DC Universe Online can best be summarized as the console equivalent of World of Warcraft. You create a character, level up, there’s a monthly subscription fee, and you can easily forget to eat supper if you’re not careful.
What separates this massive DC comic-inspired game from WOW, however, is it was advertised not as an MMORPG but an MMOAG (Massive Multiplayer Online Action Game). But is this project just another WOW clone in tights, or is true to the hype?
GAMEPLAYThe setting of the game goes as follows. A version of Lex Luthor from a dark future arrives to warn the Justice League of not only their imminent death but the unstoppable invasion of Brainiac to follow. To help change the future, Lex stole from Brainiac trillions of superpower granting nanomachines called Exobytes and released them into Earth’s atmosphere, giving birth to thousands of new superhumans, also known as Player Characters.
You start at the Character Creator, which determines your character’s gender, size, appearance, morality, name, mentor, and combat style. While the first couple of categories are purely cosmetic, the last two are a bit more substantial. Your mentor is pretty much a DC character that trains you or oversees your performance and based on who you pick determines the kinds of adventures you have as well as where you’ll be spending most of your time.
For comparison’s sake, if your mentor is Batman, that means you’ll be spending most of your time in Gotham City fighting the likes of Bane and The Joker, whereas if Superman trains you, you’ll be spending more time in Metropolis saving the world from the newest plots of Gorilla Grodd or The Hive.
As for your combat style, it’s broken down into three categories: your powers, your skills, and your movement ability. Your skills refer to your primary attack style. Do you lumber in with a sledgehammer or are you a fast martial artist? Your powers, for Street Fighter fans out there, are your Hadokens and Sonic Booms, and range from controlling fire, psychic abilities, or being a gadgeteer. As for your movement ability, it’s how you get around, which comes down to flight, super speed, or acrobatics.
After making a hero, you are taken through a tutorial, after which you are given an introduction to the world by your mentor and are thrust into the main game. It’s at this point that DC Universe Online starts to show itself as something different, namely in its core gameplay. When looking at combat in WoW, it comes down to number crunching and calculated use of buffs and attacks, which sounds cerebral and deep but translates to clicking the mouse several times and waiting for the enemy to fall over.
DC Universe Online by comparison feels a lot more like an action brawler. You want to beat some robot coming after you? Okay, the square is punch, the triangle is to shoot, chain the attacks to your powers, and have fun. There’s a level system identical to WoW, except instead of it just being new stats, leveling up allows you to learn new attacks or obtain new powers, all of which slowly makes combat more exciting.
Since that sounds a bit too much like an excuse for bad design, let us cite something from our experience of the game. We played my first character as a Gadget-powered, gun-toting Batman-inspired character, lovingly named Shadowman, and ran off to beat up thugs. In a fight against two thugs, We were able to chain air combos to setting sticky bombs at their feet in terms of melee but when We switched to my guns, there was a noticeable change in aggression and fluidity, namely down.