Now that the game has finally been given a definitive release date, over the next week we wanted to give you some of our first impressions on Sony Online Entertainment's highly anticipated DC Universe Online via the beta. As the title is an MMO, we really wanted to take the time to delve deeper into DCUO and be able to try out the many different aspects behind it. Bear in mind that this is the beta and things can still change or be added at any time. The first aspects we're going to take a look at are the opening cinematic, character creation, and tutorial level, but even if all of that were sub-par, you'd still have Superman, Batman and the Green Lantern to fall back on...
First impressions have always been really important to me, and I'm happy to report that DC Universe Online left a great first impression. Right off the bat, the opening cinematic grabbed me and took me for quite the spin. It was fast, action packed, filled with familiar faces, and after it was over I couldn't wait to make my very own character. If you're a fan of the DC Universe you're definitely going to want to check this out. It has Cyborg, Batman, Green Lantern, Deathstroke, Circe, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, The Joker, Flash, Harley Quinn, Atom, and of course, Superman.
The story behind the opening cinematic is that Lex Luthor travels back in time to talk to Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman about a future that will come true if they don't stop the evil Brainiac from taking over. Since in the future all of the heroes and villians are fighting amongst themselves, when Brainiac finally arrives, there is no one left to defeat him. In order to build up a new force, Luthor has released devices called exobites into the atmosphere that turn regular people into super heroes (or villians). A bit convoluted, sure, but it's fun and the cinematic is truly a sight to see. Once you're done watching the cinematic you get to create your brand new character with DC's brilliant character creator.
It was in the character creation screens that I truly had the most fun with this title. Coming from World of Warcraft, where you have maybe seven choices per feature, the absolutely huge variety of different choices in DCUO blew me away. Everything is fully customizable from your attitude all the way down to your boots. You can change the colors of every aspect of your hero or villian, and even choose their preferred weapons, skills, and archetypes. I probably spent more time messing around in the character creator than I did playing for the first few characters I made. It was just so fun to mix and match, see what classes did what, and so on. Here's a detailed breakdown of the character creator:
First things first, you have to choose your gender. Hard choice I know, but hey, it has to be done. I went with a girl. The next thing you get to choose is if you want to a large, medium, or small physique. You can't change the stature of your character (i.e. make them fat/skinny or more muscular) but that's about the only thing you can't manipulate in the character creator. I went with a medium sized hero...
If you want your character to be inspired by existing DC icon, your choices are Batman, Superman,Catwoman, Lex Luthor, The Joker, Flash, Wonder Woman, Deathstroke, Bane, Circe, Beast Boy, Mister Freeze, Green Arrow, Steel, and Martian Manhunter. Once you choose, the game customizes all of your choices to that character, including your character's looks, personality, morality, mentor, powers, weapons, and their movement type. If you don't want to be inspired by another superhero or villian then you can go back and customize all of these things yourself. I wanted to create a girl that looked like Olivia Wilde's character Quorra in Tron, so that's what I set about doing.
PREVIEWS: 10 More DC Universe Online Previews
Once completed, you'll want to select whether you're a black-hat or a white-hat (I was a hero), as well as your overall personality. This feature doesn't affect gameplay at all, it's just how your character will stand when they're idle. Your choices here are powerful, serious, primal, flirty, and comical. Flirty ftw!
Your choice of superhero mentor decides who will be giving you your quests once you're out and about in the game. It also affects the categories of armor and weaponry available to your character. If you're a hero then your mentors can be Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman. If you're a villian then you can choose between The Joker, Lex Luthor or Circe.
Once you have your mentor, you get to move on to what type of powers you want. There are three different archetypes, just like the ones in most MMOs: Tank, Healer, or DPS, but in DCUO they're called Defense, Healing, and Control, respectively. The two defense powers are fire and ice, the two healing powers are nature and sorcery, and the two control powers are gadgets and mental. As you level up and gain skills in DCUO, your can pick and choose your character's talent points, but we'll get to more about that later.
The choices for movement include flying, acrobatics, and super speed. Flying and super speed are exactly what they sound like. Acrobatics, on the other hand, allows you to climb on any surface and glide around. I tried out all of the movement abilities, and while acrobatics was fun, I personally preferred flying.
There are a ton of different weapons/fighting styles you can choose for your character including a bow, brawling, dual pistols, dual wield (swords), hand blast, martial arts, one-handed rifle, staff, and two-handed. The weapons ranged from very fast all the way to slow. As in most games, the fast weapons do less damage than the very slow ones, so everything evens out. I chose martial arts this time around because the girl in Tron was a great fighter.
DETAILS: DC Universe Online PS3 Collector's Edition
Finally it was time for the most important part of the entire character creator: my costume! First off, in the costume area, you got to pick what kind of skin you wanted for your character, as well as their hair style and length. The skin choices included angry, barbarian, cheerful, chrome, crystalline, cyborg, demonic, glowing, three various human skins, lava, mummy, plant, reptile, robot, rock, tattooed, undead, wise, and youthful. And then there were, of course, the furry skins, including fox, leopard, lion, tiger, and wolf. Finally, there's a game for you furries out there. These skins have no impact on your character, they just look really cool. After you pick your skin, you get to select what kind of hairstyle you want. Nothing too special, but there are a lot of choices.
After you have your general look, it's onto the gear. In DCUO you can customize all aspects of your character's outfit including their helmet, face protection, emblem, shirt, back, hands, wasit, pants, and feet. What's pretty cool about DCUO is that when in-game, if you love how you made your character look, you can choose to have items you pick up not be displayed on your character. For example, I have the option of equipping the gloves for their stats, but not have any effect on my character's appearance. I love that!
Since my character was a hero I gave her black leather with light-blue glowy emblems. Once that's done, all that's left is to name your character. Naturally, I named mine Tron Girl. Time to finally head into the game!
The tutorial in DCUO is very basic, as it should be. The overall problem I had with it is that no matter how many times you create new characters, you have to go through the tutorial all over again. I wish they had added some sort of variety depending on your alignment.
The story behind the tutorial is that you're one of the new superhumans and you're trying to escape Brainiac's harvester ship as you wake up and learn about your new powers. You learn how to use your movement abilities like flight, and as you go through the ship, you gain skill points and power points. Skill points are useful for leveling up your weapon's attributes or your movement's attributes. Power points, as the name suggests, relate to your superpowers. Since Tron Girl has mental powers, I could level up telekenisis abilities, illusion abilities, or iconic mental powers. Another example: People with gadgets can level up trap powers, trick powers, or iconic gadget powers.
As you fight your way through all of the bad guys in the harvester ship, you finally get to the end where either Superman (if you chose a hero) or Lex Luthor (if you chose a villian) will come out and help you destroy the ship. It's really cool that you get to fight alongside a well known superhero (or villian) and get to see them use their iconic powers. Once you and your overpowered friend finish everything off, the tutorial mode is over and you're transported to either Gothan City or Metropolis.
From the very start of the tutorial mode, the game feels like a console game. Yes, DCUO is made for both PC and PS3, but it doesn't feel that way. You don't get a cursor in the game, so you can't hover over enemies or the minimap. Also, in the tutorial levels, all you can do is left and right click to kill enemies. After a while, my index finger started to hurt because I was just mashing left-click to melee enemies to death. Sure, you get a super power that you can use relatively early, but the monotony of spamming wasn't exactly fun.
Check back for more impressions on DC Universe Online, and let me know how your beta experiences have been thus far. Is there anything that can't be missed, or should infact be missed?