MMO + Superheroes = Awesome?
What’s the problem with the current crop of popular MMOs? An utter lack of superheroes, that’s what.
At least that’s the philosophy behind DC Universe Online, a new entry in the genre due in the first quarter of next year from Sony Online Entertainment. And we think they’re on to something: What comic-book fan could resist the temptation to become a hero or villain and roam the streets of Metropolis or Gotham? To visit Arkham Asylum or Justice League World Headquarters? To help Superman best Doomsday and Lex Luthor in a fight?
Judging by the trailer (you can watch it by searching YouTube for “Who Do You Trust DC Online”), as the story begins, a future Luthor has traveled through time to the present day. He comes bearing a message: An impending war will have so many casualties that it will make the Earth vulnerable to an extraterrestrial invasion. Brainiac waits at the ready to take over the planet and bring about the end of humanity. This seemed fine to Luthor-from-the-future when it happened, but then Brainiac betrayed him, so he changed his mind, stole some time-traveling equipment from Brainiac, and came back to change the course of history. We see images from that war, culminating in the brutal death of Superman.
Toward that end, Luthor has stolen a technology called “exobytes” from Brainiac that can turn anyone into a superhero or supervillain, and brought it back with him to the present. That’s what will enable you to make your character, and we gather there are tons of options in that regard. You can even preserve your hero’s look when you find clothes that offer powerups by extracting the value of the items without actually wearing them. Then, Brainiac kidnaps you, but you escape. You then choose a starting city and a high-profile hero or villain mentor (Wonder Woman, Joker, etc.).
That trailer also gives us a pretty good idea of what the game will feel like. Its cutscenes will feature dark, super-realistic graphics, along with the intense atmosphere that many comic-book movies (most notably The Dark Knight) have explored recently. Not to mention ridiculous fight scenes, questionable voice acting, and the occasional “shazaam!” exclamation. Oh, and a very violent, very creepy-eyed Superman. Judging by the screenshots released thus far, the game itself will look slightly less detailed and more cartoonish.
In terms of gameplay, not all of the details have come out yet. Most of the MMO basics will be there (yes to leveling, raids, and endgame, but no to crafting for now), and the developers have promised that interactivity and simple action and combat will be key. Plan on learning lots of cool attacks and fighting moves. Group play is possible, but optional until endgame — you can max your level solo, and all six of the classes have a damage mode, so specialization isn’t too important early on, either. Early reports indicate a max level of 30, which will take sixty or so hours to achieve. Player-versus-player modes include arena (fight with your character) and legends (fight as an iconic hero or villain).
The story will unfold in a series of “Cases.” Known Cases include a fight between Superman on the one hand, and Doomsday and Lex Luthor on the other, and saving Robin from Harley Quinn. The Joker, of course, will also be up to some mayhem as the end of humanity draws nigh.
MMOs are a tricky business — half the time, you can’t tell whether they’re any good for months after release — but DC Universe Online definitely has the potential to become a hit. More than 100 heroes and villains are confirmed, the graphics in the trailer look terrific, and there’s a whole lot of talent working on this project. Comics vet Jim Lee is the executive creative director; other developers include Chris Cao (who’s worked on EverQuest and Star Wars games) and Geoff Johns (who’s handled The Green Lantern, Superman, and The Flash for DC, and written for Smallville). The voice cast, many of whom will reprise roles they’ve played for animated comics, will include Wil Wheaton, Mark Hamill, Adam Baldwin, Kevin Conroy, and Corey Burton.
In other words, if this game fails, it won’t be for lack of funding, staff, or creative resources. Sony has made a serious investment in getting this MMORPG off the ground; the only question remaining is whether the development team managed to create that special, undefinable “spark” that makes a game really take off. That’s what it will take to make DC Universe Online worth its $50 or $60 sticker price (for PC and PS3 respectively), plus $15 per month in subscription fees.
So, if you’re a PC or PS3 gamer, you’ll want to keep an eye on this game. If it’s as captivating as it looks right now, it’ll be worth quite a few hours of your time.
In Brightest Day,
in Blackest Night
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.
What It Takes to Be a Hero
August 27, 2008 – When I was younger and racing to the comic book shop, I had one recurring thought; how cool would it be to have a good game that involved my favorite heroes? Even to this day, I would emphasize good . Let’s face it – we have been treated like neglected children when it comes to comic book games. I mean yeah, we have had a few decent ones, Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance, X-Men Legends, and even Ultimate Spider-Man. However, there is an issue with the aforementioned titles, they all are Marvel related.
I know what some of you are saying, why the hate towards the Marvel licenses? Well, I have to say, it is less hate and more frustration. However, thanks to a few noteworthy people, the time for the DC Universe to shine could be on the horizon. Probably one of the most significant individuals bringing to life the many dreams of comic book fans is Jim Lee.
You can’t really call yourself a comic book fan without at least knowing one influential Jim lee inspired moment. Superstar artist of such titles as The X-Men, WildC.A.T.S, Batman, and Superman, Jim Lee has put his signature on many of the industries greatest heroes. Since Jim Lee is the truest inspiration behind the DC Universe Online game, nearly every character and cityscape is based off his vision. With the video and screenshots we have already seen, you can tell his influence is being taken seriously. That being said though, there are a few dead spaces in the details of the environments. While it could just be too early in development, since we have yet to receive a release date, I truly hope these minor inconsistencies can be ironed out before the game actually hits.
Speaking of the environments specifically, another chore of Jim Lee’s is to recreate every nook and cranny of the DCU. Judging by the few concept art pieces I have already seen of Metropolis and Gotham City, there will be plenty for the comic lover and casual fan of the god-like heroes to explore. Heck, even Bilbo’s Bar on the pier in Metropolis has gotten the digital treatment. Of course, having illustrious environments wouldn’t really matter if you didn’t have equally impressive character representations.
DC Universe Online doesn’t appear to fall short in that area. Some of the Universe’s heaviest hitters were featured in the debut trailer, including Green Lantern, The Flash, Bane, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman. There was also Hush, a character that DC seems to have forgotten after Jim Lee’s and Jeph Loeb’s memorable “Hush” story arch in Batman #608 to #619. However, having all these iconic characters might not be enough to get you excited about the upcoming game. But what if you could create a character that could stand amongst these legends, and to take on their notorious villains? Maybe better yet, what if you could turn the tables, and create a character that could stand toe-to-toe against these heroic giants? That’s the basic idea behind DC Universe Online.
I know some of you reading right now might be saying “What!? I can’t play as my favorite heroes or villains?” Initially, I agreed that this idea sounded lame. But, then I started thinking about how awesome it would be to have Superman or Batman drop in to give me hand, possibly being offered a spot on the reserve list of the Justice League, or maybe, after all these years, fully appreciate Aquaman for being able to talk to tuna.
Additionally, the levels of customization are supposed to be to the point that if you can think of a costume or ability, then you can do it. Not knowing the full extent of this feature is a bit daunting, as I can imagine a lot. For now, I will hold out on deciding until more information is available. I hope my dreams of having a character I created beat the crap out of the Joker or champion behind Green Arrow will come true.
Creating characters amongst the DC Universe is all fine and grand, but what exactly are we going to be doing aside form running through the streets, getting grandmas from trees, and helping cats cross the street? Probably my favorite and most intriguing aspect of the game will be the storylines. Most of them will be deeply rooted in the story arcs that have made people buy the comics for years. There is no official word yet on the exact storylines,we can expect when the game launches. However, I have heard there are plans to incorporate current arcs, like “Final Crisis” and the still fresh in the mind “52” down the line. I personally hope they do the “Reign of the Supermen” and “Knightfall” stories that have somehow become legend, in spite of being worthless to some.
Either way, DC Universe Online has the potential to become that one MMO I will dive into, if for no other reason, than to say I created a character in the DC Universe…sort of. With the industry’s, arguably, most prolific characters, and the visionary illustrations of Jim Lee guiding the digital interpretation of the entire universe, there’s not much that could go wrong with the game. Well, except for the monthly fee that has yet to be discussed.