What’s In a Game? DC Universe Online

Let’s say, just for a brief moment, that you have a certain fondness of comic books AND gaming.  Perhaps you enjoy DC Comics (albeit redundant in name…) and would love to construct your very own caped crusader to straighten up the thugs throughout Gotham City and Metropolis, or maybe you’ve just always wanted to meet Wonder Woman face to face.  DC Universe Online, DCUO, is just the game for you!

Conceptualized and operated by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), it is available on PC, PS3, and PS4.  The PS3 and PS4 varieties share a server, while PC is all on its own.  Again with the paperwork, I know. T for Teen on the grounds of Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language, and Violence, according to our friends over at the ESRB.

But what is DCUO?  It’s an action-combat based MMORPG with an enormous amount of customization.  Yes, yes, but what is it?  Oh, that. In its purest form, DCUO is a fight to stop Brainiac from taking over the world. As the various DLC (Downloadable-Content) Packs unfold, a greater story spanning the entire DC Multiverse is uncovered. You’ll help the Green Lantern Corps (or Sinestro Corps, on the villainous side) struggle to regain control of their rings.  You’ll attempt to stop Trigon from rising.  You get to thwart some of Batman’s greatest foes.   And that’s just on the Heroic side.

New Heroes are mentored by either Wonder Woman, Superman, or Batman which will start you in Metropolis or Gotham City.  Villains choose from Circe, Lex Luthor, or The Joker and often run operations against the Heroes.  As a Hero saves the day in one mission, a Villain will be sent to reverse it in theirs.  That’s not to say it’s PvP, just generic game elements that get flipped for faction.  If the heroes swoop in and take out Joker’s goons to help Gotham PD, the villains come in and hog-tie the cops to help the goons out.  For those interested, though, PvP (including Open World) is available.

Leveling content from 1 to 30 is all free, but the graphics and gameplay feel anything but.  After leveling to 30 – often referred to as an extended tutorial – the real game begins; playing through raid-level content to try and reach the pinnacle of heroism. As you level, you’ll earn a host of different styles to mix and match.  The really cool thing about DCUO’s customization is that you can change your costume’s appearance at any time, as many times as you want, free of charge.  Early costumes are traditional spandex, but as you make a name for yourself you’ll unlock numerous options to set yourself apart from the rest and create a signature look all your own.

If changing up your looks isn’t enough, picking from one of the 11 (soon to be 12) power sets should really help step it up.  6 powers are free, with the others being available through DLC packs.  Each power is capable of performing DPS, but are generally better at a specific role.  Heroes have to travel in style, too, so you’ll find yourself choosing between the power of flight, super speed, or acrobatics (think grappling hooks and gliding).  Additionally, you’ll choose which type of weapon you use for basic attacks.  From future-tech Hand Blasters to mixing it up Brawling style, you choose how you want to play.

Each character only has 6 slots in their tray, because having too many powers would be overpowered.  How many heroes can you think of that have more than roughly 6 or so powers, anyway?  Thankfully you can switch between the powers within your power set for different situations, as the tray isn’t getting any bigger.  But what are some of these power sets?

For a Healer, try on Sorcery or Nature for free, or Electricity or Celestial from their respective DLC Packs.  Controllers (in charge of keeping power bars full and crowd-controlling enemies) should take a shot with Gadgetry or Mentalist for free, or Hard Light (Green or Yellow Lanterns) or Quantum from DLCs.  Tanks can play Fire or Ice free of charge, while Earth – and soon to be Red Hard Light – come from some DLCs of their own.  If purchasing DLCs and having access forever doesn’t sound so hot, or you want to test multiple powers and find your perfect fit, monthly memberships are available for around $15.

From a gameplay standpoint, DCUO does so many things right.  The combat system is nearly flawless, offering diverse playstyle based on how you want to run.  If you fly, for instance, you can fire down chaos from above.  Speedsters can quickly get into combat and fie off abilities, then quickly get out of harm’s way.  Acrobats come equipped with all kinds of crowd-control abilities such as zip ties.  Tanks have most of their taunts built in.  Controllers have a multitude of ways to do both of their jobs at the same time without trying to juggle complex combos or using useless abilities.

Unfortunately, healers in DCUO have a considerable learning curve compared to other titles.  Healers have no means of targeting the person they want to heal (which is nice in theory in the middle of intense combat situations) and instead their heals automatically direct to the party member in most need.  It works, but it’s not always the easiest when executing certain plans.  If you intended to heal the DPS and your tank is on the receiving end instead, tough cookies.  In order to accomodate all of the weird, healers often begin healing before damage is dealt.  By firing off a few rounds of Heal over Time, they can safely mitigate most of the early incoming damage.  This requires cooperation and coordination with your controller though.

Speaking of parties, DCUO is optimized for parties of 4 (with the largest party size being 8, for raids).  The best option is to have one player of each role.

Transparency wise, SOE is good at letting the fans know what’s going on behind the scenes.  Regular streams from the Creative Director (Jens Andersen, also known as Mepps on the DCUO Forums or @spytle on Twitter) and his various cohorts and letters unveiling new content come along the pipeline regularly.  Friday Night Legends is a PvP showcase hosted by Mepps that allow normal players (usually Leagues) to compete with one another on a live stream with commentary.  For instance, just this Monday (12/16) the patch notes for Game Update 32 (GU32) released with information regarding the Sorcery and Nature reworks, various power tweaks for a multitude of power sets, bug fixes, and Season’s Greedings (the DCUO Christmas Event).

Overall, DCUO is a fantastic title that I encourage you all to check out!  When War of the Lights: Part 1 releases later this Winter, expect an update with my thoughts on the new content.  In the meantime, leave me some comments regarding DCUO, including questions and concerns.  Feel like giving it a shot?  We’ve got a League (Clan/Guild) set up on both the Hero and Villain sides I can probably get you added to! If you use this link, you’ll be able to claim a free welcome package to DCUO after you register.  If you do, shoot me a line on Twitter (@JohnLifeglen) or leave me a message in the comments below!

Until next time,

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