Zoe’s (MMO)RPG Corner: DC Universe Online

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DC Universe Online (DCUO) is a free-to-play superhero MMORPG that’s about superheroes where you work with established DC superheroes and fly around and are a superhero and is it obvious that I really love superheroes?

History and Development

 

DCUO was developed by Daybreak Games, which also produced Ever Quest and H1Z1, neither of which I’ve ever played. Maybe they’re good? Who knows. Not me. Point is, they do have games that I’ve heard of and the Ever Quest developers were involved in the creation of DCUO as well.

Developers said they wanted to make a “different kind of MMO” which is basically what everyone says. A lot of their inspiration came from The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, a game from 2005, in terms of game play. Which is funny because the Hulk is Marvel. I honestly don’t know what to think of the relationship between Marvel and DC; they’re like best friends who also hate each other.

The game was originally pay-to-play, but went free-to-play only a couple months after its first beta in 2010-11. It uses microtransations to fuel its economy.

Why did I pick up this game? Because it’s about superheroes. And I frakking love superheroes. I didn’t want a game that made me play as an established one (like most of the Marvel games) so DCUO seemed like the obvious choice. Yes, please allow me to make my own superhero. It was everything I wanted.

For a long time, I’ve been really into superheroes. I love the DC universe because, when done right, it’s really all about teamwork and hero interaction, while the Marvel universe is often more about the stories of individuals. Getting a game where the characters I loved were part of the actual game play was just a lot of fun, and getting to see/be part of that teamwork aspect gave me the warm fuzzies.

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This show WASN’T my childhood…I watched it in my twenties and it was awesome.

Additionally, I’d heard positive reviews on the game. In college, I knew a few people who played and meant to get into it, but never managed it. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve been playing.

Character Creation

 

I actually don’t like the character creator very much. It’s cumbersome and isn’t particularly intuitive. The options are nice and there are all sorts of cool things to chose from, but it’s a badly designed interface and it’s tricky to get through. Also whoever designed some of the hair styles should have gotten off the Dragon Ball Z.

There are some cool choices. You get to chose your superpower (which includes combat role, sorta), your weapon, and your movement method. Also your costume, though there are tons of other options later so that will probably change.

Also you can chose to either play a hero or a villain which is a ton of fun.

The creation process is pretty simple though. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of physical options but those that are there are kind of wild (snake skin and wings, that kind of stuff). It’s fun, or it would be if the interface wasn’t so finicky. They use a lot of scrolling menus that are way over-sensitive.

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Too much scrolling! Too much!

I guess it does what it needs to do, but it could do that a lot better.

 Story

Here’s some serious superhero shit:

Alternate Universe Lex Luthor comes to the DC universe and releases a lot of little nanobytes with superpowers into the air, because Braniac is coming and we’re basically all gonna be fucked up, so we need more superheroes.

That’s the story. How comic book bullshit is that?

As a comic fan, I just kind of rolled with it because honestly, that sounds about right. Comics are weird. Not like, Anime Logic weird, but really, really weird. Besides, it’s actually not a bad way to explain why there are so many new superheroes.

The rest of the story is given to you via either Oracle or Calculator, and through your mentor (Batman, Superman, or my girl Wonder Woman if your a good guy, Lex, Circe, or the Joker if you’re a bad guy). They just sort of pop up when you’re the right level and begin filling you in. It’s nice because it’s all voiced, which allows you to absorb the story without having to go looking for quests and also you can keep walking while you do.

The story also introduces you to a lot o established heroes so, if you’re like me, you can fangirl your pretty face off about Huntress and Zatana and stuff.

The writing is really solid too. Sometimes it’s a little goofy, but that’s always been okay with me, and honestly it’s better than games that try to take themselves seriously al the time. If one is working with characters like the Joker and Oracle, one has to have something of a sense of humor.

 

Gameplay

Game play is where this game really shines. They use something a lot more like a fighting game style for combat. You have abilities, but you mostly just punch and kick and flame and ice and combo your way through stuff. It’s really fun and bouncy and intuitive, actually. Also, while the graphics aren’t something I’d write home about, the movement is really natural and awesome. It gives you your own fighting style that can feel totally unique to your character.

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Also I mean, who doesn’t wanna punch Batman sometimes?

I’m playing a character with brawling as a fighting style/weapon and fire as a superpower. It’s a really interesting, fun time because not only can I punch people, I can also set them on fire. But then if you wanted to play someone with a ranged weapon, like a gun or a bow, but also have a fire superpower, your fighting style would be very different.

As mentioned before, questing is really easy, and they release new issues with little stories every once in a while to continue the game.

Movement is also a lot of fun because you can climb/fly up buildings and stuff. Also, zero fall damage. Really, the game play contributes to making this game actually feel the way superhero movies, shows, and comics look. It makes you feel invincible…which isn’t the same thing as being easy. I die all the time. But I feel cool right before I do it.

 

The Good

Game play. Top notch stuff. Really fun and bouncy and intuitive combat,lots of powers to chose from to create your own play style.

Also you’re a superhero. Did I mention that part?

But in all seriousness, that actually is part of the cool part of this game. Unlike a lot of the superhero bullshit people (mostly Zack Snyder) shit out these days, this game doesn’t take itself even a little bit seriously. The joker clowns are just as stupid and ridiculous as you expect them to be. The superheroes make stupid jokes, as superheroes should.

Right                                                       Wrong

Because they’re supposed to be fun. The problem with making superheroes gritty is you’ll never get away from the fact that Batman responded to trauma by dressing as a bat and fighting crime. You’re stuck with that. And that’s totally stupid. DCUO is aware of that stupidity. It doesn’t ask you to ignore it. It asks you to embrace it.

The Bad

The level scaling always seemed a little funny to me. Things that are supposed to be on my level kick my ass every time. The story quests seem to run a little ahead of where they shoud and yeah, maybe that’s part of the challenge, but it gets frustrating after you die for the third time doing a quest that’s supposed to be a level or two below you.

The Ugly

Inventory. How hard is it to get a decent inventory up in this place? Honesty, though, the interface of this entire time game is messed up. As soon as you start fighting and instead want to buy something or change your stupid boots, it gets really complicated. The designers really had a hard-on for scroll menus which I dislike on principal,and it makes it really frustrating to get anything done.

Also my inventory is a mess. Whoever invented “Inventory Sorting” should be crowned as the supreme ruler of the world because every time I play a game that doesn’t have it, I get really angry.

From here…?

Get this game. Especially if you like superheroes, but even if you just like well designed, fun games. It’s a lot of fun in a sort of dorky way. Also you can slam your fist into the ground and shoot fire out of it. I mean, who doesn’t love that shit? I don’t want to know people who don’t.

If you’re a fan of the DC universe, I really urge you to give this a try. It’s a fun look at some famous superheroes. The writing for Oracle as a quest giver is especially good and it’s always wonderful to see my girl Barbara getting some love. So yeah, if you have any knowledge of the DC universe, or you want to know about it, this game is a decent place to start.

Next Month: Echo of Soul. TERA Part Two But Not As Awful? A long discussion of gender locks and quest grinding. Korea, why do you produce so many MMOs?

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