|System: PC, PS3|
|Dev: SONY Online Ent.|
|Pub: SONY Online Ent.|
|Release: Q1 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
in Blackest Night
by Andrew Groen
June 23, 2009 - DC Universe Online is heading into an increasingly crowded and competitive environment. With City of Heroes still running strong after more than five years and Champions Online's release date (September 1, 2009) just around the corner, the superhero MMO sub-genre is no longer the untapped goldmine that it once was. DCUO has a daunting task ahead as it now needs to charge a unique path that is at once familiar enough to be embraced by fans of the MMO genre as well as different enough to separate itself from the competition.
At present, the game is still in the pre-Alpha stage of the design process (read: it's got a long way to go,) but already DCUO is showing flickers of life. The demo included an example of a general quest, as well as a lengthy play session in the environment's player versus player (PvP) zone where we were able to match our skills against all of the other players on the show floor. And while the former may still need some work, the latter is where this game truly shines and gives us confidence that DCUO will be a force to be reckoned with.
The demo started with the solo-quest portion of the game. This quest had us working alongside the Joker as he plotted his nefarious deeds. During the combat section of this quest, my ice-themed villain was tasked with beating down thugs and affixing a control collar to their necks, which would force them to fight on my side. From there we moved on to a large boss arena. Assuming from the look of the circular, amphitheater-like environment that I was in for one heck of a brawl, I ripped a giant machine off the wall so that I would have something heavy that I could use to bash whatever mutated monstrosity was thrown my way.
This is likely one of the greatest allures of DCUO in its early state. Most objects you come across in the world can be picked up and used as weapons. If you're a superhero with flight capabilities, you could even fly up in the air with it in your hands and then spike it on top of your opponent's head.
As predicted, a huge, lumbering mad-science-experiment-gone-wrong charged after me as I jumped down into the arena. My giant club didn't last long against him but did fair damage. Luckily for me, some other players who were playing the demo caught up to me in the quest and helped me take out the giant beast. As he exploded in a gross display of guts and green stuff, it quickly became apparent to me that my next task was to pick up that giant thing's puss-covered brain and take it with me to a containment chamber; totally gross, but totally cool. In fitting with the theme of the rest of my play session, the brain was also used to beat down my foes.
Even though the DCU's mainstay heroes can't actually be played in the game, they appeared as bots in our PvP free-for-all. The combat in this zone was very fast-paced and hectic. With super heroes flying, shooting laser beams out of the eyes, smashing each other with stone fists, and otherwise destroying one another, it was tempting to just stand on the sidelines in awe as the spectacle unfolded. The good news is, even with such a frenetic pace, it never becomes overwhelming.
Unlike in games like World of Warcraft, where the player is often forced to use any of their 80+ spells at a moment's notice, DCUO forces players to choose eight spells before they go on a mission. I was told by the developers that they believe this not only encourages strategic thinking, but also that it will allow the player to focus on creativity in their attacks rather than getting lost in their ability list. I definitely found this to be the case as there were more than a few unique ways to dispatch enemies with my Ice-villain. For example, I was able to use my freezing ray to trap Green Lantern in a block of ice, pick him up, and bash Wonder Woman over the head with his frozen form until he thawed.
DCUO has the potential to boldly go where no MMO has gone before, and truly take combat to the next level. We've already seen that a great foundation has been laid, but now Sony Online Entertainment has to stay the course and deliver an entire world that is as engaging and fun as this zone.
Comic book fans have long thirsted for a way to truly escape into the worlds of their icons. Hopefully DCUO can finally fulfill the dreams of generations of gamers, taking us deep into the black streets of Gotham and the blue skies of Metropolis.
CCC Freelance Writer