Sony Online Entertainment's DC Universe Online is coming out on January 11th, so there's still a bit of time to mess around in the beta. Last time I played with DCUO, we took an extensive look at the opening cutscene, the character creation screen – which was rife with hundreds of possibilities for my avatar's customization – and the first tutorial zone. This time around, however, we took the opportunity to take TRON Girl around Metropolis and up to level 10 with the help of a fellow hero named General Kal.
It seems like leveling in DCUO is based purely on questing, kind of like how Lord of the Rings Online operates. Sure you can grind your way through mobs, but in the end, quests give such better experience. A great thing about DCUO is that once you're out and about in the field questing, your quests automatically update. Instead of killing ten bad guys and then flying back to the quest giver, it automatically updates saying you've completed the quest and you can even receive the reward out in the field as well.
That said, the quests in the game at this low level did not seem to have much variety. Most quests instructed you to kill 10-20 things, and collect the items they drop. A few quests had you interacting with various items, but other than these objectives, all of the quests were pretty much the same, albeit located in different areas. Once you completed a few quests in a chain, however, you’re told to travel to a secret lair for another boss fight. We got to partner up with another player named General Kal and did a fun quest chain about Gorilla Men and their leader, Grodd. First we had to kill umpteen gorillas over and over, after which we journeyed to Grodd's lair to meet up with The Flash and attempt to finish off their leader.
Grouping in DCUO works great. You and your group members share quest objectives and can help each other on missions. But if you're not in a group and two people are killing the same mob, that's okay too. If you help someone kill anything in DCUO, then you both get credit for that kill. Meaning, tagging mobs first to get the kill credit is not an issue, which is not only nice, but also leads to cooperative (instead of competitive) play.
Additionally, DCUO includes a flight mini-game in which you must fly through a predetermined amount of rings in a certain amount of time. You get experience based on how quickly you finish, and there are three ranks, platinum being the highest. You actually get a decent amount of experience from this, and it's very fun, but you can only do it one time for experience once you've reached platinum.
Generally, leveling our way to level 10 was actually pretty fun, but having played on a PC, it seems as though the game would have fared much better on the PS3. First off, there is no cursor on the PC version of the game, meaning it's kind of hard to change and manuever your camera like you can in every other MMORPG. Not only that, but you can't hover over quest objectives or your minimap either,; you have to physically go into the quest menu or the map menu. Not a dealbreaker, but a minor inconvenience for sure. Additionally, the combos for your skills seem like they would make much more sense on a controller given the timed presses required to pull off various moves.
There was an overall feeling that the game failed to achieve any real level of innovation. It felt very "grindy" in its quest design; graphically it looked a lot like City of Heroes; and even the character customization, which we loved, did not offer as much variety as City of Heroes. It's nice that you can fight alongside the real superheroes, like The Flash and Superman, but in the end, the overall repetitiveness in the first few levels was not enough to keep someone who plays a lot of MMOs (and not a super huge DC Comics fan) hooked. It feel as if you're a casual player who's not used to (or doesn't like) other MMORPGs, you will truly enjoy this MMO. It's not "the next great thing", but it will definitely give you a good time, especially if you're playing on a console.
Bear in mind, the game is still in beta for another week. A lot can change in that time. We didn't get into the world PvP or the watchtower material, but stay tuned for that in the coming review.