DC Universe Online Review

By Dan O'Holloran - Posted Jan 25, 2011

SOE's DC Universe Online allows you to play for your favorite heroes and villains, earning their respect, their gear and even the ability to play as them in special PvP arenas. If you ever wanted to be Superman's protege, The Joker junior or Batman's back-up, this is the MMO for you.

The Pros
  • Interact with your favorite DC superhero or villain
  • Play as your favorite hero or villain in PvP arenas
  • Content for many different playstyles
The Cons
  • Long waits for PvP queues
  • Too many Superman clones
  • Level cap at 30 for launch

Massively multiplayer superhero games are nothing new. City of Heroes has been out for years and Champions Online brought console clicky action to the genre two years ago. But what those other titles don't have that Sony Online Entertainment does is a license to bring iconic superheroes into their newest MMO, DC Universe Online. And along with Superman, Batman, The Joker, Wonder Woman and more comes the Hall of Doom, Smallville, Gotham City and many small touches that make you feel you are truly living in a comic book world. Without the annoying crossovers, annual issues and retcons. 

Attack of the Clones

Character creation in DCUO can be either superfun or superquick. If you want to jump right into the game, you can craft a new hero or villain from templates based on Lex Luthor, Catwoman, Green Arrow, The Flash, Mr. Freeze and more. Then just think of a clever name and you’re ready to roll. The downside is you’ll be one of dozens of Superman clones flying around. Not that DC ever had duplicates of Superman flying around in the comic book world. Nope, not ever. Ok, maybe that once, but he was supercool. And possibly from an alternate universe.

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For those of you that want to craft their own unique character, the game boasts an intricate creation tool that will allow you to mix and match not only your costume colors, but your superpowers as well. Your special abilities come from two different sources: weapon and powers. Obsessed with playing a bow-wielding badass? You can put together a character specializing in bows that shoot arrows of fire or ice or magic and more. Just want to blow stuff up in a spectacular fashion? You can select from a variety of devastating fire attacks using guns, swords, or your bare hands.

DCUO devs made a smart move by allowing powers to have both a DPS function and a secondary tank, healer or controller function. This way you can choose between a loadout of abilities depending on your role in any given fight. No more being stuck in a single role your whole career, but good luck deciding who is going to give up the ability to top the DPS charts in random pick up groups! 

Who's Your Superdaddy?

One of the great immersive features of the game starts with choosing a Legendary mentor for your new character. For heroes that’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. For the villains, it’s Lex Luthor, The Joker and Circe. (What? No Ambush Bug!?) They each represent different philosophies and will give you different rewards throughout the game. They will also guide you as you level, sending you video messages with missions and eventually allowing you to wear special PvP armor styled like their own. Think shiny, suit of metallic Batman armor or Fortress of Solitude-like crystalline Superman gear. Not sure about Wonder Woman’s ultimate armor set, but it sure to be skimpy and revealing!

This level of immersion in the DC world continues as you start in either Metropolis or Gotham City after the tutorial. You will be sent on a series of linked missions combating familiar heroes or villains that end with a boss fight that you will probably recognize from some part of your misspent  childhood reading comics and watching cartoons. Superman had my mind-bending, staff-wielding, leather-clad superhero save the city from being overrun by intelligent gorillas, then rescue The Flash from the mastermind behind it all, Gorilla Grodd, in a challenging, instanced boss fight. At higher levels you will be facing down well known characters such as Bizarro, Mr. Freeze, Dr. Fate, The Flash and others. (No, not Wolverine. Wrong universe, bub.)

For those of you not drawn in by the appeal of hanging with the Man of Steel or taking orders from a maniacal supervillain, there's still the many forms of PvP to enjoy as well as the solo missions, group instances and the hardcore raiding content. Strip away the spandex and you still have a solid RPG with leveling, gear progression, group roles and crafting, plus the social aspects of an MMO. 

For Truth, Justice and PvP Bragging Rights!

PvE action is more than just solo questing. Instanced group missions, two-person missions and full raids are available for your do-gooding pleasure (or evil machinations; I don’t judge.) The missions are a series of objectives in phases and the game leads you along so you always know what needs killing next. It’s dealing with other people in your group that’s a challenge. I’m looking at you, Mr. I-can-tank-but-I’d-rather-play-DPS.

PvP is a big part of the game and starts as early as level 6 when you can take on the role of a legendary DC character in a 4v4 match set in the creepy Arkham Asylum. Unless you preordered the game, your only choice at the beginning is Robin for heroes and Harlequin for villains. Other characters choices are earned at higher levels. But the big problem I found was the imbalance of people playing heroes on my server made for an agonizing wait when I queued up a 4v4 game. And when enough villain players were found to launch the match, three immediately dropped and the four of us heroes dominated the one villain that remained. World of Warcraft faced much the same problem in PvP and instituted a cross-server matching system to even out the pool of PvP players. DCUO could stand to do much the same thing to encourage players to participate. More PvP arenas open up at later levels including additional Legendary PvP scenarios, arena battles where you play your own character and world PvP as well.

Up, up and away! There Goes All Your Free Time.

DC Universe Online includes many popular features of current MMOs, playability on both the PlayStation 3 and PC and total immersion into the well-known world of DC Comics. Launch content smartly caters to many playstyles with inspired solo questing, group missions, end game raiding and PvP scenarios. Backed by SOE, this superhero MMORPG is both fun and challenging with just a few small bumps that need ironing out. With the DC world at its disposal, I’m confident that this title has years of growth ahead of it. 



On The PS3

The PlayStation 3 version of the game is almost identical to the PC version. It has the same character creation tools, playable content and multiplayer options. The only differences are the obvious ones like the commands to execute special powers and the cumbersome act of using the PS3 on-screen keyboard to chat. SOE has done a seamless job of creating the same game experience for both PS3 and PC players. Graphically speaking, I saw little difference between the PS3 and PC versions of the games. Both sport the same particle effects, costume colors and outdoor environments. The PC version fared a bit better but it had the advantage of being on my smaller PC screen while the PS3 version was blown up 8x larger on my big screen TV.

If you have both systems, it comes down to a matter of preference. I enjoy the PC version for easier chatting while my 8-year old son prefers the PS3 where he can non-stop blow up everything in his path. Your inner 8-year old can make the decision for you.