It’s not super, man…
I know your secret. Even as an adult, you want to be a super hero. It’s ok – you can admit it, we’re all friends here. You want to be able to run amok in Gotham City beating up bad guys and rescuing law abiding citizens from attacking aliens from some distant planet. Or perhaps, you would prefer to be that masked menace and exact revenge on the world of super heroes for your own nefarious needs. Either way, being a super hero sounds like damn good fun.
Believe me, it’s not all it is cracked up to be, if DC Universe Online is anything to go by.
DC Universe Online finds our main protagonist awoken to find him or herself stranded on a bad guy’s ship. What’s more, you soon learn that this in a world in which Exobots have attacked the fabled cities of Metropolis and Gotham, giving regular Joes like me and you the powers of flight, laser eyes and super strength – just to name a few. Needless to say, a whole new wave of super powered hero’s and villains has arisen, and things aren’t well at all. It is your job to do something about it.
Execution is where DCUO fails, and fails hard
Right from the off you are made to choose whether you will follow the path of righteousness, or turn to the dark side as you join forces with the villains who terrorise the cities. Depending on your choice, you are joined by either Oracle or Calculator who act as guides for the first portion of the game. It does, however, seem rather forced and contrived that such a meaningful choice is handled so bluntly, and at such an early stage of the game. There are no ambiguous moral choices, no action sequences that determine your alignment – simply a straight forward good or evil choice. While this brash decision means the game can progress at a reasonable pace, you may find yourself wondering what the hell happened, and why you weren’t able to get a feel for the game before making such an important decision. Regardless of what your alignment is, once you escape the obligatory opening level you find yourself in a pretty standard MMORPG world. It looks rather good, there are plenty of characters and other players to interact with, hundreds of quests to fill your time, a few dungeons to explore and of course many, many villains to fight.
For the most part, the combat system works well. Speaking from the point of view for a user on the PS3, the controls seem a little contrived and awkward to begin with, but soon you will be tossing enemies in the air, racking up the combo points and unlocking new moves. Depending on which super power you decide to choose for your character early on, powers can vary in effect. However, your powers often seem similar to other classes, and while some come in useful as soon as you unlock them, others are no more effective than slapping Superman with a wet tissue until they are upgraded, or used in combination with some other unobtainable super power. Furthermore, no class has one particular skill that feels ‘unique’ – the result of this is that when taking part in group quests, your role may feel a little redundant.
Quests themselves are the standard “go-here-and-collect-such-and-such” or “kill-this-many…” offered out by your mentor, and unfortunately, change very little throughout the game. There are only so many times you can smile and accept another data collection task before you completely loose interest in the game and give up. I certainly don’t remember the one where Batman had to become a gorilla to collect intel on the Joker. Once you have completed as many meaningless tasks as you are able to without wanting to scratch out your eyes, you will find yourself able to compete in ‘Alerts’. These Alerts are like structured group quests in which four players are given a simple objective, and are given a vast area in which this objective may be completed. Essentially, Alerts are even more “kill-this-many…” tasks, but with others to share the misery. The few bosses which turn up in Alerts are usually push-overs, until you reach the final boss who is so tough that they might even make Superman think twice.
Most of the quests throughout the game take place in the constantly sunny Metropalis, or Gotham City, which is perpetually shrouded in darkness. These environments are beautifully rendered and bustling with life, which really adds to the atmosphere of the game. Scattered amongst the two cities are buildings which you may enter, serving as the traditional RPG dungeon, usually with a “fight to the end and kill everybody” scenario shoe horned into them. While this may not be ground breaking, these dungeons actually turn out to be one of the highlights of DCUO – offering some fun fights in different settings, ranging from the sewers of Gotham City to the Daily Planet offices. What’s more, once you reach the level 30 cap, dungeons serve a second purpose. “Duo’s” sees you and another gamer returning to these internal settings to face ever more powerful foes for some admittedly worthwhile rewards.
]DCUO also offers players the chance to engage in some PvP action – either as their own character in Arena, or as part of the Legends mode. Legends disposes of your well developed character, and lands you in control of a classic DC figure, ranging from the most obscure to the down-right famous and everybody in-between. Legends is a chance to test your true skill without using your collected gear and power-ups from the main quest lines. Players who join Legends mode are supposedly equally matched – however, this simply isn’t the case. Some characters far outclass others in terms of strength, skill and health, rendering the whole legends exercise pointless. The maps on which these fights take place are also needlessly complicated – and even the most boring of scenarios suddenly seems littered with machine gun turrets and sentient droids.
Amongst all these problems with production and execution during game play, DCUO also suffers from an infestation of bugs. Some are merely annoying such as NPC only being able to move in one direction or finding that your character has the amazing ability to fall through supposedly solid ground into the nothingness below. Other glitches are far more crippling – super powers which don’t work, or enemies becoming seemingly invincible for no reason at all. I am sure in time these glitches will be fixed with various updates, but for the time being they simply add more problems to an already struggling game.
DCUO is a game which should have been so good. A fantastic idea, licensed with some of the best known characters from their genre. However, its execution is where DCUO fails, and fails hard. Game play is repetitive or simply baffling, the story line is contrived and forced. The various glitches throughout Metropolis and Gotham City make the Joker look like a teenage with an ASBO for swearing at old ladies. However, I still enjoyed DC Universe Online. Maybe it was the ten year old deep down inside that used to relish in the idea of being as strong as Superman or as cool as Batman, but even with all of its problems, DCUO appeals to a part of me that just wants to have a good time, flying around and beating up bad guys.
The Bad: Repetitive game play, poor area design, too many bugs to count, forced story line.