DC Universe Online (DCUO) is a nicely descriptive name. The game is an massively multiplayer online game set in the DC universe. Players take on the roll of either a hero or a villain and battle through areas such as Gotham City or Metropolis. Along the way you will encounter a wide variety of DC comic book favourites such as Batman, the Joker, Superman, Lex Luthor and dozens more. Like most MMOs the game is a mixture of persistent and instanced areas and you will take your character from a fledgling hero or villain right the way up to a devastating powerhouse.
When I first heard that DCUO would be release on PS3 and PC at the same time I immediately dismissed the idea. I assumed that like all other MMOs on the market they would announce a simultaneous release, then later announce that they would delay the PS3 version while the PC version was being polished and then ultimately cancel the PS3 version shortly after the PC release. This ran through my mind in a heartbeat because it has happened so many times before. It turns out I was completely wrong, both versions have shipped at the same time. As a long time MMO gamer I was a little concerned at how the game would play out. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first started playing the game, the movement and combat are designed to naturally fit the PS3 pad. The game plays more like an action/beat-em up game than other MMOs on the market. This makes a really nice change.
Character creation is a bit of a mixed bag. When creating a character you chose a powerset (such as fire, sorcery or gadgets) a movement mode (superspeed, acrobatics or flight) a weapon style (such as brawling or dual pistols) a mentor (such as batman or the Joker) and a personality. These options (excluding personality) will set the course of the game for you. Each powerset has a damage mode and an alternative mode, accessed further into the game, for example nature gives access to a healer role whereas fire gives access to the traditional tank.
The creator does allow a good amount of freedom and those new to the genre will probably quite enjoy making characters. My main issue I have with the character creation is only apparent because I have played other super-hero MMOs. Games such as City of Heroes offers far, far more customisation and you can make pretty much anything you can imagine. With DCUO you can instead make a wide range of characters but you may have to compromise your vision for your ideal imagined super hero.
The game itself follows the traditional MMO formula. Your mentor will give you a basic quest such as killing a certain amount of enemies or collecting items dropped by enemies. In each region there are also side quests given by other NPCs following the same structure. As the story progresses you will get access to instanced areas. For those who are not au fait with MMO jargon an instanced area is an area where only the player (and generally people in his party) can access. These instanced areas culminate in a boss fight. These instanced areas were for me a big tick in the positive coumn. Facing a comic book hero stood next to a classic DC villain was very enjoyable. At the end of the area you are treated to a well voiced narrative and some highly stylised art. I thoroughly appreciated the style that was used but then felt let down when it was straight back into doing regular kill quests straight after. Another issue is that your mentors stories aren't long enough to keep you levelling up. Instead you will have to switch between the stories of the different mentors. Whilst this might not sound like a big problem (the storylines are one of the strongest elements of the game) it becomes a bit boring to be a level 15 character and then doing level 4 quests to further and understand the storyline of a new mentor.
As your character gains levels they get access to more abilities and equipment. Ability improvement again follows the expected template. As you level you get points to buy new abilities and skill points that can enhance your movement, for example heroes with acrobatics can essentially be granted the power of flight, or you can improve your weapon skills. The system allows for some nicely varied builds. Enemies will drop and quests will grant new items. This element of the game has some great victories and some crushing defeats. When you pick up a piece of armour it will unlock a style which can be used in future. If you prefer the look of the character you created you can instead opt to retain your original design. Unfortunately the lack of any crafting system and the overall design of stats means its difficult to get excited over items. Most MMOs will have gamers obsessed with improving their gear with a plethora of gearing options throughout. Sadly DCUO gear whilst looking good feels uninspired. I understand the idea that superman shouldn't be having to collect materials to craft himself a new piece of clothing but the lack of crafting means there is very little player made economy and time players would spend crafting is instead spent tearing through the games content.
Here is the next problem the game really feels like it is lacking content. The developers have promised monthly content updates. This seems like a huge promise especially as the well established MMOs have been unable to provide content anywhere near that frequently.
Thankfully the games PvP is some of the best I've played in an MMO. A lot of this is down to the action style of the game. The PvP doesn't actually feel like an MMO, instead it felt like playing a more traditional console game. Standard play types are available such as capture the flag or king of the hill.
The game is a touch buggy at times, though sadly the games biggest bug has a huge impact. Voice communications are almost impossible making grouping far more difficult. Initially communication via keyboard could be frustrating though patches do seem to be resolving these issues.
Overall the game is quite fun but lacks depth, content, player made economy, decent item system and as it stands long term appeal. Thankfully these are all things that can be resolved in time.