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Monday, November 22, 2010

DC Universe Online: First Impressions

Monday, November 22, 2010 Posted by Unknown , , , 4 comments

The official release of DC Universe Online isn’t quite here yet, but for the past couple of weeks the beta has been up and running giving lucky gamers a sneak peak at Jim Lee’s massive multiplayer online brainchild. This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be the first to enter a beta key courtesy of Jim Lee's twitter, and I’ve been grinding away in Gotham City so that I could write an adequate “First thoughts” on, arguably, the most anticipated comic book video game of all time. After about 12 hours of play, here are my initial impressions.

Character Development
Once you watch the Blur-made introduction video, you are brought into the character creator. Think of it as a more upgraded version of the Dragon Age/Oblivion character creator but a downgraded version of the Sims 3 version. Starting with gender, height, and hero or villain, the character development gets a bit more fun when you start choosing what your powers will be and who you want as your mentor. If you aren’t too sure what you want your character to play like or if you just want to jump right in, you can choose to have your character be “Inspired By” an existing DC character. I ended up choosing Catwoman and made some personal tweaks to his power structure. Once all that was done, you jump right in.

The character development is a lot of fun especially for people who love to spend time making everything look exactly perfect (my friend who loves Sims 3 spent a good 45 minutes on color choices for her character’s wings and pants). But I also love that the development team made it easy for those of us that just want to play. The “Inspired by” option is brilliant and the fact that you can still make changes to anything that you might not necessarily like for your personal hero/heroine. I do hope, however, that they have more choices in the final game because even though they have a ton of face masks, many of them are extremely derivative of the others. I imagine that simple patch updates will add more options and of course there’s always that whole DLC thing that companies love to get more cash from us.

Once you’re done decking out your character, the game throws you right into a small tutorial-esque Level 1. Here you fight some Brainiac bots and depending if you chose to be a hero or a villain, you’ll be helped by Superman or Lex Luthor. Graphically, the game does a great job at creating environments. The Brainiac spaceship looks really impressive, but once you see Gotham, Metropolis, and the Watchtower you realize how much work was put in by the artists and rendering team. You really do feel like you’re playing a comic book, and for me, that’s the best part. And we all knew that it wouldn’t be too fun if everyone was Superman or Batman, but having them join you in missions and fighting bosses is a lot of fun.
However, I did find that that the combat system was rather bland. Perhaps it’s because it was mostly just mouse clicking and pressing 1-7 on my number pad, but it just didn’t feel as immersive as it should be. I imagine that the controls would work and feel a lot better on the PS3, but for some reason, the rapid clicking of the left mouse button took me away from the otherwise amazing experience.

Questing and Cutscenes
The game progresses through missions sent to your journal. These missions range can be anything from running a course, collecting some items, or beating up a certain number of thugs/monsters/robots/etc. Relatively standard stuff in MMOs, DCUO does make the questing experience a bit better with voice directions from DC’s finest. Hearing Kevin Conroy as Batman telling me that I have to stop Scarecrow once and made me feel a part of the DC world. Plus, once the quests are done, the comic book style cutscenes drawn by Jim Lee pushed my nerdgasm over the top. It’s these conscious decisions by the development team to make these quests feel like legitimate comic book quests and provide dialogue, art, and easter eggs that true comic fans would love is what has made my first couple of hours extremely enjoyable.

The MMO Experience
Though, strangely, the cooperative nature of an MMO is somewhat lacking. Now, my MMO games up to date have been a few minutes with WoW and about an entire year of clocked in hours with Ragnarok Online, but from those two games I feel that MMO’s should push players to play with others while at the same time giving gamers the option of flying solo. So far, I found that DCU is a much more single experience compared to the games I’ve played for it. I fought and defeated both Bane and Scarecrow [two final bosses] on my own with the game assigned hero that tags along with me. Perhaps it’s because my character was a fighter and I had been boosting up his powers, but it wasn’t all that hard to just mash on my the mouse clickers and beat Bane into submission on my own. Though, I did hear others asking for help to fight Bane so maybe it depends on your character build, and I did hear a lot of people asking who was available to fight Solomon Grundy and/or join them in a later dungeon area so I’ll edit this section as I play more. For now, however, I’ve only fought alongside a few players in passing, and if they weren’t there, DarkSh1nobi still would’ve done just fine.

Closing Thoughts
In short, I love the game. It has a lot of things that make it a truly immersive comic book MMO, but it’s definitely not perfect. The game expects SOME understanding of the comic book world [the more the better], and if you have are just a gamer that’s curious, the game does an adequate job bringing them into the game. Though, ultimately, the game has fans in mind, and for that, I will spend hours of my life trying to find every last nerdy easter egg.


J. Gotti said...

You wouldn't happen to have a beta key for ps3 would you? I would really like to test drive this game.

J. Gotti said...

Thanks in advance!!!

Chris Tung said...

Sorry J. I got my key through Jim Lee's twitter. You could either pre-order the game or sign up for Playstation Plus to get a key. Other than that, I'm not sure how else you could get one.

J. Gotti said...

Ok. Thanks again. I was considering signing up for PlayStation+ but the game is only goin to be in beta for two more weeks...