DC Universe Online 1st Impressions
So, finally after a delay, DC Universe Online is out and not with a few hiccups but it’s common with MMOs to have a few at launch so just be prepared. The biggest issue is, depending on your internet connection, you may want to find other things to do while it installs. For the PS3 using FiOS, it took almost an hour and a half start to finish for the downloads to install. One of my other friends using DSL took almost 3 hours to complete. A lot of people aren't used to this with MMOs but it serves as fair warning to know that you won't be playing right out of the box...I did manage to watch both episodes of The Cape while this completed.
Before I really get into this I want to make clear that most of the comparisons I make of this game will be with City of Heroes and please understand too, that I haven’t played it in almost 5 years but that’s where I can base my closest experiences to. Also, I put about a good 7 hours into this game so please don’t take this as a final review but I just want to give an impression for those that are on the fence about getting this game.
It’s been a really long while since I have played any MMOs with the last one being Guild Wars and I even gave a shot at WoW but it just couldn’t keep me interested long enough to stay in it. But DCUO seems like the game I could get into and maybe stay in until Marvel comes up with something.
Once the install completes you are ready to begin. In most ways, the DCUO character creation seems to be a bit more robust that CoH was when I played it. Some will find themselves either spending a lot of time trying to get their one character just right or creating multiple characters. I believe you are allowed up to 8 characters per server and if you really try hard enough for those of you Marvel fanboys you can create some good analogues of your favorites. I did one based on the Black Panther which was easy and I saw someone do something that looked like Iron Man. With a little know how you can do some basic X men characters and the like BUT since this is a DC game, why do that? Another good thing is that there are random templates you can use to generate ready made characters based off of the main heroes and villains even with similar costumes.
Once you have finished your characters, you are ready to go. One thing I did like is that if you want to get thru cut scenes, you can but if it’s your first time seeing them, they are a joy to watch as it really sets the stage for the game that you are playing. Jim lee as always has amazing panels that you see throughout and it really gets you in the mood to play.
As your game starts, you play through in a soloed instance where you are guaranteed your first 3 levels and you try to escape Brainiac’s ship. In this you find out how you got these powers and why he is invading. This level is also used to let you get a feel for your character and their abilities as well as the controls which I must say for a console game are pretty ok but more on that later. The one main thing to keep in mind as with most MMOs , once you build your character, it’s really difficult to go back in and respect them and by using the introductory levels you get to see if what you built is what you want to use and if you do finish and are unsatisfied with your build, at least all you have wasted is about 20 minutes of playtime without being thrust into the larger game world with everyone else…so yes CHARACTER BUILD MEANS EVERYTHING.
Once you get into the larger world, you have access to missions, vendors, even the Watchtower. You can spend time just wandering around seeing all of these things before you head out to start doing missions.
Now since my hero’s mentor is Batman, my starting world is Gotham so once I step out of the police station, you get to see Gotham in all of its gritty glory. You will see some pieces that looks like it was taken from the Dark Knight and even some iconic points from the comics, like Crime Alley.
So now that you are out in the main world itself, how does it handle? Again, this comes down into how you built your character. Now that you have all this open space, what can you do? Well, let me start with making one of my biggest CoH comparisons: The powers that you start off with. I remember when I played CoH, I believe that you had to get at least 10 levels under your belt before you got the ability to fly, sprint, jump, etc. It made you work even harder to get it because it could piss you off seeing other fly overhead and you are stuck on the ground trying to walk to your checkpoint. Well in DCUO, you have the ability to choose from the start how you want to get around and not only that, you can “adhere” to any surface, climb up anything imaginable and go anywhere in your realm at the start which to me adds to the fun of the game…your initial powers do not limit you.
Another aspect that DCUO has done is that from the start you can CHOOSE to be a hero or a villain. It doesn’t take another game to do this! And each faction has its own missions! For instance, in Gotham, the heroes are trying to stop the Scarecrow, so what do you think the villains are doing? However the thing to keep in mind is that most of this is PVE and everyone has their own set of missions. That brings up another good point is that you will always have tons of missions to do from the start and in some that are instanced only to you and your guild (or whatever they will be called in this game) you can expect appearances in some areas by DCU characters. Even early on in your start stage, you get a Superman sighting.
With all this variety that you get you will never lack for action. There have been some MMOs I have played over the years where it seemed like you had to wander around and look for trouble but not here. Almost every inch of Gotham is a hotspot and even as you pass through or fly over a section you are almost always tempted to drop in on the action. Initially I was dismayed at the fact that it seemed like it was a free for all as everyone was making a mad dash to fight an enemy and scrambling to the next but the respawns for the enemies seem plentiful early on so you will always have something to fight even if someone else steals your kill, This game feels and plays a bit more like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and less like WoW. Which also reminds me, and you can take this in a few ways, the penalty on death is not as severe as I have seen in many MMOs, as a matter of fact thus far, it’s not really severe at all. I will say that if you have seen differently, please correct me, but in CoH what made that game hard sometimes is when you died, you had to pay a ‘death tax’ on the leveling that you had which at times made your grind much, much longer, meaning there were times that you were gaining ½ as much EXP to play back for a death that you had which could really slow down your game and this was part of why I stopped playing.
And with all of the fighting and saving that day that you will have going on, so far it’s pretty quick to level up. With no effort at all I have already seen some who have reached level 15 and higher and I know just for the short time that I have played, I have reached level 7 and still have a few more characters I want to try out.
This brings me to my concerns that I have with the game. The level cap is 30. What does Sony plan to do to keep this game fresh after you have hit the cap because what I have heard from the beta testing you can hit that cap pretty fast. I slightly disagree because after level 8 it starts to feel like a grind, not a bad one but a grind nonetheless! But, for hardcore players, some will wonder how long will it be before the cap is lifted higher so that a lot of the crowd that Sony hopes to take away from WoW and CoH doesn’t get lost? Another issue that I have is some of the gameplay graphical glitches. While that game does indeed look very nice, I notice that as I am supposed to have a character that climbs, in many cases when he hits a wall, instead of him climbing the wall, he actually WALKS up the wall and that sometimes takes away from the immersive-ness of the game. For a console game, the controls handle themselves pretty well although I think the flying aspect could be handled a bit better. It takes a while to get used to it but it works. Your hotkeys are pretty much set and I have yet to find a way to change this if any and this may also discourage some vet MMO players but to me after awhile it becomes 2nd nature. Also, so far, I have not had a problem with lag. But mainly, a lot of people will be discouraged with the price. I will agree 60 bucks and 15 dollar a month subscription is a lot to pay for an MMO that so far seemingly doesn’t have the depth of say, your WoW or Guild Wars but I think in part, Sony hopes to get that crowd who doesn’t want to be bogged down with all the minutiae of all of the 2ndary and tertiary character play of your WoW games and so forth. It’s a straight forward button masher and if this is what you like, then this is for you. This may turn a lot of people off. Also in game chat: without a dedicated keyboard, you can forget about it! Trying to do this with a PS3 controller is miserable. One other thing that so far, my friends and I have had difficulty with is trying to find each other in the game. I will say that one of my friends just called to tell me that after I logged off last night, they eventually found a way to do voice chat once they teamed up in to their group and they had no problems.
To conclude, DCU Online is going to be a game that if you are a fan of comics and have a little extra to invest in, you will jump right in. I think because now that one of the Big Two has an MMO out, this may start pulling that CoH crowd away to play a game to play in a Universe that many have waited for. Anyone sitting on the fence, I would strongly advise waiting for more reviews before getting this game because this can easily be $60 bucks gone and no way to take it back to your retailer. You do get 30 days of free play before you get on a monthly fee schedule. So far, my friends and I are enjoying this game on the PS3 and I do like that even from the start you do feel that you are doing your part to shape the DC Universe so if you can get past the huge download time and have no problems with some button mashing, you may just enjoy this game.
On a scale of 1 to 5 so far I give it a 3.5.