Not only will you able to socialise with the people around you in DC Universe Online, you can also use a small pool of chat options to communicate with other players. Groups of up to four players can be formed, with a multi-queue option available if you fancy teaming up for instances or PvP events. Leagues can also be formed, acting as clans/guilds though they serve little purpose, without emblems, headquarters or any of the other desirable features showcased by DCUO’s aging rival, City of Heroes.
DC Universe Online sports a multi-tiered economy system which increases in significance as you hit level 30. Apart from regular cash which is use for just about everything, you can also earn Influence from PvP encounters, as well as Marks. These come is several variations, each requiring different criteria, and are exclusively used to purchase high-end gear.
Whenever I play an MMO, the one thing I always try to avoid is PvP (player versus player) combat. Especially in matured titles such as World of Warcraft, it takes a strenuous amount of thought to prepare for a fight, let alone engaging in one. Upon creating a character, there is a choice to select either a PvE (Player versus Environment) or PvP server. In PvE servers, heroes won’t be able to attack villains unless they have enabled the PvP flag, whereas in PvP server, no matter what level you are, you can dive straight into a brawl with a player from the other faction. Thanks to DCUO’s action-sensitive combat, PvP is just as rapid as it is enjoyable, and you will never be penalised for losing.
If you really want to show off your player-pwning prowess, you can also enroll in an open-world event dubbed The Ring War. Every hour players will assemble at the Lexcorp Tower in Metropolis where they must rally together to collect either green or yellow power rings in order to win the event. The only problem with the Ring War is the player turnout; if you show up at 4AM, it’s probable that there won’t be enough players to complete the event. The best way of ensuring there is a healthy stock of heroes and villains participating is to check the chat menus for groups banding together.
Upon reaching level 9 the first batch of Instances and Arenas wills become available. Instances are basically hardened missions which require teams of four to complete. Not only do they have their own network of quests and collectible, instances also yield some of the best items available. Beginning with Area 51 in which you go head-to-head with the Brainiac invasion fleet, as you level up you will unlock more of them including the HIVE Base, BludHaven and the brutal Oolong Island. Arenas are similar to Instances, though they are strictly PvP.
Two teams of up to eight players (depending on the match type) will engage to beat specific objectives which will earn them Influence. Variants of Capture and Hold (Domination for you COD fans), CTF, and King of the Hill are all available, and play surprisingly well. There is also another PvP mode dubbed “Legends.” It’s exactly like playing a regular Arena match, though players can assume the roles of iconic characters, across three Batman-themed levels. Due to the fact you have to learn a new set of powers and skills, Legends PvP is tough, though playing as some of your favourite DC characters is always a hoot.
Questing isn’t the only thing you can do in Gotham and Metropolis, with hundreds of hidden collectibles and races scattered around both cities. Collectibles usually come in groups of five or more, and once all are found, an XP bonus is granted. Races are signalled on the mini-map and as the name suggests, you will have to clear a number of way-points against the clock. Multiplayer races are also available, though getting three other contenders to tag along is near impossible, which is a shame, as get to play as gorillas wearing jetpacks.
At level 30, there is the sudden feeling that you have “beaten” the game, though this is short lived. After being summoned to your respective HQ, a plethora of new missions are made available, as well as Raids, Hard Instances, “Duos”, and Advanced Arenas. With XP no longer being an incentive, you will soon turn your attention to either the Iconic Battlesuits or high-tier loot. The latter can be obtained through either Duos or Instances, though for the very best gear, Raids are the most applicable.
There will also be a pool of daily quests available. Like Duos, these are existing Hideouts which have been re-worked to challenge level 30 players, offering advanced loot and a healthy sum of Renown on completion. Renown indicates your relationships with in-game factions such as Lexcorp, Wayne Industries and the Sentinels of Magic; it is needed to trade with certain vendors and could be considered as a stand-in for experience points once you hit 30.
Based on an entire lineage of comic books read by millions across the world, if there was one thing DC Universe Online had to get right, it was the art style, and thanks to the help of artist Jim Lee this has been achieved. Every in-game character, from Aquaman to Zatanna, has been cosmetically engineered to resonate with DC fans of past and present. This also carries over to the styles available for your very own customised hero or villain. There is a particular vibrancy used in the colour palette, striking a balance between what you would find in a cartoon and what you would find a video game with “Triple-A” production values.
Gotham, Metropolis and all of the available environments are also designed to perfection, including subtle landmarks which will have basement dwellers teetering on the edge of a nerdgasm. Instead of having a day/night cycle in DCUO, Metropolis is always basked in sunlight with the occasional spot of cloud cover, whereas Gotham is forever purged in darkness and heavy rain. Though some will put this design choice down as SOE being tardy, others will realise that it characterises both cities perfectly.
Scrolling through walls of text has always been a crux of the MMO genre, but not for DC Universe Online. Quest descriptions are instead given the full audio treatment, meaning you can listen to your objective whilst speeding through the city, keeping the experience as streamlined as possible. This is made even more attractive by the fact that SOE have enlisted a number of famous faces to fill the boots of certain characters, including Kevin Conroy, Wil Wheaton and the exemplary Mark Hamill who reprises his role as The Joker.
Something which is moaned about a lot in the DCUO community is the number of bugs present, making release day sound more like ground zero of a catastrophic accident. Though it’s true that there were a number of crippling issues and annoyances, it’s no different from the launch of any other MMO. Nearly a couple of weeks down the line and now the game runs like a treat, with a noticeably better frame-rate and fully functioning interface.
DC Universe Online is ground-breaking; it’s innovative and downright addictive. It may not be a triumph in the eyes of elitist MMO snobs, but for PlayStation 3 gamers it opens a portal into an entirely new genre, adding to the format’s already diverse catalogue of games. The non-existing grind and skill-based combat makes it accessible to all, yet it’s also a treat for those who adore traditional action adventure games. What’s more, it looks a treat and sounds even better.
- Intuitive, unconventional MMO combat.
- Great use of the DC Comics license, plenty of fan service.
- Huge, detailed environments which are easily navigated.
- Great character builder and progression system.
- Superb PvP functionality.
- The remarkable art direction of Jim Lee.
- Some minor, yet annoying bugs and glitches.
- Brokers still out of service.
- Leagues need more features, especially cosmetic ones.
If you own a PlayStation 3 and want to get in on the MMO scene, there is no better game to begin with. A tenner a month may be a little steep, even compared to other heavy-hitters in the genre, however, Sony Online Entertainment are guaranteeing new content every month, completely free of charge. With the bar set so high, all eyes will soon be turning towards SOE’s other project, The Agency, to deliver a similar level of excellence.