Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Discussing MMOs: DC Universe Online

I was apparently still interested in superhero MMOs after Champions Online, and so my next foray into the world of MMOs was DC Universe Online. As the name implies, it takes place in the world of DC Comics, and so many of the prominent NPCs are recognizable to may people: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, the Joker, and so on. As in Champions Online, creating a character and costume is a large part of the process of starting the game; you have a wide variety of costume options when the game begins, and can unlock more during play. Since the look of a superhero character is so important, the ability to have a costume that you, as player, like from character creation onwards is nice, and it helps with immersion into the character. The characters in DC Universe Online looked more realistic than those from Champions Online, and even had different options to choose from at character creation to change body language, from Comical to Serious. The power sets in the game could have been expanded, though; one of the most iconic power sets, that of Green Lantern, wasn't added until the first expansion pack, even though there were Green Lanterns you could interact with and do missions for in the game.

While I didn't take advantage of this, in DC Universe Online (or DCUO), you can choose to play as either a hero or a villain. As a hero, you will have a big-name mentor; for character with tech-based abilities or normal human skills, your mentor is Batman; for people with superhuman abilities, Superman is your mentor; and for people whose abilities are magical in nature, Wonder Woman mentors you. Conversely, on the villain side, Joker takes the position of Batman, Lex Luthor takes Superman's mentor spot, and Circe takes Wonder Woman's role. This means that you will almost certainly run into players of the opposing allegiance during regular play, though unless you play on a PvP server, fighting amongst yourselves is optional.

One of the more enjoyable things about DCUO is that virtually every NPC, and especially the named ones which most people would be familiar, has a voice actor, some of them recognizable - Adam Baldwin for Superman, for instance, or, for fans of the Batman animated series, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. By making these characters have actual voices, as opposed to simple text boxes, I felt like I was actually a part of the world.

DCUO was also one of the few MMOs that was not just PC-based; you could also play it on the Playstation 3, meaning that at least some console gamers were a part of the player base. This also meant that the setup for powers and abilities was relatively simple and easy to use, as it had to be something that was viable on both the PC and while using a Playstation controller. I wish this was embraced by more MMOs, as I have a number of friends who seem to play games exclusively on consoles, and this would allow me to play with those friends as well as those who prefer to play games on their PCs.

Sadly, to an even greater degree than Champions Online, DCUO had very little room for exploration. There were really only three zones: Metropolis, Gotham City, and Central City. While each city was very large, the feel never really changed very much between areas of a city. Gotham felt very different than Metropolis, but one section of Metropolis was very similar to the next, even if one was being invaded by aliens and another attacked by super-powered terrorists. The only forays out of the three cities happened in tightly controlled instances, and so there was never a feeling that, if you went to, say, the moon, that you were there for anything other than a single short mission with a few other players. Each allegiance had their own 'base' area - heroes had the Watchtower, while villains had the Hall of Doom - but these were really very basic areas that were mostly for show and making character changes. Consequently, as there was little to explore in DCUO, even though I enjoyed the world and the characters, I became bored with my surroundings relatively quickly, and so only played for about two months. Then I went on MMO hiatus again.

Next up" Warhammer Online.

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