DC Universe Online Review

It’s been at least two years since I last walked the streets of Paragon City and rode the planes of Azeroth, and ever since leaving both virtual realms there has been an MMO-shaped hole in my gaming routine. Sure, there have been games which offer elements akin to MMOs, such as Call of Duty’s dynamic progression system, and Resistance 2’s instance-like co-operative missions, but there has yet to be a successful full-on MMO for home consoles.

DC Universe Online was announced during Sony’s press conference at E3 2008, promising players an action-heavy MMORPG accessible to both the hardcore DC page-flipping fanboy as well as your average gamer. The end product is near enough spot-on and is unlike anything you have ever experienced on the PlayStation 3, though a smattering of minor issues hold it back from absolute perfection.

First, the basics: DC Universe Online is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) and like most, it comes with a subscription fee. Every retail copy includes 30 days of free play, but thereafter a monthly rate of £9.99 applies unless you purchase a 3 or 6 month bundle. DCUO subscription cards aren’t available at retailers, mainly due to the fact that you can buy game time directly via the PlayStation Store, though a PSN store card offers the same function. Before you can even step foot in Gotham or Metropolis, there is a lengthy update which needs to be carried out, weighing in at around 15GB. Sure, it’s huge but that’s just another convention of MMOs as the space is needed to ensure the game runs smoothly.

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No doubt there was a challenge for the development team when trying to conjure up a plot which would coincide with the premise of the game; after all, there has to be a valid reason why so many new heroes and villains are entering the DC Universe. It can be tricky to get your head around at first, but here is a simplified version of events:

The game begins with a devastating final war between good and evil in the heart of Metropolis. The bodies of heroes and villains are strewn across the battlefield, with the last pocket of survivors struggling in the final stage of their campaign. The fight finally comes to an end with the death of Superman, at the hands of Lex Luthor, though his victory is short lived. From out of nowhere comes Brainiac’s fleet of warships which had been waiting for this very moment. With no-one left to stand against the tyrant, his conquest is swift and soon the Earth is under his command. Forced into hiding, Lex Luthor discovers the Exobytes, Brainiac’s vessels containing all of the powers acquired from the fallen heroes and villains. He steals them, returning back in time to confront the Justice League, warning them of the consequences which lay ahead. To prevent the future from becoming a reality Lex unleashes the Exobytes, who then scour the planet, manifesting bystanders with superhuman powers. This is where you step into the equation.

In DC Universe Online you get to create your own unique hero or villain and then interact with others in a rich detailed world, taking on quests as well as raiding and engaging in PvP battles. Character creation is incredibly simple and fun. First off you will be required to select a gender and body-type as well as moral alignment (either hero or villain.) Once this is done, you will have to select one of three mentors; this will determine your starting location as well as some of the quest chains which are available to you. For the heroes there is Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman with Lex Luthor, Circe and The Joker representing the bad guys.

When it comes to choosing a superpower it may look as though there isn’t a lot on offer with only six different variations, though each of these branch off into larger webs, allowing the player to tailor their hero or villain as they see fit. For instance, if you choose Sorcery as your power, you can learn hexes, healing abilities and summoning spells, and can easily mix and match to get the variation which suits your needs. Combat style will be based on the weapon you choose during character creation; with ten to choose from there is plenty of variety, and like superpowers, they can be developed over time.The last game-defining choice made is your movement ability; players will either be able to fly, leap or dash through the streets of Gotham and Metropolis. The power of flight may seem like a no-brainer, but each movement type has their own pros and cons.

With your character ready the first mission you’re set to escape from Brainiac’s ship and rally with either Superman or Lex Luthor. Whilst it feels like a canned sequence it does a good job of going through basics including combat, navigation and upgrading your abilities. Unfortunately for players who love to create legions of alt characters, the tutorial cannot be skipped (yet.) Once you’ve met your mentor the game begins to open up, allowing you to trek around the city and complete missions while steadily levelling  up. MMOs are notorious for their meticulous mission structure, and though it’s mostly the same in DCUO, there are a few added mechanics to keep things interested. Instead of just having to kill X amount of enemies, quests will sometimes require you to perform other in-game actions such as capturing an object and then returning it to a checkpoint, or incapacitating enemies once they have been defeated.

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualSense at this point.

30 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the Beta and I loved City of Heroes. But despite all the positives you mentioned here I still can’t get my head around the idea of how quickly you got to the top-level. For an MMO game I was expecting a bit more in the way levelling. It also seems that the main Story Arc is incredibly short. I can’t see how it’d be worth shelling out for 3 months for it if you can get through so quickly. Maybe I’m missing the point I don’t know. All I remember is that there was a hell of a lot of stuff to do in City of Heroes and it doesn’t seem like there’s anything like that on offer here. Plus the lack of superhero group headquarters is upsetting.

    • There is just as much to do in DCUO than there is in CoH, the only difference is the level cap. One of the reasons that DCUO comes across as “short” is the gameplay. It’s rapid and engaging; you don’t just sit back, queue a load of abilities and hope you don’t die.

      The exclusion of a headquarters feature was a bit of a bummer, though The Watchtower and Hall of Doom are pretty damn sweet.

    • There’s also no XP Debt right? It’s just die and carry on?
      I’m not some hardcore MMOer it’s just that CoH is all that I know. I guess I’m just praying for a clone of it I guess…

      • When you fall in combat, you are teleported to a checkpoint; you don’t lose XP or money. However, your equipped items will be damaged (and can break if not repaired at vendors.)

      • Ah right, that’s what I didn’t understand in the beta. I didn’t see how I being punished for dying so much!

        I will be getting this and when I do I’ll come join up with you.

  2. Very good, lengthy. Looks like you really wanted to cover every bit of the game.:)

    • When the game came out, it frustrated me to no end to see a lot of writers on other sites posting their reviews within days of release. One particular example was the NeoCrisis review which was published before the game even launched! I would be doing a huge dishonour not just to myself but to our readership if this review was half-baked, so yeh, I went balls out on this one.

  3. Jim, fella. This is a tremendous review and felt compelled to comment even though the game, itself, isn’t for me. I’m in awe that an MMO on the PS3 has scored so well but add to this that it’s a superhero game! How many games in the past have bombed simply because developers seem to have terrible trouble getting a strong film franchise into game-form (let alone a superhero franchise).

    I really hope the PS3 fanbase embraces it the way I embrace sheep. :-)

    • It’s truly an achievement, and I’m surprised that so few gaming sites agree. I’m a fan of MMOs, a fan of comics (on and off), and a fan of action game, all of which combine to create DCUO.

  4. Couple of questions:

    1. How many characters are you allowed?

    2. What are the pros and cons of movement styles? Like you said, flight seems a no-brainer, but unless it has a limit as to how long you can do it, or is slower, I can’t see the downside.

    3. Are there any plans to increase the level cap? I can’t imagine wanting to pay that amount of money if I’m going to reach the max in about a week. Sure, fair enough I could get cooler stuff, but most of my satisfaction from these sorts of games is seeing my character grow and become stronger/better.

    Think that’s all I got at the moment :P Good review though. If I had money and a working PS3, I would probably pick this up.

    • Send me a PM or email and they will be written up in our Q&A article ;)

    • I chose Super Speed in the beta which was great, but the reason I did so was because in CoH, flight was so much slower. Also when you went indoors it wasn’t effective. Is this still the basic case here? I didn’t get to try the other movement types.

      • if only the game could keep up with super speed!!
        it really is that fast the ps3 is slower!!

  5. fantastic review Jim. After reading that review im actually considering picking this game up, even though i dont like the idea of paying out a monthly sub to play.

  6. Sorely tempted now Jim…fantastic review.

  7. Nice review, nice to see its going good although paid MMO are not for me

  8. Having read your excellent review, I’m now more tempted by this, but I’m still not paying out for a game AND £10 monthly subscription. Just goes against my principles.

  9. Lovely to see such a comprehensive review :)

  10. Jim H. Usually i fucking despise MMO’s, but due to an excellently written and whats more ,consice review.I may just pick this up!
    *Runs off to give Greg Miller some tips*

    I kid, i kid ;-)

    • Heads up to nofi (well providing you’re still dealing with these things). In the latest reader comments (in the right hand box) Any swearing still appears…and yes, i am a tell tale tit :P

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