The Quarter Bin

Videos, Reviews, and Previews For Comic Fans

E3 10: DC Universe Online

Posted by Sarah LeBoeuf On July - 2 - 2010

With DC Universe Online nearing release, will it be the MMO comic fans have been hoping for? Read my impressions of the game from E3 2010.

It’s hard to be a new MMO in today’s gaming market. World of Warcraft has been basically dominating PC gamers for years, with very few other games in the genre able to survive, and massively multiplayer console games have yet to really leave an impression. However, as a new MMORPG, it might be a little easier for Sony Online Entertainment’s DC Universe Online to win over gamers. The game might be new, but the DC Universe certainly isn’t; with seven decades of content, the upcoming PC and PS3 MMO should, theoretically, come with its own built-in fanbase. When I saw DC Universe Online at E3 2009, the game was nowhere near done, and it was far too early to tell if SOE was going to have another hit on their hands. At E3 2010, only a few months from release, I gave it a try once again, finding a much more focused and complete experience.

Before playing the game, I sat in on a presentation given by a couple of DCU’s developers, who were going over some of the title’s features, most notably the use of “episodes”—special missions based in familiar DC locations. It appears that these will require you to work with prominent members of the DC Universe, though the episodes will be notably different depending upon whether you choose to be a hero or a villain. In the one I saw, the heroic character being controlled by one of the developers had been asked for help by Batman himself, and needed to locate a kidnapped Robin in Gotham City. This required taking down a mallet-wielding, criminally insane Harley Quinn in her classic black-and-red outfit. Though the NPC police attempted to take out some of Harley’s minions, it’s mostly up to the players to complete the mission. After defeating Harley, the player was rewarded with her “sinister masquerade” hat, and was then treated to a beautiful comic-style cut scene that showed off Jim Lee’s artwork.

Had the player been fighting on the villains’ team, that same episode would have pitted him against Robin, with Harley Quinn as his ally. Even though I only saw a small section of Gotham City, it was looking really great—it’s one of my favorite locales in the DC Universe, and I was glad to see it represented as the dark and gritty city it should be in DC Universe Online. As I mentioned before, veteran comic artist Jim Lee was on hand throughout the making of the game, serving as its Creative Director. His style and experience with the DCU was greatly reflected in the small portion I saw, and hopefully carries over into the rest of the game as well.

As for the combat itself, it’s quick and action-based, reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons Online. This lends itself well to both the PvE and PvP sections, the latter of which features up to 16 vs. 16 battles between heroes and villains. How you fight will depend on how you design your character, of course, but sadly, I didn’t get to explore the game’s character creator. I did check out some pre-designed heroes and villains, though, who were modeled after six “principles” of the DCU: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Joker, Lex Luthor, and Circe. They looked pretty impressive, although many of the components of their outfits had to be earned through special missions. Equipment can also be purchased with “infamy”, the form of currency in the game, earned in PvP matches. If your actions, either good or bad, lead to newspaper headlines, you’ll earn even more infamy. It’s an interesting currency system, but shouldn’t feel out of place in the game.

With only a few months until DC Universe Online is set to release, it won’t be long until we see what it’s truly like to have the entire DCU at our fingertips. The fact that it’s launching on the PS3 alongside the PC should give it a farther reach than most new MMOs, and the $14.99 monthly subscription fee puts it right in line with other games in the genre. There are a few questions that have yet to be answered, such as whether or not a new MMO with a lot of history can make an impact on the gaming industry, and if this will appeal to more than just comic book die-hards hoping to explore the streets of Gotham City and Metropolis alongside their favorite superheroes.

DC Universe Online will be out this November for the PS3 and PC.

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