Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Online Entertainment
DC Universe Online does a solid job of melding the MMO world with the action heavy wants of the console audience
Set in the DC Universe, the story starts when a robotic Lex Luthor comes back from the future to warn us about an impending threat. His solution – fill the atmosphere with nanites that will cause regular people to develop super powers to fight in the coming battle. Which is where you come in as you craft your super-powered avatar. Cosmetic tweaks are plentiful but it’s all about the abilities – you can copy the skillset of an existing superhero (lame) or tweak to your heart’s content. We went with a speedy villainess sporting a natty bow and some magical prowess and a neat, black trenchcoat ensemble (find us online as wordmonkey). We chose Circe as our mentor, mainly because she’s voiced by Michelle Forbes (Battlestar Galactica, True Blood) and went our merry way – busting out of Brainiac’s space station and causing considerable havoc in Metropolis.
Different mentors lead to different paths and even the choice of movement type will affect your play – we chose speed which sees you running up and over buildings similar to Prototype but there’s also acrobatic and, naturally, flight. Gotham City is also available as a location and both are expansive and relatively detailed, for an MMO.
And so to the game itself. As one of a rare breed of console MMO’s (also appearing on PC), the controls are heavily streamlined here, mostly relying on spamming your basic attack with the X button and fiddling with magic and ranged attacks. Spells (or comparable abilities) require you to hold down the left trigger and another button to cast which is hardly ideal for our arthritic fingers and moving while blocking is problematic. That said, locking on and leaping around the place while firing from the hip works fine and combat is enjoyable enough without ever being frustrating. The graphics are decent, certainly a step up from the aging WoW and draw distances add to the sense of scale but environments (at least so far) are urban and repetitive for the most part.
Fans of the universe will drink in the appearance of niche characters and story moments but it’s a harder sell for regular gamers. The overarching narrative is interesting but your average play experience boils down to the ‘go there, kill stuff’ routine which has plagued MMO’s since the beginning. You’ll lament how often DCUO asks you to destroy some enemies and pick up what they drop, although at least level progression is a breeze relative to similar titles – with the cap currently at a mere 30. PvP is a little more compelling as the enemies are slightly less simple minded and Alerts can call a group of heroes or villains together for an impromptu melee.