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Staff Impressions

William Murphy Posted:
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Now that DCUO has officially launched and planted its feet firmly in the industry as a live product, our weekly column on the game is coming to an end so that we might turn some attention to other unreleased games. That doesn’t mean you won’t be seeing DCUO coverage anymore around these parts, because as long as there’s something to talk about we’ll be typing it out. But before we wrap the DCUO Weekly series up, let’s take some time to offer the rest of the MMORPG staff’s opinions on the game. I know I’ve certainly written my fair share about the game, and there’s more to come when my review hits in the next couple weeks as well. But to close out our weekly DCUO column, let me hand it over to my cohorts to tell you what they like and dislike about DCUO thus far.

Jon Wood:

I’ll start by saying that DCUO is my new go-to game. It’s what I play when I get an hour or two to play for fun, so obviously I’m enjoying it. That isn’t to say though that a) I don’t know why some people don’t like it and b) I can’t see the obvious flaws that the game presents.

You’re absolutely not going to like this game if you’re looking for a traditional MMORPG. There’s no crafting, players have access to only six “special abilities”, the combat system is based on combos. These things just aren’t in the game. If you’re going to miss them so much that it ruins any chance of having fun, do NOT buy this game.

Then there are the problems: The chat interface is genuine garbage, level 30 just don’t seem like enough quest content, the game can still be buggy, the character creation options aren’t nearly as diverse as other superhero MMOs, there is no system in place to prevent massive ganking on PvP servers... As well as a few issues that you’d expect from a brand new MMO.

Still, the world is robust, the non-instanced content is great, it captures not only the feel of a superhero MMO but of the DC Universe as well, it’s easy to play for half an hour of eight hours in a stretch and overall it’s just really well designed for what it is.

I genuinely hope that SOE keeps its promise and doesn’t slack off when it comes to adding content to the game. With it, DCUO could be a huge success. Without it they’re going to see subscribers dropping off after the first month or two.

Mike Bitton:

I played DC Universe Online a bit in beta and while I found it fun then it didn’t really pull me in. However, once launch rolled around and I rolled up on a PvP server with some friends it quickly became one of my favorite games for a number of reasons. One has to do with the approach to leveling, some people might complain that a level 30 cap is low and that the progression is too quick, but one thing that always bothered me about the superhero genre of MMOGs is the fact that the developers put too much emphasis on a single character in a type of game where generally even the most dedicated MMOG gamer has tons of alts. The character creation and options are often too fun to just stick with one character, so instead of focusing the grind on one character, it’s a better idea to assume everyone will have a bunch and that the leveling time would be spread across those characters. SOE’s approach to DC Universe Online makes me feel like they understood this.

Another thing I appreciate about the game is the seamless world design that doesn’t segregate heroes from villains; this was a huge mistake in City of Heroes in my opinion. People often like to wonder about the justification for having so many heroes in one place, well, on a PvP server the influx of player villains serves to necessitate the influx of heroes, and it all makes a bit more sense. Also, since the quest design often puts quest locations in the same area for both heroes and villains it is incredibly conducive to some good PvP (or ganking, unfortunately).

Finally, the game is just fun. The combat is fun and action packed; the missions often have great set pieces, fun voice acting, interesting boss fights and cool motion comics to round them out. There is a wealth of content post-level cap, and an EverQuest-like AA progression feature in the game’s Feats system. The level 30 cap is misleading, there is a good deal to do and enjoy in DC Universe Online and we’ll have to see if SOE can keep up past the first month.

Now for the bad, this ain’t all sunshine and roses, there are some poor areas to DC Universe Online. The character creation is pretty limited when compared to the other superheroic MMOGs available. I’m mostly fine with collecting the pieces after creation, but that doesn’t excuse the limited nature of the coloring scheme (3 colors for your gear, across your whole character), restrictive body types, faces, and hair, etc. It’s just not up to snuff, you can’t even color the inside and outside of your cape.

Next up is the UI. It is fairly horrendous, not going to mince any words here. It’s just barely usable and is clearly designed for a console audience. You can’t really click around much, the tool tips for abilities aren’t descriptive enough, the chat barely works and even when it does it is fairly limited in function. Speaking of chat, the profanity filter is ridiculous and you can’t even turn it off. I’ve seen characters with names like Lesbo and Vahgyna, and guild names with the word Rape in them, but you can’t say “amusement” in chat with out part of the word being filtered out. I’ll let you figure that one out.

And finally, let’s talk about targeting. Just as atrocious as the UI, the targeting is finicky at best. Tab targeting will for whatever reason often prioritize objects such as canisters or even random objects such as small vases over enemies that are right up in your grill. And when it does target enemies, it doesn’t necessarily target the ones near you anyways, often times a quick tab target and an attack will send you flying into a new pack of mobs you didn’t want to aggro.

Despite all this, the game is fun, especially with friends, and if these are the worst issues there are to deal with, I’m fairly confident they’ll be able to work through them, but we’ll have to see. Until then, I’ll be playing!

Garrett Fuller:

For me, DC Universe had a bunch of strikes against it from the beginning. First, I am not a big fan of super hero games. I have played City of Heroes and Champions Online, and am a huge Marvel fan, but these games just don’t cut it for me. Second, I am not a DC fan. Say what you want, but I have always found Marvel’s universe more fun. I do like Batman and the Joker and all that, but for me that is where DC ends.

Taking those two major elements into account, I absolutely love DC Universe. I was proven vastly wrong by the game and have been playing ever since beta. It comes down to two very simple things. The first is being able to play a villain, which for me is fun. I have played heroes for my entire gaming life through D&D, Shadowrun, Cthulu games, you name it. After a while that gets old and in Warcraft I chose Horde because I thought the Orcs were awesome. Playing a villain in DC Universe is great fun. Working for the Joker is very well thought out and nothing beats prowling the streets of Gotham simply to cause chaos. The dark atmosphere of the city adds a sense of danger and, being a villain, that danger is me. All in the name of fun this aspect of the game is very well put together.

The second is playing on a PvP server. Sure I have been ganked by heroes that are ten levels higher than me already. However, the PvP fights seem very real. The battles between heroes and villains in the alley ways and dark streets are great. Nothing beats standing on the roof top of a building and swooping down to fight it out with some heroes. This game has great PvP. It moves very fast and you can die quickly, but it is fun and not some drawn out mess that PvP has become in other MMOs.

In the end, I would seriously recommend giving DC Universe a try for no other reason than it moves fast and furious with lots of PvP on the servers that offer it. It has been a while since I have played an MMO with the whole stalking, look over your shoulder feel. This game has that feeling. Trust me, I was surprised by DC Universe and hopefully you will be too.

Drew Wood:

I first played DCUO at the hands-on press event in Austin back in November. I enjoyed myself greatly. Only once or twice before have I so thoroughly been able to immerse myself in the content of an MMO instantly. I'm a massive DC Comics fan. I've been collecting comics since childhood and the adventures of Superman, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and their respective Rogue's galleries have been near and dear to my heart my entire life. Is this enough of a reason to love a game alone? No. Of course it isn't. As a D&D player, I hated DDO at launch. The game just made my skin crawl. I love J.R.R. Tolkien's saga, but Lord of the Rings Online at launch left me wanting something more. I'm a Star Wars fanatic, but Galaxies still can't hold my attention beyond the character creation. Since picking up DC Universe Online's beta, and now that I'm in the live game, post-launch, I haven't been able to stop playing it.

I've written about some of the merits of the game before. I, for one, love the way combat is handled in quasi-real-time. The combo-based combat system is absolutely right up my alley and adds a new dimension to the game, and to MMOs, that speaks to the hardcore gamer in me. The game is a love-letter to the fans and creators of its IP. The world is vibrant and dynamic. The visuals are astounding. The voice acting is superb. There's enough side content to keep me occupied by collecting the clues and there's nothing more satisfying than when I unlock a feat. The Alerts and Legends PvP systems are fun but aren't meant to be taken in huge doses and can border on frustrating more than fun. The quests are true to the canon of the IP and feel like a comic book storyline. The game's greatest strength though lies in its open world PvP. Oh, and though people may not agree with me, the cut scenes are exquisite. The game is Fun.

Are there problems with the game? The foolish answer would be no. I'm going to say this flat out: No. Game. Is. Perfect. Not everything is going to be shiny and new. Not everyone is going to be instantly in love with a game. That’s impossible. Complaints about the game's UI are not only warranted, but it's surprising that there aren't more out there. The Chat interface alone demonstrates this. The community can be... hard to deal with. I don't like to get ganked either, but I'm not going to bitch and moan about it by shouting in the chat. Get back up, brush yourself off, and try again. In Open World PvP, there are always going to be Level 30 characters stomping on the 4th levels. The targeting system is frustratingly flawed. You want a specific example? Sure. When I'm fighting Scarecrow in a room full of barrels and I have to cycle through 20 effing barrels just to get one hit in on Dr. Jonathan Crane, that's a problem.

We're just over two weeks into launch and not only am I playing the game, but I'm playing it feverishly. I have my primary (a Circe villain, of course) but I've also found entertainment in my several alts, which will soon, undoubtedly, become my many alts. If we see the monthly content updates, if we see an expansion not too far down the road, if we see an effort to improve on the game's faults, SOE could see a significant increase in registered accounts. Though it's easy to brush off as a niche game, it has the potential to become the next big thing in the MMO world.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.