Heroes/Villains, but there is a reason for that. DC Universe Online has a full gear system like most MMO’s. As you go through the game you collect “styles” which give you access to the item’s look. You are free to mix and match your costume with all these styles provided you’ve collected them. One small issue here, if you find or win an item that you cannot use (example, if you are a tank and you get a healer cape that looks so awesome) you cannot equip it therefore you cannot collect the style. The freedom here is pretty nice. There are still players who feel that wearing raid gear and showing it off is the best way to go but as you look around you it is easy to see the variety in styles among the crowd.
As such, don’t worry about spending so much time during creation, just worry about the person itself as you’ll be changing your costume very fast. This remains my favorite character creation in any MMO. It gives you a great sense that you are just a lowly startup in a world that has a Batman and Superman. As you go through your journey from level 1 to 30 and then raise your Combat Rating (gear score for you WoW-heads) you’ll begin to look like a true hero/villain. It’s all about coming into your boots and then filling them.
What have they changed over time: Not much to be honest. As you complete sets of styles during your adventures, a piece of it will be available at creation for your new characters. Aside from new template characters, nothing here is changed. Nothing needs to be changed.
If you’ve never played DCUO or the upcoming TERA, get ready to not know what the hell you are doing. The game plays drastically different than your other MMO’s. Instead of a mouse pointer you gain a reticule which acts as your aim. Think console 3-rd person games. This means you have to aim your abilities and attacks. This isn’t as skillful as you think, however. There is no huge sacrifice if you don’t aim correctly at start (unless you unleash a Supercharge ability, then you have to regain the lost charge). You will have to periodically break out of stun moves and block high-powered attacks. The game does a wonderful job at letting you know when you need to do these things. A symbol over your head and the pop-up to hit your respective breakout button will signify that you are stunned. A red symbol over an enemy’s head means either roll away or throw up your block. Once you get used to movement, combat, and defense you’ll see how easy it is to play DCUO and get used to something different in an MMO.
You can either be a tank, healer, controller, or plain damage dealer. Tanking is straight forward, just think about the combat and that you’ll be building up threat. Nothing special there. Controllers are able to charge their allies up in battle and regain energy which abilities need in order to be used. They are always in the midst of battle since their Controller abilities are also damage dealers. Healer is an absolute hoot here. You’ve never healed like this in an MMO. Aiming is key as some of the abilities take your position into key or who you are targeting. Other than that, you’ll have abilities that heal you and three or four of the most injured allies. Every power has a damaging spec and a role spec so you won’t be locked into something if you’re really interested in a power.
What have they changed over time: Aside from fine-tuning abilities, the dodge system, and some other assorted bug fixes, nothing. The combat and general gameplay wasn’t something that felt broken or messed up so I don’t see what they could have fixed. It plays fine.
Generally, the game flows like this: you pick up a mission and follow through its paces. You’ll eventually run into a known DC hero or villain that you have to stop. With each mission set beaten, you’ll earn renown, styles, briefings, and more things to add to your collection. You’ll notice that as you level up, the mission sets and their “bosses” get more and more famous signified that the Justice League or the League of Doom is gaining trust in you and giving you the tough work. You’ll be doing these mission sets from level 1 all the way to cap. They are your main source of EXP. You can string together some runs through Alerts with some friends such as Ace Chemicals, Area 51, Bludhaven, and a bunch more. As you hit 30, it will be time to gear up. You have several ways of obtaining the necessary Marks to buy “Tier” gear. There are daily challenges, Duos, more Alerts, Hard Mode Alerts, and finally Raids. Each aspect of DCUO’s endgame is just as engaging at the leveling mission sets.
What have they changed over time: A lot here. Raiders have seen the most love. The game started with two raids, the Outer Caverns of the Batcave and Khandaq. This has since blew up to include two more areas of the Batcave, three sections of the Fortress of Solitude, Paradise Island on Themyscira, and The Prime Battleground where Brainiac makes his last stand on Earth. Other than raids, many Duos and Alerts have been added to give players something to do if they can’t get an 8-player group together. There is also Central City if you buy the Flash DLC expansion. This is relatively small but it should open up as time goes on. Over all, there are a ton of things to do.
PvP can be played in three different ways in DCUO. You have your World PvP such as the Ring War and Diamond Heist. You can queue up for Arena combat where teams of 4, 6, or 8 can fight each other in Capture the Flag or King of the Hill matches. Finally, you have Legends PvP where you take control of a DC hero or villain and fight like Arena. Players gain influence and certain Marks in order to buy PvP gear.
What have they changed over time: A lot of bugs. PvP was so flawed back at launch that most players were found to be using hacks to get outside of the map and do other cheap tricks. SOE has squashed many of these but there are still some problems. Overall, PvP in DCUO is a lot more enjoyable now than it was and Legends PvP is a hoot. More good news is that the new DLC expansion will be PvP focuses, which leads me to believe that we are through the Brainiac event and are now transitioning into a period of Justice League vs. Legion of Doom stories.
Is It Worth Playing?
I believe it is. DC Universe is an easy game to get into and it doesn’t take a genius to be able to enjoy the endgame. It is very accessible and the larger Leagues (guilds) are very helpful. The game plays a lot better with a 360 controller so I recommend using that while in front of a keyboard. With more DLC and events coming up, I can’t see DCUO closing up shop for quite some time which means you can get in on the fun more and experience all the game has before the new big bad guy rolls into town. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a true hero or villain, DC Universe Online is the game that will give you that satisfaction. The first time I took on Superman while saving Lex Luthor’s butt, I knew I was hooked.
Download DC Universe Online on either the PSN store, Steam, or the official site at http://dcuniverseonline.com.