Tuesday, January 11, 2011

DC Universe Online Launch

It’s been more than five years since I played a game by Sony Online Entertainment. My last encounter with SOE was Star Wars Galaxies and their introduction of the New Game Enhancements. I’m not going to get into why, but suffice to say it was less then stellar. So why am I interested in an SOE game now?

DC Universe Online launched today in North America, and though I was never much into DC Comics (I was more of a Marvel guy), the game has me interested. I previously played both City of Heroes and Champions Online. They both kept my interest for about two months before I stopped playing. City of Heroes for its lack of diversity in quests (accept quest, enter building, kill mobs), and Champions Online for its lack of end-game activity (complete a 5-man instance once a day). Though I haven’t’ heard much about its end game features, DC Universe Online definitely looks worth trying.

Character creation in DC Universe Online is not as robust as it is in City of Heroes or Champions Online, but it works well enough. You can choose between three types of travel powers (flight, acrobatics, and super-speed) and also choose your mentor. Your mentor serves as a type of liaisons, furthering your story and where you travel in Metropolis, Gotham City, or one of the game’s other zones. You can create a custom look for your character, or use an existing hero as an inspiration. Using an existing hero as inspiration, for example Batman, has your character donning a black suit with yellow belt. While it doesn’t replicate the exact look of Batman, it creates a close imitation that will warrant second glances from other players.

The look of your character also plays an important part. Other superhero themed MMO games have heavily relied on costumes as a main feature. In Champions Online, they were some of the game’s best loot. DC Universe Online allows you to customize your look based on each item slot. If you spent three hours crafting your look, you can keep that same costume all the way into the end game. If however, you find a piece of armor or weapon along the way that you like better, you can change your costume to display that armor or weapon’s look along with what you already display. Diversifying costumes by item slot allows players to create absolute custom creations, as well as tweaking pre-existing costumes to tailor to their needs. All of the costumes and landscapes look great as well with the use of the Unreal 3 engine, though it is starting to show its age.

The gameplay seems to resemble more of a beat’em up type game rather than traditional MMO gameplay. On the PC, left mouse click is used for melee attacks, and right mouse click is used for ranged attacks. Targeting is more free-form than in other MMO games. It’s more akin to Dungeons and Dragons Online. You attack regardless if you have an enemy targeted, but also have the ability to lock-on a target and focus attacks entirely on that one target. This creates the ability to chain combo attacks, similar to the combat found in Batman: Arkham Asylum. But this isn't a bad thing. The combat feels intuitive and fast, something you want in a super-hero game.

The targeting and combat is more than likely played as such because the game is being released for both the PC and PlayStation 3. The only previous MMO game available on more than one platform was Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XI.

DC Universe Online features both solo or team based PvE through open city missions and instances, as well as PvP through queued encounters and Legends PvP. Legends PvP gives players the opportunities to play as their favorite DC characters in an arena style match against other players.

Though I haven’t seen much content past 10 of the game’s 30 player levels, it looks fun enough to try out. If anyone has a spare buddy pass, please contact me either through my twitter or e-mail.

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