In the last two months, two major MMO products have debuted, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and DC Universe Online. The first is the latest expansion to a much-loved and long-running franchise. The second marks the beginning of an all-new experience. For someone who's just starting out in MMOs, which is better?
As a newcomer to MMOs, I reviewed both games, as well as writing several CCC columns about Cataclysm. The bottom line: There are advantages to both, but I found DCU a lot more enjoyable. Here's why.
First up are the graphics. DCU does a great job of depicting gritty urban settings, complete with cops and criminals, heroes and villains, distraught civilians, and ominous buildings. (Say that ten times fast.) A haunting, dark atmosphere permeates the entire game world, making you feel like you're in a modern comic-book reboot movie along the lines of The Dark Knight. WoW has bland colors, weak textures, and an immature tone in comparison. When I move from place to place in DCU, I enjoy the scenery; when I move from place to place in WoW, I keep wondering if I'm there yet.
Speaking of moving, transportation is another area where DCU puts WoW to shame. As a superhero, you can fly or zip around at high speeds, but as a member of the Horde or the Alliance, you're stuck walking or riding silly animals. That's a no-brainer win for DCU.
The characters in DCU are a lot more compelling, too. Many are familiar faces, such as Batman and Lex Luthor, and the voice acting is superb. The NPCs in Warcraft, by contrast, communicate mainly by text, and while there are definitely some quirky personalities, none of them will strike fear in your heart the way the Joker does -- or, um, keep your attention the way Catwoman can.
But for me, what really put DCU over the top is the combat. World of Warcraft tries to find a halfway point between real-time combat and traditional RPG mechanics, and it ends up just feeling weird. It's ridiculous when a melee attack hits you even though you can see, right there on the screen, that your opponent's sword was nowhere near you. It doesn't look any better when a long-range attack bends when you try to dodge it. DCU doesn't solve these problems completely, but it does manage to move the fighting system significantly in the direction of real-time combat, and it's better off for it. You'll still see projectiles that turn in funny ways and the occasional melee whiff that nonetheless does damage, but it's a lot more rare. As a result, punching, kicking, and shooting your opponents has a visceral feel that combat in WoW completely lacks. What's even better, DCU doesn't make you backtrack to your corpse when you die, which makes the hard parts a lot less frustrating. To put it bluntly, in an ideal world, DCU's combat would feel like Bayonetta, and WoW's combat would feel like Zelda. DCU gets close to that ideal, but WoW doesn't.
Of course, WoW has legions of fanatical devotees, and there are reasons for that. In the interest of fairness, I'll point out a few.
First, it's a long-running franchise that has faced down countless competitors and come out on top. If you log in on any given day, you are guaranteed to find fellow players, and if you buy a copy, you know it won't join the ranks of the dead MMOs anytime soon. You also know that the entire game has been updated countless times, so you're guaranteed a smooth experience. A new game, no matter how good, doesn't come with that kind of guarantee -- even if its creators have sunk $50 million into it, as Sony did with DCU.
Also, both games have top-notch stories, and some people will prefer WoW's fantasy world to DCU's comic-book setting. If you'd rather read a J. R. R. Tolkien book than a Batman graphic novel, or if you'd rather cast a spell than attack from the shadows with a frantic series of blows, you'll be better off with WoW.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*