It’s been a long time since we last checked in with DC Universe Online, the PC and PlayStation 3 MMO we fell in love with some nine years ago.
In that time it’s become a free-to-play title, received countless episodic updates, and made the leap to current gen console. Now you can play it on the go, DCUO having arrived on the Nintendo Switch.
With each player logging in they create a new, unique hero or villain to fight alongside the likes of Superman, The Joker, and the Justice League. As such, the original game needed a storyline to support this sudden influx of superhumans: a plot that involves Lex Luthor travelling back in time from a cataclysmic future, stealing Brainiac’s “Exobytes” which imbue many of the globe’s populace with powers, and readying Earth for a looming invasion.
Your character is defined by several different building blocks. Naturally, the most important of these is your superpower which range from elemental manipulations of fire, ice, water, earth etc. to the more arcane, as well as disciplines in gadgets and cutting edge military hardware.
This is paired with a weapon (such as a sword, brawling, assault rifle) to dictate the basic attack combos you be using in between powers. There are also a few modes of transportation, too, letting you fly or leap, or use super speed to travel through DCUO’s shared open world.
You’re free to explore its many locales as you please, though access to some areas (including your starting zone) is determined by your choice of mentor. You’ll be mentored by a familiar DC Comics icon such as Batman and The Joker as they hold your hand through those first few story missions. However, it isn’t long before the stabilisers are taken away and you’re free to either fight crime or cause chaos.
At their very core MMOs haven’t changed a great deal since World of Warcraft or, before that, Everquest. However, the one way in which today’s modern crop is different from older games in the genre is their lean towards more fluid, action focused combat systems. Just look at TERA, Black Desert, and Neverwinter.
DC Universe Online was one of the first MMOs to employ this almost hack n’ slash style of fighting. While this has always felt a little like button bashing, timing, skill, and monitoring cooldown/resources are still required for DCUO’s more challenging encounters, including the dungeon-like Alerts and Raids.
You’ll likely cruise through those first ten levels, unlocking a handful of superpowers along the way as well as new combos for your weapon of choice.
Most missions will have you investigating districts of Metropolis and Gotham, checking off a few basic objectives, but each cluster of story missions is usually capped with a dungeon-like instance that has you clearing out a more linear area, complete with boss battles.
You’ll encounter a menagerie of icons from the DC Comics universe, fighting alongside some while sparring with others. They’ve all been recreated here in a way that mimics their traditional comic book appearances, Jim Lee’s artwork having formed the bedrock for their designs. Those who grew up watching the Batman animated series will find themselves particularly at home when they see villains such as Mister Freeze, Clayface, and Harley Quinn.
Compared to a lot of MMOs on the market, it doesn’t take long to reach DCUO’s level cap of 30. It’s at this point where you’ll either feel like you’ve had your fill or perhaps want to carry on into the endgame where a mass of updated content awaits.
Part of what made the game so special almost ten years ago was its appearance on the PlayStation 3 alongside the PC version on day one. Up until then, proper console based MMOs seemed like a pipedream, the only one that had managed to find any success being Final Fantasy XI.
Having DC Universe Online appear on the Nintendo Switch has been a welcome treat, even if it isn’t quite as much of a revelation. Daybreak has managed to pull off a smooth port job here and one that hasn’t produced any technical hiccups, even when the game’s at its most hectic.
However, compared to more recent entries in the MMO genre, DCUO is showing its age. Battles still have a somewhat cinematic feel to them, but most of the NPCs you run into all look fairly basic. What’s impressive is the game’s scale and ability to show dozens of characters on screen without chugging. Not too shabby considering you can now play DCUO anywhere with a half-decent internet connection!
It’s safe to say that there’s nothing else like this on the Nintendo Switch right now. DC Universe Online offers that full-fat MMO experience that can be enjoyed in solo or playing with friends and randoms, all for the sweet price of nothing.