DC Universe Online

6.5 / 10 Banzai!s

 

The Game:
dc-universe-online-coverIf you visit psnprofiles.com, you can type in your PSN name and it will give you a rundown on your current trophy status – including your top-ten rarest trophies. The other day, I checked it out just for fun, and discovered that my most rarest trophy, at only 0.98%, was the platinum for DC Universe Online. Why? To find out, read on.

 

Welcome to the DC Universe, filled with all those comic book characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and everyone else you’ll never see in a Marvel or Archie comic. DC Universe Online is the first MMOARPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Action Role-Playing Game) to land on the Playstation 3, developed by SOE’s Austin Studios and published by both Sony Computer Entertainment and WB Games. There was a lot of hype before going online in 2011, was handled by comic book writer and artist Jim Lee, allowed players to create their own characters with unique costumes and super-powers, and had two large worlds – Gotham City and Metropolis – to roam around in. It came with a $14.99 monthly subscription on top of the price of the game itself, and an awesome 13 GB to download onto your hard drive.

 

The result?

 

No one was playing it.

 

You could fly from one end of Metropolis to the other (which took nearly 5 minutes in real time) and come across maybe 6 or 7 other players. The Justice League Watchtower looked as though someone had pulled the fire alarm and everyone rushed out the emergency exit. And if you wanted to play a co-operative team mission (which takes you to another world) you needed to wait at least an hour until 3 other players signed on to fill the required minimum number of people.

 

So, seven months after its release, SOE decided to merge all the servers. Now you could find other players, and the world seemed a lot less void. But consider this: these are ALL the people playing the game – and that’s pretty sad. So, a month later they started releasing free DLC. Finally, two months after that, DC Universe Online became “free to play.” This means you can go to the PSN Store, download the game for free, and play it for free – with a few restrictions on the number of characters and level-caps, as well as the inability to earn trophies.

 

When a company starts giving their previously expensive game away for free, that’s usually a sign that it’s not doing too well.

 

What I Liked:
I have to admit, the general concept of the idea was pretty cool. There’s a lot of MMORPGs out there, such as World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and Final Fantasy 11 & 14, to name a few. But many of these exist in the fantasy genre, and DC Universe Online is the first to inhabit superheroes, where each player could be unique not only by the look of their individual costumes, but their powers and abilities as well.

 

dc-universe-online-screen1The game itself comes with its own story, and while I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy, the plot fits well in the comic-book genre. In the future, Lex Luthor witnesses the end of the Earth when an alien named Brainiac easily takes over, now that all the superheroes and villains are dead after a massive battle. Lex Luthor travels back to the present time, warns the Justice League of the impending doom, and sends “Exobytes” to lucky individuals of the world which grant them superpowers. The story is straight out of a comic book, and fits the MMO world well.

 

And all your favourite DC characters are there, from the popular Superman, Batman and Joker, to the not so popular like Booster Gold and Giganta. Some will contact you with missions, others will come to your aid, and some you’ll even do battle with. One thing the game does well, is completely immerse you in the DC Universe. You feel like you’re part of a team – either through the famous NPC characters, or other online buddies.

 

What I Didn’t Like:
As I mentioned earlier, the general concept of the idea was great. Unfortunately, the follow-through just wasn’t there.

 

Let’s start with the most basic thing – your character. DLC aside, powers are limited to 6 types, with trees which naturally grow as you gain experience points. So, you’re either the guy who wields guns, or shoots fire, or picks things up and throws them with your mind, etc. Considering this isn’t a simple offline game, but a vast MMORPG in which it’s about the player spending a vast amount of time going through the continuously updated missions, you would think there’d be a bit more variety in options – maybe mixing and matching – the powers to choose from. Instead, it all just comes down to those six basic archetypes.

 

Also, the limitations of your costume was disappointing. Like Lego pieces, there’s a set number of boots, pants, shirts, helmets, and a few possible insignias to place on the chest, and a selection of 3 areas in which you can change the colours. Eventually, if you play the game long enough, you start to recognize all the different Lego pieces which went into every player’s character design. Compare this to Rock Band, where not only is there a thousand different outfits to chose from – all of which can have their colour changed – plus the millions of tattoo images which you can place anywhere on your character’s body.

 

dc-universe-online-screen2The graphics aren’t bad, but nothing to get excited over. The cities – Gotham and Metropolis – both look like a series of blocks and shapes, with a few signs and the odd car driving by. Compare this to Grand Theft Auto IV, where no two blocks look the same, from the shop signs to the crowds to the different car models. Lots of detail, well rendered, and much more pleasing to the eye.

 

And speaking of locations, both the Justice League Watchtower and the Secret Society of Super Villains headquarters are way too big! You warp from Gotham up to the Watchtower, then have to run/fly for several minutes to find a character to talk to or buy a weapon – and half the time, you’ll get lost on the way. Perhaps they thought this would be DC Universe’s version of Playstation Home, where players can meet each other and chat, for a group, etc. But no one visits the headquarters unless they have to – it’s just a vast empty space with a new NPCs, even after they merged the servers.

 

Overall:
The concept behind DC Universe Online was great, but it turned out to be a very ho-hum button masher with not much variety in your character design. Great voice acting (most with the original actors from the cartoon series) and the heroes and villains look great, but with a bland setting and missions which either include defeating a set number of enemies, finding collectibles, or reaching points in the city and holding the circle button.

 

Not a bad game if you’re in the mood to mash the square button and run around without requiring much thinking or strategy, but it gets boring quite quickly. And going through the game six times is a feat only for gaming nerds like me.

 

Perhaps that’s why my rarest trophy is the platinum for DC Universe Online.

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