Recently, I got a quick peek at DC Universe Online, which is being developed by Sony Online Entertainment at their Austin studio. If you’ve seen any E3 videos about this game, then this glancing overview will sound familiar. I would advise checking out the trailer for this game. It helps set the stage for the game and you can also see the handsome Superman’s lovely salt and pepper hair.
If you know anything about comics then you’ll understand that there’s a simple breakdown: superheroes or villains. Those are your sides. When you pick your side, you can then customize your character around the idea of a specific superhero or villain. You cannot play THE Batman, but you can select the Batman-type and add superpowers that fit what you’d like to play, such as super speed or flying. You can make your costume look similar to your hero/villain type as well.
Russell Shanks, COO of SOE, gave the presentation we saw. It was a single-player area of Gotham called Amusement Mile. This is Joker and Harley’s play area. The demo was played on the PS3. The controls are a little awkward to get used to at first if you’re used to the PC, but if you’re familiar with the PS3 controller then it should be no problem. The goal of the demo was to stop the Joker and Harley Quinn from releasing laughing gas into Gotham, and also to find Robin, who’d gone missing.
The scene opened up in a warehouse with festive blinking Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, and many large colorful gift boxes and enormous striped bouncy balls placed around the room. The Batman-looking character made his way through the level, throwing presents and balls at the bad guys, while navigating using a map in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Half way through he ran into two of Harley Quinn’s henchman. “Batman” used an ability that froze one of the bad guys, encasing him in an icy bubble. Zap! “Holy freeze ray, Batman!” Then he used the ice bubble as a missile weapon by hurling it at the other bad guy. Boff! Finally, smashing the bubble on the ground knocked out the still-encased first henchman. Kapow!
At the end of the level, the Batman-ish character found Robin tied up with Harley dancing around him teasing and mocking you. A lot more fighting took place, with things, and people, being thrown around. Harley Quinn has fantastic sucker-punch ability; a huge red boxing glove that delivers a giant punch to the face. Sock! She also used a very large jackhammer that she sometimes bangs herself in the foot with, resulting in her hopping around in pain for a few seconds. Holy huge hammer, Batman! Zonk!
After the fight, the Batman character is able to free Robin, who responds “Thanks for the help. Not that I couldn’t have gotten out by myself … eventually.” You receive Harley’s jester hat, too. The character is able to equip this hat, but, instead of it being red and black when put in, it automatically adjusts colors to fit the owner. This seems like a great feature to have to ensure that outfits always match. No clown-suit heroes in DCUO! My concern with this game, and this is solely based on the demo and the amount of information given, is that it feels more like a single-player brawler than an MMO. I was unable to see how game play would function with multiple people in the world. However, the game looks fantastic and the action combat is great.
When I talked to John Smedley (president of SOE) about DCUO, I asked him what his favorite part of the game is, his reply was “the action combat”. He had this to say, “It’s never been done in an MMO before. I’m excited about the idea that you can pick up a bus, throw it, and hit somebody with it, and they can pick it back up and use it as a shield or hit you (back) with it.”
It’s very difficult to decide how a game (especially an MMORPG) feels and plays from such a short demo. We didn’t get to see any of the social aspects of the game, and we didn’t get to see any crafting either, although both are reported to appear in the game. There is a ton of focus on the IP and the ability to be a superhero, which is very cool. But I’m hoping that, at future upcoming conventions, we’ll get to see more about the other systems in the game, and the features that traditional MMO players will be intrigued about.
The release date is set for November 2, 2010.