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General Articles: Hands-On Report

By Hasani Davis on February 11, 2009

Hands-On Report

Recently, I attended Comic Con New York, where I was able to get a hands-on demo of DC Universe, Sony Online Entertainment’s upcoming MMO. Still with no confirmed release date, the playable demo (taking place in Metropolis), was smooth and fully animated. The demo allowed me to play as either a created villan or as a created superhero. The booth drew a HUGE crowd at the Comic Con this Saturday. Fans hovered around me as I got to rundown by Wes Yanagi, Creative Director behind SOE’s highly anticipated superhero action MMO.

The game’s backstory is based on a version of the DC universe suited for the game itself but with pleanty of elements of classic DC universe. So if Superman died (again) in your Wendsday comics, he will still be alive and kicking in DCU. Alternate realities or “universes” are nothing new to the world of comic books, and it always works best if you take each new incarnation of the stories with a grain of salt. It’s an interesting take on the use of an IP, no?

DCU will be a faster paced action based MMO, the creative team’s attempt to make the game more fun and more immersive for fans to play.

The hands on demo had a very high action third person feel to it, its not your old “roll of the dice” type mmo. For example, to hit someone, you have to walk up to them and …. Well hit them. No selecting “attack” and queuing up attacks or swing and miss/block/parry/dodge. The basic maneuvers that I had were a heavy, charged, light aerial and a host of special moves. For example, as my killer clown (and who doesn’t love a killer clown?), I could land in the middle of a bunch of good guys and charge up to unleash a huge malestorm of pink psionic energy, or I could make a fast get away and run up a straight wall and fire pink bubbles of psionic energy as light attacks at my foes.

Also, you could have a strong teammate lift a dumptruck over his head and you can charge it with psionic energy for extra explosive force! You can even do such silly things as trap your opponents in a clown bubble and kick him off the side of a building. Special moves are , as of this build, level based and become unlocked as you become stronger. No word was given about spec lines and character paths.

Gameplay was wide open, and as sprawling as any episode of Batman or Justice League you have ever seen, and in true superhero style the world is just as important on rooftops as on the street level, adding another dimension to the game as your toon moves from rooftop to rooftop. I got in quite an extensive fight with a flying superhero which ended in me blasting him in the back with a charged bolt of energy and letting him plummet 50 stories to the ground. Another part I loved was interacting with environment, like picking up a car and chosing to bash someone in the head repeatedly with it, or toss it at them.

My hands on (as mentioned earlier), was playing as a Killer Clown in downtown Metropolis. My quest? Helping Lex Luthor, long time nemesis of Superman, gain access to Starlabs to get a sample of Doomsday’s DNA to use for what I can only assume were some pretty nefarious purposes.

My task was to kill Starlabs guards and complete other objectives in the area, in order to gain access to move on to the next stage. Sounds simple enough? Well, at the same time players are trying to gain access for your side and Lex, Superman and the other faction will be there as well trying to thwart your devious plans. The end result? Don’t be surprised if you are throwing a toxic pie in the face of innocents and have a dumptruck dropped on your head by a flying superhero. Think of it like a two-sided quest in the same area that’s open to all, with pvp being part of the focus.

Whichever side completes their objectives first gains access to the instanced next stage of the event. And if you are on the losing side of the event, I have two letters for you, “QQ”. Currently, there are no rewards for 2nd place.

As I advanced my Killer Clown to the next stage, I entered Starlabs and ultimately had to do battle against Superman and gain access to Doomsday’s DNA. Items money and XP are your rewards for finishing.

The game itself is actually PvP focused with PvE seeming to stand in as a necessary evil. But plans for fun quest and adventure will play a role in your characters development … PvP is the focus of the game for action and fun, not just for advancement. The game has plans to put a grief protection system in place. For example, if you are a higher level villain who decides to spend lots of time in uptown Metropolis killing lowbies, eventually you will draw the attention of more powerful NPCs to help quell your little rebellion.

Currently, they are planning on putting in a battleground based system for instanced objective fights between rivals and also plans for a larger “showdowns” between good and evil.

Current development is focusing on small group and solo content, but because of fan demand they will have end game raiding for PvE rewards, with plans for both PvP and PvE raiding to be equally as rewarding.

As far as customization goes, we know that you select your origin of powers, projection point, main power. In this build, brute strength and standard fighting are in , but I did not see martial arts. So my character was a killer clown (evil) with psionic based powers (origion of powers) and shot psionic bubbles by holding his fingers to his head (head as projection point). My character was even blessed with super speed in the form of whirling clown feet, which allowed me to pull off such silly stunts as running straight up the side of a sky scraper.

While there, I made sure I asked about itemization, and was told that it’s still being worked on, but was told plenty of items and upgrades to your “suit” would be available and all would match your character’s motif. So my Afro-wearing clown will be able to get hot pink clown shoes to match my hot pink Afro, but I may have a longer and more stylish purple trench coat as levels advanced with perhaps zebra stripes on the collar later on. Your gear will enhance your characters look and still stay in your characters motif.

For interested players, you can check out DCUO’s Myspace page.

Hasani Davis / Gaming online since 1993! yes Neverwinter nights was that long ago. Formerly of Bloomberg Markets magazine and Schwab magazine now putting my journalism degree to work in gaming industry.