In one of my last posts of 2010, I discussed six games that are on my radar this year. In the comments, I was twice recommended to think about DCUO (DC Universe Online). To be sure, there’s something about a super-hero game that has that aura of cool radiating. When I played City of Heroes long ago, I enjoyed it for the most part but had difficulty because of the game’s eventual failings. DCUO is tempting, but I’m going to list off some pros and cons and attempt to explain why I’ll be taking a pass on this game.
First of all, the pros.
- DCUO is a game in a recognizable universe. Superman, the Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the villains Lex Luthor, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze…the list goes on and on. These are superheroes and villains that you don’t play (except in certain arena settings), but they are there to set the mood. You know who these guys are and their general histories.
- Top notch voice talent. Mark Hamill (Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Adam Baldwin (Superman), Gina Torres (Wonder Woman), James Marsters (Luthor), Jennifer Hale (Zatanna), Dwight Schultz (Flash), Wil Wheaton (Robin). That’s a damn good list. Hamill and Conroy themselves are a huge win (Hamill’s Joker is brilliant). The rest of the cast looks pretty amazing and from my small interactions with the game, used very nicely.
- Some unique gameplay involving PvP. Not that I particularly like PvP in games like this, but DCUO had some interesting takes on what you can do and what their customer base would like, which I have to say I liked.
- Movement powers immediately at start. One thing that was quite annoying in CoH was the fact that before you could get your top level travel power, you needed to get up to level 20. And the first several levels, you’d be hoofing it until you got your first underwhelming travel power. For example, if you wanted to fly, in CoH you’d first get this power which was a weak form of levitation, useful for having to not take the stairs but worthless as trying to get anywhere as running was almost certainly faster. Then you got a second slightly more useful travel power several levels later before you could max it out. DCUO avoids this. You have a travel power right off the bat. Very nice.
- It’s possible that some good friends of mine will play this game, which is always a nice incentive.
How about a short list of middling things?
- Sony announced that there will be monthly content updates. But there’s so little actual news coming out of Sony that the question is will this be another empty promise?
- I’ve read on a number of forums that the game has changed significantly in the last few weeks in terms of gameplay. Beta is a time where you usually hammer out the bugs or start to balance the classes a bit, not make wholesale changes.
- No crafting to speak of. Not a huge problem for me, but some people like it. Star Trek Online’s crafting was so poorly done it was a waste of time to even try, so maybe not having crafting is not so bad. However, you can’t say that it won’t drive people away.
Here’s my list of cons for the game.
- I did manage to get a beta on a PS3 and try out the game. It is awful on a console. Graphics are sub-par, the controls are clunky which turn the game into little more than a button masher, there’s a general lack of responsiveness in the controller, menus are not intuitive to navigate, travel power activation is inconveniently located (I kept on activating my flight power when moving around one of the joysticks), it takes forever for the game to start, game updates took hours to download…it was just a rotten experience on the PS3. As an MMO player who is used to the immediate responses of a keyboard-mouse combination, it was a complete failure to try and create a limited control system. Plus, how are you going to do chat with a PS3 controller? Basically, I couldn’t help but feel I was experiencing a gimped version of this game on the PS3.
- PS3 notwithstanding, I was not impressed with the character creator. Honestly, aren’t we past the ala-carte selection methods of creating your character? I had assumed that the technology was there where you could change items through the use of sliders and not a pick and choose method. Not that I was expecting a brilliant character creation experience, but come on, do better than what they currently have.
- Menus are not very intuitive themselves. It took me a long time to learn how to change the color of my pre-picked costume and get it to save properly. Why should this be hard at all? Why does the UI feel like it was tossed together by a monkey?
- Initial missions were predictable. Kill/defeat x number of villains, collect x number of so-and-sos, report back to quest giver, upgrade items. I know, I know, it’s the typical MMO formula but it’s not working for me here. I got bored very quickly. Once you found a winning combination of button mashing, there was little else to worry about.
- Character power setup is underwhelming as well. And it also fits into the familiar tank, DPS, healer, controller classes. There’s nothing remotely new about this formula. Sorry if I feel like I should desire something new in a game.
- Sony doesn’t exactly have the best track record lately when it comes to MMOs. Everquest is likely an exception because it was on the vanguard and it seems they didn’t fiddle with the formula to much until WoW came along and took over the big boy on the block crown. Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside, Matrix Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea…each of them had their issues. The NGE patch for Star Wars Galaxies is one the biggest controversies that happened in all of the MMO world.
- No chance I’ll get Melanie to play with me. That’s a bigger factor than you would think. Having said that, no Mac port either.
I want to like this game, I really do. I like the whole superhero concept as an MMO, but I’m feeling this isn’t the one for me. Maybe it will change in the future, but I think I’ll need to have a trial of the game again before I drop any actual money on what seems like a poor MMO experience so far.