Gamers are no strangers to the MMO. Massive Multiplayer Online gaming has consumed the lives of many over the years, myself included, due to the sheer appeal and longevity that the games possess. The likes of World of Warcraft, and now Neverwinter on consoles, draw players in with endless quests and taking on challenging dungeons for sweet loot at the end. DC Universe Online continues this trend, but it isn't a new title. Xbox players have only recently been given the chance to become a super hero or villain themselves and take on the world of DC comics in a game that was first released on PC and PS3 at the start of 2011. Is this just another in the list of forgettable MMO titles or was it worth the wait?
DC Universe Online presents you with a dramatic opening sequence to explain the state of the world and what brings about the origins of your own character. Brainiac has returned once again to cause havoc and both the heroes and villains of the world realise that this isn't a good situation. Regular humans have been caught up in the chaos and now many of them have acquired powers of their own. It's a decent enough explanation to get you going and brings you swiftly to the character creation screen.
Right from the very beginning, there are a ton of options for your hero or villain. Various skin types, costumes and accessories can be combined to make the character of your dreams, and even a purely cosmetic specific personality can be chosen. The powers that you can choose are numerous but all come down to a few roles. Control powers can stun enemies through different means and help with crowd control while damage dealers focus solely on killing the enemy as quickly as possible. Healers focus on abilities to keep others fit and well on the battlefield while tanks keep enemy attention focused on them when in a group scenario. There is also a movement type for your character so that you can fly, run like The Flash and skim just off the ground for fluid travel. Finally, to go along with your actual powers, you will give your character their initial fighting style, whether that be with a bow, martial arts, a two-handed weapon, or something else entirely. For your perfect hero or villain you will be on the character creation screen for a while, watching your character coming together with different combinations.
After you've completed the first tutorial quest, you'll be let loose in the world to do as you please, albeit with a few limitations at first. The game does a good job giving you some direction as to what to do next and you will be automatically taken through many questlines that regularly end in a big battle. These tend to be given to you, one after the other, as you play through the game and level up. You can ignore them if you wish, but this is how you will begin to master your character and make them more powerful.
These questlines are extremely typical of an MMO. Rather uninteresting tasks of killing a set number of foes, gathering up items and rescuing people will be put before you often. However, once you gather up this "intel", you will be able to take on the big baddie at the end who takes the form of one of the DC characters, such as Giganta or Gorilla Grodd. You will find them at the end of special instance areas through which you will battle to face them. This is where the enjoyment is found in the game as it is entertaining to unleash everything that you have on these foes and then be witness to a miniature cutscene at the end.
As you level up and acquire more gear in your adventures, you will eventually be able to team up with other players and take on group events and instances. Like many MMO's, this is where the game shines the most. Once you've queued for your desired instance and managed to get in, you will be transported to an area where you will be assigned a task to complete. It comes down to the same formula as regular questing, but instead you are faced with much stronger enemies that act as an obstacle between you and your quest. To be able to get through unscathed, your team will need to efficiently work together and, more importantly, stick together. Making it to the next area of the instance and taking down the final boss is definitely a highlight of DC Online but it's not as simple as mashing the attack button to victory. Expect heavy resistance and a few deaths, especially if you are with a bunch of random players.
Alongside the game's instances, there is also PvP in which to partake if you wish. Numerous arenas are on offer with varying amounts of players in each and, again, these require more than just beating down on your opponent. For example, the heroes team may need to defend the Bat Computer in the Batcave while the villains rush it to try and take control. It's a concept with which we're extremely familiar in both MMO's and other multiplayer games, but the chance of showing off your powers to another player's face is the main draw here. The game's balancing seems fair as even the worst PvP players will be able to decimate a couple of opponents.
To top it off, you are also able to play a "Legends" version of the arenas. This is where you play as a DC hero or villain and have control over their iconic powers. Characters will need to be unlocked over the course of the game, but it adds a little diversity and lets you take a break from your own character. Even duelling while free-roaming the world is an option as well, and any players who activate the mode can be challenged on the fly.
As you play through DC Online, level up your character and discover more locations, you will quickly realise that there's not really a whole lot to it. There is a decent amount of actual content and a fair few areas, but it simply comes down to doing one questline after another and taking part in instances/raids when your level allows it. This is the drawback of MMO's. There is a lot of repetition in what you do and DC Online doesn't do much in an attempt to break the mold. Only 11 hours in, I felt like I had seen everything that was on offer and that whatever I'd do next would just be a different version of the same things that had been done previously. Owning a lair for yourself gives the game that superhero flavour but it's nothing particularly thrilling and you won't be coming back to the game for that. Regardless of all this, bursts of enjoyment and that addictive lure of an MMO can still have players coming back for just a bit more.
As a nuisance, the game is regularly prone to lag and it can crop up no matter where you are and what you're doing. While it doesn't completely halt the game, it can feel excessive when it can't even keep up with you when quickly navigating the menus. Something that also splits gamers when saying yes or no to an MMO is the subscription fee. DC Online can be played for free but this limits what you can do in the game and what powers and customisation options you have available, of course. If you want to gain the illusive membership status, you will have to fork over a hefty amount. Membership for one month costs you £11.99 (or regional equivalent) and a whole year will cost you a whopping £74.99. If you commit to this, you'll need to make sure that you get your money's worth or you'll be feeling the cold sting of regret if you realise that you don't want to play anymore.
The achievement list for DC Online is rather basic. There are only 13 achievements in all. Apart from one random achievement to earn a platinum medal in a race, the rest involve levelling up your character in a specific role or through a particular mentor. To grab the 1,000G you will need to raise a lot of characters to level 30; it may not be a big list, but it will still take you a long time.
SummaryDC Universe Online is a bit of a mixed bag. It has that MMO charm that can have you jumping in for a spot of fighting before watching a couple of hours fly by. The character customisation and the iconic characters with whom you interact make for an enjoyable game. You will quickly start to repeat actions in the disguise of a new quest or scenario, but it's still hard to resist the addictive lure of the game when you're 20 hours in with a fancy looking superhero. To get that far, though, you may have to fork over a stupidly high amount to become a member for all of the benefits, but that's entirely your decision as to whether it's worth it. DC Universe Online isn't going to be an MMO that will be remembered for years to come, but it is still entertaining for those who are fans of the genre and for someone who wants to get stuck into a world of superheroes and villains.
- Plenty of customisation options for your character
- Quest instances are enjoyable
- Group instances are fun and challenging
- Doesn't do much to break the MMO mold
- Repetitive content
- Regular lag
- Ridiculously high membership fee
EthicsThe reviewer spent 11.5 hours creating the hero of his dreams, fighting bad guys and enjoying his snazzy cape. A mere 2 of the 13 achievements were gained in the process.
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