DCUO: Day One
UPDATE: Hey look, autorun and chatting is now possible if you hit enter to open the chatbox. I don’t know if I was bugged or if it was patched or what, but it works now! Happy faces all around! League chat also works… sometimes. That one, at least, is still incredibly buggy.
Yesterday, DC Universe Online launched for the masses. Despite my connection being insanely laggy and terrible due to the Winterdammerung gripping the southeast, I did get to play a fair amount. I haven’t read any other day one reviews, so this is all me, being a dweeb all on my own.
So the first thing you should know about DCUO is that it is not a typical MMO. The fact that it was developed concurrently for the PS3 is everywhere, from the very action-oriented gameplay (which is a welcome change of pace in the MMO sphere and I really, really look forward to all of the upcoming games that go in a similar direction) to the UI which is, if you’re on the PC like me, a fucking national tragedy. I play with a mouse and keyboard, and from this perspective, the UI in this game makes the UI in Final Fantasy XIV look polished and streamlined. My husband plays with a 360 controller and when asked how the UI feels from there, he said “It’s alright.” HIGH PRAISE INDEED.
The chat interface in particular is very awkward to use and literally impossible to use on the move. No hitting autorun and then chatting with your League-mates while you’re waiting to get where you’re going. For one thing, the UI was, again, designed with controllers in mind, which means that when you go from Game World to UI Window, the joystick/D-Pad/mouse is repurposed to navigate the UI instead. When you open the game menu, even if it’s just hitting enter to bring up chat, you stop on a dime and do not budge until you exit back into the Game World.
For another, as of this writing, League chat doesn’t actually work — so that’s another reason you won’t be talking to your guildies while on the go. Voice chat does currently work, however, which brings me to a short Public Service Announcement…
Voice chat is on by default. You have to turn on push-to-talk or turn voice off manually, or we will hear your every word if we are teamed with you. Please turn on push-to-talk.
The game has two things going for it, really. First, you have the actiony gameplay, which is a ton of fun if you are also a console gamer with games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance, The Force Unleashed and Bayonetta on your shelf. It’s pretty hack-and-slash and frenetic in its pace, and you execute different attacks one of two ways: a certain combination of button presses/mouse clicks, or by using your powers, which are the clickies down on your action bar. It works out pretty well in practice; it feels like it really nailed what Champions Online was trying to do in marrying MMOs and console action games.
The other thing that the game has going for it is its amazing utilization of the license. Look at this cast listing for the game. If you are familiar with the DC Animated Universe, there are a whole lot of familiar names on that list, reprising the roles that we know and love them for. Kevin Conroy as Batman? Check. Mark Hamill as the Joker with Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn? Check and check. Paul Williams as the Penguin? You betcha. Gotham itself feels perfect, cast in permanent darkness and full of buildings clearly designed for people using Acrobatics as their travel power to go leaping from rooftop to rooftop. The colors used in the design of Metropolis, meanwhile, lend it a sense of hopefulness and optimism, which feels great for Wonder Woman and the Man of Steel.
For people my age, it is nostalgia in a box with fun gameplay to boot, so really, it’s hard to go wrong.
While DCUO does have both Hero and Villain characters available, this does not necessarily mean there is a whole ton of content. On the contrary, you will find your villain running some of the same content as your hero does — Bane in Gotham, for example, or HIVE in Metropolis. It was kind of disappointing when I realized I’d be running a lot of the same stuff on my baddies — enough so that I’ll probably skip playing villains entirely unless they end up with some extra content.
For reasons previously noted, I can’t really speak to issues like latency and server stability, since my connection is currently suffering under the wrath of Mister Freeze. What I can do, though, is give you a tl;dr summary here at the end.
tl;dr – DC Universe Online is a pretty damned strong showing from SOE. While the UI may give me hives, their love of the license and the complete and utter absence of sandwich-inducing gameplay is enough to make up for it ’til they can revisit it later on (AND I DO HOPE THAT THEY DO). If you grew up watching B:TAS and Champions wasn’t quite what you were looking for, give this one a go. Punching the Joker in the face is really quite satisfying.