DC Universe Online Impressions

Sony Online Entertainment wants to make you feel more powerful than a locomotive in this superhero-themed online role-playing game.

DC Universe Online may not be the first superhero-themed massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (that's a mouthful, isn't it?), but it certainly looks poised to make a mark nonetheless. At E3 2010, we had a chance to see a behind-closed-doors demonstration of the game in action. The game is due to be released in November 2010, but even at this stage, it looks incredibly slick and action packed, full of colorful moves and exciting battles. The E3 trailer informs us that DC Universe Online is about "your story, your legend," and based on the game's excellent E3 showing, we think it might do just that.

The demo took place inside one of the game's episodes. Episodes are essentially story arcs in which you join (or fight) well-known characters from the DC universe. The episode we saw took place within an amusement park run by The Joker (of Batman fame, obviously). The player's goal? Defeat Harley Quinn and rescue Robin, the Boy Wonder, who seems to be having a hard time extricating himself from his own sticky situation. (As a side note, there were several humorous references to the Boy Wonder's apparent uselessness, which makes us hopeful for lots of funny, tongue-in-cheek dialogue from our favorite superheroes.) The bosses you fight and heroes you assist will change as you progress through the game. You'll start off by fighting lesser villains, but eventually, you'll be taking on the big boys. So while Harley Quinn will put up a fight, you can expect an even bigger one from The Joker himself.

Combat is centered on combos. The character we saw in action had a single sword equipped, but with that single sword, you can combine attacks and other moves into lethal combos, as well as juggle enemies in the air. The action is fast paced and looks much more like what you'd see in an action game than in a typical online RPG. You aren't stuck with a single blade, though. You can take up a bow and arrow; take aim with dual pistols; or use a staff, among other options. You can also use environmental objects to your advantage. Physics are an important part of the experience, and that focus means there are more tactical considerations than you might expect. For example, Joker's funhouse was littered with giant wrapped gifts that exploded when tossed. You can pick up objects like those presents and toss them at enemies, and the items behave in authentic ways when you do so.

There are other ways to bring the hurt, of course. A gadget-focused character like the one we saw in action can use objects like sticky bombs and implosion grenades, but movement is also an important aspect of the action. Characters might be able to fly, move at superspeed, glide around, and even go invisible to sneak up on enemies. You might leap from above and land in the middle of a group of enemies, sending them flying with a ground slam. And when you’re in trouble, you can roll out of the way. Sony Online Entertainment sees battlefield tactics as split among three important pillars: weapons, powers, and movement. Using these aspects together, you can survive and thrive in the game. The producers were also quick to point out that player skill is an important factor.

After a series of impactful fights, our hero discovered Harley Quinn, and a boss fight followed. The main dialogue was all fully voiced, and all of the acting we heard was very impressive. Harley's craziness shone through in both the dialogue and the voice-over, though it was most apparent in the attacks she unleashed. She uses a funny boxing-glove-on-a-spring attack to bash foes in her path and spins wildly about with her hammer jutting out, knocking down anyone in her path, among other choice moves. After a series of sharp-looking attacks, Harley was down and ready to be tied up until law enforcement could arrive. However, she did manage to drop some loot: a crazy-looking helmet. Fortunately, if you want to keep the helmet's stats without seeing the silly thing appear on your character, you can use appearance collections to customize the way you look without losing the benefits of the loot you collect.

Finally, the player set Robin free, who seemed both relieved to be free and humbled by his total uselessness. (Again, the voice acting makes a great impression.) A fantastic-looking comic-book-style scene followed, accompanied by great pulsing music and a trippy Harley Quinn voice-over in which she professed her love for The Joker--and relished her own insanity. Of course, you can't rescue Robin over and over again, forever. What happens when you reach the endgame? Well, it seems player-versus-player battles are one great way to stay invested. This is where heroes can tackle villains in a controlled environment, though PVP enthusiasts may also want to note that PVP servers will let heroes and villains freely beat up on each other.

The high-level character we saw in action was decked out in some pretty impressive-looking gear. According to SOE, this gear was given to the player by Batman, and other heroes will bestow similar gifts upon high-level characters that do them important favors. The map on which the PVP match took place was in the Australian outback, and teams were required to capture control points while beating each other to a pulp. Again, physics will provide an important tactical element, letting you pick up and throw objects at your foes with ease. SOE stressed that the goal was to make the game as fun as possible. As such, powers and combos are balanced based on the circumstance. You might be able to juggle enemies in the air indefinitely, for example. But if you are on the receiving end of a string of knockback attacks, you know that that kind of inescapable damage loop is anything but fun. As such, those types of attacks will bring diminishing returns, and skills will be balanced to make things fun and fair for everyone.

It will be exciting to see the DC license come to life in SOE's upcoming MMOG; after all, this is the world in which both Gotham and Metropolis exist. And as far as we can tell, DC Universe Online captures the essence of the license without relying on it to provide all the entertainment. The game looks fun and furious, and fortunately, we only need to wait a few more months before we get to try out the final product. GameSpot will work faster than a speeding bullet to bring you more on DC Universe Online before then.

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Kevin-V

Kevin VanOrd

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
DC Universe Online

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23 comments
sirkarl1
sirkarl1

yeah i agree dont see why i shouldpay to play a game i already own... never did get that

Azorean269
Azorean269

I'm about to piss a lot of people off but how stupid are you guys. You pay between $40.00 and $50.00 for the cd then a monthly subscription that will total $180.00 a year, assuming $15.00 a month. But then you get mad when people say that it doesn't make sense. Any mmo that charges a monthly subscripiton is just abusing you gamers for money. And your all stupid enough to pay. If they wanted to make extra money they could have exclusive pay for items or something like that or a storage fee to house your item but not a mothly subscription to just play the game. If PS3 goes this way than I gotta say I would lose a lot of respect for the company!

DeViLzzz
DeViLzzz

I am done with mmorpgs hopefully after uninstalling WOW today. I had wanted to play various other new mmorpgs coming out and play them casually with family but I know what happens to me when I play these games. I end up playing them way too often and end up raiding on a schedule. With me having kids and wanting my days freed up for random things well playing mmorpgs isn't going to work. GL DC Universe but no go for me.

Barighm
Barighm

Sounds like DC Universe will preserve its action elements. I heard Champions Online WAS more of an action game, but it was transformed into something more like a WoW clone. Very dumb of them not to release that on the 360 like they said they would (no WoW there; now it looks like Borderlands will steal that market in the future).

Olsenz
Olsenz

after Star Wars Galaxaies I don't feel like trying another by them

Erdum
Erdum

i cant wait! :D

Patchyfett10
Patchyfett10

14.99 a month? The game looks awesome, but since I am not made of money, it looks like I won't be playing this one.

RatchetV1
RatchetV1

15 bucks a month wtf thats a lot. no buy. although this looks freakin awesome.

organbank
organbank

Thanks for clearing that up. I guess I'll have to wait and see what they will be giving us for $14.99 a month.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@organbank -- The PS3 version will also bring a monthly fee with it, I am afraid; $14.99 on both systems. This is information given to me directly in the demo session.

organbank
organbank

Thanks for the link. While it does say there is a fee, it does not say whether its a fee for PC only. It will be good to get some clarrification because, in one of the E3 interviews, one of the devs was talking about the capability of having both platforms on the one server but it would depend on the business model for each, so I'm assuming the PS3 may have a different model to the PC.

agnester
agnester

If this game is p2p.... forget it

organbank
organbank

@CloudStrife97: Could you please post a link of the business model they have proposed for the PS3. I've seen most of the interviews and can't find any info. on whether there will be a sub fee for PS3 users. Still it looks good, and considering EA/Bioware's absolutely terrible customer support record, I'd say this will be a better buy than SW:ToR!

Bartz101
Bartz101

I don't want to pay to play, but I AM STILL BUYING this AWESOME AMAZING MAGNIFICENT FANTASTIC GAME. (as you can see, I LOVE DC UNIVERSE.....) but a small and not widely known game called STAR WARS THE OLD REPUBLIC WILL BE JUST AS AWESOME! (maybe better but I don't know...:) : :) IM STILL gonnA play both games though so......! :) :)

CloudStrife97
CloudStrife97

It is pay to play, $15 a month, it was announced yesterday.

Alfredo_Sauce
Alfredo_Sauce

It kind of seems like you don't have to pay to play. If it is that will be awesome but if not I'm still gonna buy it cause it looks sweeeeeeeeeet.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Donkeljohn -- What I saw was very fluid and slick, but as you'd expect it was a limited amount of controlled content.

Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn

Thanks KVO for the preview, but was it as broken as people say it is?

Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Morf_uni
Morf_uni

I'm looking forward to DCUO. Having followed the DCUO team on facebook for well over a year, the game seems to keep improving and the team seem to really care about their product being polished and high quality from the get go instead of having to fix the game once it's out. Getting it for the PS3. Cheers gamespot for an extremely well done coverage of E3 so far.