Over the past few years, DC Comics has brought its multimedia to new levels. With its Christopher Nolan “Batman” films, the upcoming “Green Lantern” film and the award-winning comic book crossovers in “Blackest Night,” the one realm the company hasn’t touched yet is the online video game industry — until now.
DC Universe Online is a spin on the classic genre of massive multiplayer online role-playing games. While DC Comics does not add anything new to MMORPGs as a whole, the novelty of creating superheroes to battle against classic DC comic book villains, or vice versa, is enticing.
The game’s premise is simple: In the near future, Lex Luthor will kill Superman along with most of the world’s other superheroes, thereby allowing the villain Braniac to enslave the people of Earth without any protectors to fight his evil tyranny. Luthor, sensing he has made a mistake by killing all those with superhuman powers, blasts back to the past to warn Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman of the impending doom.
While placed in a setup like most MMORPGs, where players can customize their characters in everything from appearance to fighting role, DCUO is different. Its distinct yet familiar story line pushes the game play forward and makes it easy for even new fans of the genre to enjoy.
Players can create disciplines for their superheroes, choosing from one of six options: power, fire, ice, mental, nature, sorcery and gadgets. DCUO also features variations of movement, flight, super speed and acrobatics along with a myriad of weaponry and fighting styles from which players can select. Players can also choose their medium for gaining power, such as Batman’s martial arts, and the combat role they wish to play, such as
Superman’s defensive character. Also, choosing a mentor to base the origin of their powers becomes important. The mentor defines what type of armor and physical characteristics the superhuman characters adapt.
Unlike most MMORPGs, armor is entirely customizable. It also gives each character a particular stat, either higher attack or defense, benefiting them during battle scenes. However, if gamers do not like their customized armor piece, they can return to their character’s default armory without losing the statistical boost the armor gives them. In DCUO, stat changes caused by armor are more important than the characters’ aesthetics.
The game is user-friendly and designed with novice players in mind, but that does not detract from the difficulty of the raids at the end of the game. One of the toughest raids, against the “Doomsday” villain, requires a combination of well-equipped attackers: destructive tanks, health-managing healers and stat-boosting controllers. Even teams that have reached the highest level could fall to the immense difficulty of the raid.
Unfortunately, the game’s mechanics limit the power potential of some superheroes. Fan favorites, like the Green Lantern and Aquaman, are reduced to non-playable characters that cannot mimic their distinctive powers or abilities. However, the release of these skills by mid-game mediates the problem. Thanks to a little technical tweaking and the use of iconic powers such as super breath, heat vision and super strength, the game allows players to come close to embodying “The Man of Steel.”
As DC Universe Online was made to accommodate beginner players, its easy-to-defeat levels may turn off hardcore MMORPG fans. Also, because the game is only a few weeks old, it still has some viral bugs and technical glitches, including trapping players in buildings with no exit or disconnecting them from the site during important missions.
While the easily beatable levels and stale battle system renders the game mediocre, DC Universe Online’s concept and use of legendary superheroes and events fuel this game, leaving fans hopeful for a mind-blowing expansion pack.
3 out of 4 stars