DC Universe Online Review

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Score: 9/10

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Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock 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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