Comic book and MMO fans alike; it's time to go back into your past. Recall the days that you wanted to be a superhero. Go and find all those tattered drawings of you dawned in your superhero attire. Remember how the mask went over your face and how you could do things like shooting lasers from your hands. Remember envisioning yourself flying through the air saving damsels in distress. I hope these memories are fresh in your mind because DC Universe Online is close to being released and is ready to make all those dreams come true.
We've spent a few weeks playing Sony's big venture into the MMO genre and this may be the next universe you MMO junkies might want to through down your money for.
First and foremost when the game loads up, you are treated to the cinematic trailer you have seen by now. The DC heroes are embroiled in an on-going war with their iconic villains and things are looking bleak. Once Lex Luthor strikes down Superman, Brainiac's fleet swoops in and we are transported to the present. Lex has come from the future and has unleashed the Exobytes to give powers to all who claim them. This is where you come in. Creating a character in the game is very in-depth. You can create a character that closely resembles iconic heroes such as Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman or you can create and fully custom hero of your own design. For the beta, I decided to create a Speedster hero with mental powers and dual wielding blades that had Batman as a mentor. I decided on the moniker, Psyonic Speed.
Immediately, I awake inside one of Brainiac's ships. Oracle has made contact with me and it is clear I need to get off the ship. Combat here is more button masher than your typical MMO. It is all action oriented. You can block, counter, roll out of the way; everything is in the moment. The square button and triangle will be your primary attacks. In the PC version, it feels more like a Diablo-control style as you wildly press on the left and right buttons of your mouse. This is a good style of play as the game is extremely fast paced. Already at Level 1, I am quickly swarmed by Brainiac's minions. As I mash down on the square button repeatedly, my two blades collide with the enemies and give off a magenta colored shockwave signifying my blades are imbued with my mental powers. After I fight a few more skirmishes, I quickly advance to Level 2. With it I get a power point to buy my first power. I can now throw a volley of psychic shurikens at enemies for moderate damage.
As you fight through the first room, Oracle introduces you to your powers. In order to make it to the next corridor, I have to rely on my movement power. Once I click the left analog stick, Psyonic Speed readies himself in the racing position. As I move, orange and golden streams of myself are trailing behind me interlaced with lightning bolts shooting from my body. What was once walls and a ceiling are now simple planes I can jet across.
After a few more fights and more of Brainiac's goons reduced to scrap metal, I reach the final room. In order to escape, I have to fight my way out. Brainiac is not happy and has sent what seems like his entire army against me. As I keep on fighting, more and more just pour into the room. It was an endless stream of bad guys. This is the first time DC Universe Online shows that you are not alone in your fight against Brainiac. Superman teleports into the room and he wrecks shop. What takes me around four to five hits to down an opponent, Superman does in an instant. He's pounding enemies with his fist, he's blasting them with his heat vision; he is literally saving my butt. Finally Oracle gives me the word. It's time for me to go. She commandeers one of the teleporters and it quickly gets me off Brainiac's ship.
Welcome to the DC Universe
When I find myself in the police station, I see that the superhero community is alive and well. Psyonic Speed has joined a community of heroes that is willing to back him up. When I look at the kind of heroes that have been created, you can tell that MMO and comic book fans are one in the same. The designs for characters look great. For every piece of costume or style of hair I did not place on Psyonic Speed, someone else did. Many decided to be their own hero and create something completely original. While others decided to follow in the footsteps of Iconic DC heroes and become their disciples incarnate. As a metahuman, your costume is everything. It isn't just some other piece of clothing you drape over you. It is the symbol you wear. For heroes, it is what people will say they saw when you pull them from a burning building or what bad guys will say when you leave them tied up for the police. For villains, it will be what people fear when you leave a path of destruction. If you are like me, you spent quite a bit of time perfecting the look of your character. When approaching the traditional MMO aspect of DC Universe Online, it is all about the loot you get and that worried me quite a bit. When you start getting gear, you start to look like everyone else in the world. What once looked like an original creation can quickly turn into generic metahuman soldier #252. Thankfully, the game has an answer to that and it made me breathe a sigh of relief. Once you equip a new piece of gear, you can turn on or off the appearance change it has on you. So if you don't want your hero to look like he or she got a cape from the quest reward, you can simply make it go away while keeping the stats from it. Also, for ever piece of equipment you make appear, it will match the color schemes you have set for your character which is an added bonus.
Let's hit the streets
Enough messing around the police station gawking at other heroes; it's time to hit the streets and see what I am up against. Already you can see that these aren't just generic skins of the same city. First up there is Gotham City and it looks like the over dramatic explanations the Batman Family fill with inner monologues from the comics. It is a dark and bleak place that seems to always be in perpetual night. Never once did I see the sun while I was in Gotham. While taking a tour of the city through a quest chain offered by Booster Gold, I was taken to the infamous Crime Alley. Curiously, I wanted to see how detailed this part of the game would be. As I turned a corner, sure enough I found what I was looking for. A bouquet of roses lied on the rain-soaked alley showing me that The Caped Crusader had recently been here.
Metropolis is a completely different story. While the sun never shined in Gotham, it never set in Metropolis. It looked like a bustling city abundant with high rises. The air seemed clear and seemed nothing could ever go wrong. But as we all know a well placed scheme from Lex Luthor or anyone else from Superman's rogues gallery can change all that.
Anyway, back to the streets of Gotham, Batman has already tasked me with my first assignment. Scarecrow's goons are running amok on the streets and Batman wants me to put a stop to them. I am given the task of taking out a set number of them. As I leap into the fray I quickly dispatch two of them with a quick cascade of shurikens and sword strikes. While you don't get much experience points for dispatching foes, you do get an abundant amount for completing objectives during the quest itself. So while I'll only get 10exp or so for downing one opponent, I get a couple hundred points after defeating 10. Once that was over, Batman was quick to give me another assignment. There were fans in a portion of Gotham that were spewing out the fear toxin. It was up to me to quickly destroy four of them. A quick click of the Left-analog stick and I was off speeding toward my next destination. The game really wants to submerge players into the experience that you are truly taking on these iconic villains and the next mission really showcased that. Canisters of the gas were out on the street and I had to take them to be properly disposed of. At this point, Batman noticed that the gas has taken a hold of me. I was literally fighting hallucinations on the streets. What I thought were some of Scarecrow's minions turned out to be workers trying to help me dispose of the toxin. After that was taken care of, Batman felt I was ready. It was time to take down Scarecrow himself.
The good ones fight alone...
Going into Scarecrow's lair gives me my first taste of a solo instance and I will say these one-man dungeons are incredibly fun. It really showcases how you can handle yourself as a metahuman. Here you have to use your powers wisely and be well aware just what kind of character you signed up to be. As a mental-powered hero, Psyonic Speed was designated as a Controller. I could control the battlefield with the power of my mind. This means I could incapacitate a few enemies and concentrate on a lesser amount of opponents at a time. It takes some strategic planning. At lower levels, I shot a beam out of my head that launched an enemy into the air. While in solo battles, it would be very effective for starting aerial combos, but while in these type of instances, it took them out of the battle for a few seconds letting me concentrate my firepower on others. At higher levels, I could encase enemies inside a mental ball that I could pick up and hurl at enemies. It was here that the MMO roles of combat start to take over, but it never degrade the action one bit.
Once I fought my way through Scarecrow's Lair, I was finally face to face with the man himself. This may have been too much just for me alone, so luckily Batman sent Batgirl in to assist me. A solo boss fight in DC Universe Online comes in waves. First you exchange blows, but then the action would stop and I would have to battle more hallucinations such as giant bats, then Scarecrow would enter back in the fight. This exchange would go on and so forth until the man could fight no more. Once he was downed, I was given the opportunity to tie him up and have the police take it from there. After each solo boss instance, a comic book-drawn cutscene would play that gave even more insight into the mind of the person I just took down. With a job well done, I was awarded my loot and could be on my way. The city was little bit safer....for now.
....The great ones work as a team
At last, my time had come. After taking down a few punks on the street and tangling with the likes of Scarecrow and Bane, I was contacted by the Martian Manhunter from the Justice League Watchtower. An Alert was issued. These are group instances where you are joined with other players to take on enemies and bosses you couldn't possibly take on alone. In this case, an alien ship crash landed on an island in the middle of a volcano that hyper-evolved gorillas in the area to the point that they now wanted to rule the world. The mastermind behind all of this: Ultra Humanite. We are given specific mission objectives to complete during this Alert. First, we have to get some technology for ourselves and get it back to the Martian Manhunter. Our team grabbed boxes and carried them back to transporters we hijacked to get to the island to send it back to J'onn. While fighting our way through the island it was my job to once again control the battlefield. For enemies we didn't want to immediately take on, I encased them in a bubble and hurled them across the battlefield. If they broke free, they would still have to walk all the way back to the battle giving us time to take down lower threats and saving our best for greater fights later. As we were fighting, I noticed that one of my teammates was taking on quite some damage. I wasn't really built to be a tank, but that doesn't mean I can't help out. Thanks to an Iconic ability I gained from my movement power, I could create a twister that pulled enemies toward me and concentrate on me for a bit, so I could absorb some damage while the tank could come from behind and lay some massive hits on enemies unchallenged.
It seems Ultra Humanite was hoping to expand his forces and we weren't about to let that happen. Our next goal was to free the non-evolved gorillas and hack a few terminals. Once we did that and fought of a few more gorillas, we had to detonate a few caches of missiles. Everything about this Alert felt as though I was a superhero fighting alongside a team in a Justice League mission.
Finally we had to take on Ultra Humanite himself. Like any MMO, everyone had their roles and it was crucial that we worked fluidly like a team to defeat him. Sure there were a few hiccups and some of us fell in battle, but in the end we thwarted Ultra Humanite's scheme and defeated him. With any successful dungeon run, there come the spoils of it: loot drops. Like any special loot that drops off a sub or main boss, players will have to select greed or need and win a dice roll to obtain it.
The DC world is filled with tons of characters and exciting stories and should be a great pool to pull from for keeping this game interesting. After being in the beta and seeing all that the world had to offer, I think the MMO genre is in good hands thanks to Sony. On January 11th, this will be a game that deserves your attention.