Review by Xtreme1
"Live in the world of Legendary and Iconic Heroes"
It's very difficult to give an accurate rating to a game like this -an MMO whose very nature is to change and grow over the passing of time. As a reader, understand that the game that I impart judgment upon now may in fact be a very different game than the one you come to play later down the road. My only hope is that the game this becomes months down the road provides an even more outstanding and enjoyable experience than it already provides. That said, keep in mind that until the day comes that the developers can no longer keep building onto the foundation already provided that this game is and will be for some time to come a work in progress. And for a work in progress, it's a lovely and entertaining piece of work.
Now, I'm not going to try and categorize the different aspects of this game and attach a score to each trying to justify a positive review. Yes, I'll cover all the bases and tell you exactly what you need to know about this game that may help you in deciding whether or not you want to make a venture and try it out for yourself.
We'll start off with an introduction to what this game is all about. Chances are, since you've been looking at this game, you're familiar with the DC Universe. This is the world of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and all the heroes and villains that have graced comic books, television, and film for decades. The game does a fairly decent job of bringing this world to life. When you begin, you start off freshly awoken on the alien ship of Brainiac - the current main antagonist to the game's storyline. From there on you'll venture to one of two cities Metropolis, home of Superman or Gotham, where Batman continually battles the criminal underworld. Both main areas provide a great contrast to one another. Gotham is very dark, dirty, and foreboding in nature. Metropolis, on the other hand, is bright and filled with tall almost futuristic buildings. For your first portion of play, you'll largely be doing most of your missions in one of these two cities. They are pretty well-designed, and the first time I stepped into Gotham I literally felt as though I'd walked onto the old 1990's animated Batman series. The downside to both these main cities is that though they are aesthetically please, they can, at times, feel somewhat devoid of life. You'll encounter citizens, thugs, villains, and even people committing suicide (hilarious), but neither Metropolis or Gotham ever feel like real living breathing cities. This may be understandable considering that this an MMO and built to be an MMO, not something like Grand Theft Auto where the over world is as much an aspect of the game as the gameplay itself. It doesn't really detract anything fundamental from the game, but it is disappointing to notice that it feels like you're running/flying/jumping though a world made of cardboard.
Outside of Metropolis and Gotham, there are also several smaller areas to explore. First and foremost is the Watchtower and Hall of Doom. These places, depending on your alignment, will be where you spend the majority of your game in the latter end. They, like Metropolis and Gotham, feel very different from one another. The Hall of Doom is a lair where all the evil dudes of the universe gather and hang out and it very much feels like that sort of place. It's dark, sinister, and just the kind of evil hideout you'd imagine a guy like Lex Luthor attacking the world from. The Watchtower, however, is much larger, brighter, futuristic and on a personal note, confusing to get around in. Whichever side you chose to align with, hero or villain, this is where you'll be lounging after you hit the max level (30 as of the time of this writing) and are looking for endgame content.
It's the endgame content that will take you to some of the more interesting areas. There are these missions called alerts (you can also play some alerts before level 30, but they are far less rewarding) and raids that take you on multi-tiered level based missions to everywhere from the moon to Area 51. These missions are dependant on utilizing groups of players in order to succeed. They can be lengthy for first-timers, but you will be rewarded if you and a group can tackle them quickly. These missions provide some much needed variety and scenery to the game, and are the majority of the fun you'll find later on. Going through Superman's hometown of Smallville wasn't something I was expecting, and it was a real treat to play through the alert and even get to see old Ma and Pa Kent. These alerts and raids are greatly varied and offer a lot of different segments of the DC Universe that you won't find in the main cities.
Now the story in DC Universe is somewhat thinly structured. Lex Luthor from an alternate future has come back to seemingly prevent Brainiac from destroying the world by releasing exobytes -tiny machines that have give you and thousand others powers stolen from the future. From there on you stick it with a mentor of your choosing and play through the rest of the game Occasionally you'll find a mission that takes you across Brainiac himself, but there are several other storylines woven in and out of the game. A gangwar has erupted in Gotham, causing chaos and strife everywhere as Batman, the Joker, and the other villains of the city play a game of cat-and-mouse. Metropolis has several villains wreaking havoc in different manners across key points of the city. And in both cities Brainiac has begin to bottle up and section off areas for his own purpose. It isn't entirely cohesive, but it isn't meant to be. Brainiac is used mostly as a plot-device, and a reason for your character to exist. Aside from that, the story is simply set to explore the many characters and situations that arise when given such a diverse universe to work with. Batman and Black Adam may be two characters that don't fit well with each other, but they're both here and they both have large storylines devoted to them. The Green Lantern Corps can be found in the city, with their own plight for your hero or villain to get into. It's not a nobel-prize winning story, nor will it bring you to tears but it does adequately set the stage and give you reason to keep up in your ventures. I do find it disheartening that even if you choose Batman or anyone else as your mentor, your actual missions and storyline with them is very limited. Most of the time you'll be handed missions from another mentor, or by Oracle or Calculator -who serve as the narrators for most missions. It didn't really seem like the heroes and villains were mentoring you at all when at best you get three or four missions from them and no kind of special dialogue where they actually acknowledge you individually. Hopefully one day down the road they can expand the content a bit more so that you're more involved with the hero or villain that you're supposed to be working with.
The voice acting comes in at extremes in this game. You have Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy returning to the roles they made famous in the Batman cartoon, and they are amazing when you here them. But then you have other roles that absolutely make you cringe. The good voice acting helps draw you into the game, but the bad absolutely puts you out of it. I apologize in advance to anyone choosing Circe as their mentor her voice is like nails upon the chalkboard, and she has many lengthy monologues -even if she isnt your mentor.
Now, I'm not very experienced with the world of MMOs, so I can't say for sure, but from what I can gather DCU does handle game play a little differently than most MMOs. Everything you do is largely action-based. Combat is quick, precise, and designed to play like an old brawler intermittent with super powers. This, I believe, is where DCU counts on a lot of strength from. You're a superhero, or super villain, so you want to fight like one. You want to punch, kick, fly, run really fast and you can do all that. You can beat down a thug and then, with the press of a button, shoot lasers into his chest. Want to pick up a bus and throw it into the giant robot? You can do that. Each weapon has specific combos that control how you attack. For example, a bow and arrow user can unlock a combo that allows them to rain down a dozen arrows simultaneously upon their target. A hand blaster fighter can attack a person with lightning from their fingers. And a pistols user can unload unlimited ammo to his hearts content. Movement abilities are also unlocked. Speedsters can get a jump-boost, or become a human tornado and attack targets. Sony seems to have built this with consoles in mind, so this plays like a dream on the PS3. It's never hard or convoluted to figure out how to get around or attack things. You'll gain levels and become open to more and more abilities while you gradually learn more and more about how your character will play. I do wish the leveling system were a bit different, and rather than have to choose new abilities or skills that you could instead build upon what you have (for instance, use a power point to improve your first power to a heightened level and have it do more damage or have a wider area of affect with different animation) but what they have works well enough. It's easy to pick up, and once you get into your roles you'll be controlling crowds and bosses like clockwork.
As a longtime DC comics fan, I was very pleased to find a game that engaged the DC Universe in such a way that it not only brought it to life, but actually showed me some things I didn't know about the comics. The biggest detractor from my, and anyone's enjoyment, is that though the game is expansive it can seem somewhat limited. With such a rich universe with so many locations, you might wonder why the only two over world cities are Metropolis and Gotham. The Green Lantern homeworld, Oa, or Atlantis where Aquaman hails would have been great additions that were also very different from the other cities. Only six mentors seems a bit small, given that there are many other popular superheroes in the DC universe. The fact that the level cap ends at 30 seems a little low, especially considering that you can get to level 30 in a matter of days. Ultimately, unless you enjoy doing a lot of grinding for endgame gear and repeating many of the same missions over and over again, you're not going to find a lot of life to this game. It's a shame because it really does have potential. With a universe as big as DC, I can only imagine the missions and worlds we might one day be able to play in. For now, however, it is all very limiting.
All in all, I'd say that for a work in progress, they've shown great effort. DC Universe is literally captured to the full extent here, but there is still so much more. If players continue to support this game, given time, I believe that this game will one day completely fulfill the promise of what it can deliver. Until then, it's a solid piece of work that I hope many gamers will enjoy down the line in spite of the issues present now.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/27/11
Game Release: DC Universe Online (US, 01/11/11)
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