My first MMORPG experience came with World of Warcraft in 2007 (I played The Sims Online and Second Life, but they don’t count since they weren’t RPGs). Since then I’ve spent chunks of time in almost two dozen different online worlds, none of which have grasped me like Blizzard’s behemoth. Does Sony Online have the answer in DC Universe Online, or is this just another pretender?
I’m obviously going to compare this mostly to it’s closest kin, Champions Online and City of Heroes, rather then World of Warcraft, since it’s their market share it’s mostly competing for. DCUO is, in my mind, better then the aging City of Heroes as far as it’s world and the way you interact with it. It also has a leg up on Champions Online with it’s recognizable stable of heroes and villains (Hmm, Foxbat or The Joker… who would you pick? Exactly.) and the fact that you can be a villain yourself. It’s also pretty good looking compared to its superhero MMO brethren and the voice work is easily the best of the three.
The action is much more dynamic then the supposedly action-oriented battles of Champions Online and relies heavily on using your abilities and the environment to your advantage. The selection of abilities, though, seems slim. It’s just not as fun and powerful as Champions Online’s fully free-form power system, and there aren’t quite as many exciting choices. Using the powers, though, takes more skill. Rather then pressing just pressing number keys, you can string together your powers by the way you click you mouse to attack. A tap of the left button can produce a quick attack, but by using a long click instead you can unleash a different attack. Combos like long left click, long left click, then a power button feel much more satisfying then auto attacks. Unfortunately the game occasionally misreads your input which can leave you very vulnerable. In a perfectly lag-free environment it would be great, but here it needs some luck almost as much as skill.
There are only three travel abilities, and the first two – flight and super speed – don’t excite me. Flight is actually worse here then in Champions Online due to poor control. Acrobatics however is fun if only for the sheer entertainment value of watching your hero or villain clamber over everything they come across. I once had to cross a room filled with bookcases and my guy didn’t stop at them or wait for me to press anything, he just quickly climbed over them one by one and really expedited the process (even if he did look silly doing it). Unfortunately, you stick to everything while using acrobatics, which can make it hard to get through small openings like doors. Backing up some, the character creation process is really poorly laid out and nowhere near as in-depth as Champions Online or City of Heroes. The in-game menu system is also a pain to navigate.
The quests aren’t terribly impressive, the dialog is the usual super hero nonsense and I never really felt powerful. At no point did I feel like I could take on the world, or even a small portion of it. Compared to Champions Online and City of Heroes, DC Universe Online has some real positives going for it, but still comes up short in the actual gameplay realm. However, now that Champions Online has gone free to play, if you want to role play a super hero I’d recommend you start there. The character creator is better, the powers more varied, plus I really felt powerful and important – and that’s how being a super hero should feel. Alphasim out.