Published on July 18th, 2010 | by prime2
DC Universe Online – Preview
For a genre dominated by swords, sorcery and scantily clad warrior women in Asian fantasy worlds; the MMO scene is also surprisingly well served by superhero games. Mostly, it has to be said, thanks to the team at Cryptic Studios, first having served up the long-running City of Heroes title then, once that had been sacrificed to the publishing overlords at NCsoft, presenting the more flamboyant Champions Online to a world gagging for the chance to dress in Spandex and shoot energy blasts from its eyeballs.
Next out of the blocks is the first of the big-name brands to strap on the capes of justice, DC Universe Online. There is, still, a Marvel MMO in the works, but it’s a simplistic browser-based affair, one far removed from the original version Cryptic touted many years ago and ultimately turned into Champions.
Adventures in Metropolis, Gotham City, the Batcave, the Fortress of Solitude, S.T.A.R. Labs, Arkham Asylum and other famous DC locales – either as a hero or villain – are the order of the day. The big question, of course, is whether DCUO is shaping up to do something radically different with the MMO trappings (as seems to happen so often with online games at the moment), or whether it will be content to just tick the boxes of the traditional tropes and just hope to dazzle us with fancy graphics and recognizable characters instead – as Champions was all set to do, of course, back when Cryptic had the Marvel license and before it had to switch its assets to the less well-known tabletop role-player instead.
Without being able to go hands-on as yet, it’s impossible to say for sure, but the indications given by press demonstrations at E3 this year, along with the released gameplay videos, would suggest that DCUO will share a lot in similarity with existing MMO standbys, throwing its audience hooks instead into the abundant use of physics in the combat, the inclusion of ‘combos’ as you battle and, of course, the presence of the famous and infamous residents of DC’s universe as you fight your way towards notoriety.
Naturally, much is being made of the use of Superman, Batman, Bizarro et al, with SoE having released ‘character reveals’ at regular intervals over the past few months – teasing the various fanbases of DC’s mighty roster. Luminaries such as Poison Ivy, Nightwing, Power Girl, Zatanna, The Flash, Green Lantern, Black Adam, Solomon Grundy, Mr Freeze and the ultimate in villains, Doomsday, have all had their 15 minutes, and the idea being presented is that these characters play an active part in your own hero’s narrative arc, whether directly through missions or as part of the ‘Based on’ creation system.
Before you take your first supersteps in the world, you naturally have to create your fledgling hero or villain. Whether you’ll be offered Champions Online levels of customization has yet to be announced, but what we do know is that you have a choice of creating everything from scratch, or opting to base your avatar on an existing hero/villain (in-game it’s said your character was ‘inspired’ to take up the cape by said superstar) and then tweak where appropriate. Want a Batman but based on magic? A Joker that prefers haikus and throwing hammers? A Green Arrow but red? You get the idea.
Stars in the skies
Once in-game, the ‘known’ stars of DC form the basis of many of your missions. You’ll be jumping into action with the Justice League as they battle the latest menace to Metropolis. You’ll accompany The Flash or Superman as they find the odds against them stacking a little too high. Players of Champions Online will probably recognize a little of this in the way that universe’s notable heroes would act as mission givers or occasionally turn up in the game’s instanced set-pieces. SoE has repeatedly boasted of the fact you’ll be ‘fighting alongside’ the big names and most of the released gameplay teasers show the big guns going toe-to-toe on the mean streets, so the hopes that Superman is more than just a static presence asking you to kill 10 super-rats are high.
Until we can get properly hands-on with DCUO, we can’t help but feel that this is going to be a similar package to the current online hero simulators, for all of SoE’s talk of this being an ‘action MMO’. Obviously, having the big names on-board helps to raise the bar (as does getting DC creative staffers Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman on board to help with the story crafting and art style), and the cross-platform PC/PS3 compatibility will make for some interesting team-ups, but it would be nice to think that SoE is keeping some real big game mechanic guns up its sleeve to make it anything more than Champions Online with added Batman.