Friday, May 11, 2012

DC Universe Online: First Five Review (My First 5 Impressions Of The First 5 Hours)

I'm not a fan of MMOs. I hate the monthly subscription concept. Call me traditional, but I like to pay for a game once, and for that game to be complete. I also dislike the idea of having my play experience spoiled by someone who just feels like anonymously ticking off other people.

But if there were ever an MMO I would give a try, it would be DC Universe Online. And when it went free to play, and I suddenly had a new laptop that could run it, I had to give it a go. So here are my first five impressions of the first five hours of gameplay (although I've played WELL over five at this point!)

1. Character creation is a bit narrow and pre-packaged. I could also find no way to examine how your selected powers and skills would advance over time. Functionality of powers isn't that varied. Differences between different attack abilities seem mostly cosmetic. If you've got an idea for a really cool character with a unique mix of powers or skills, you won't be able to create them here. The one advantage of the limitations in character creation is that it's basically impossible to create a character who won't do well.

2. The world is probably the biggest selling point. Being able to explore my favorite comic book universe at will is amazing. Despite only featuring Metropolis and Gotham City at the start, the world feels large and open. It's also extremely detailed, with little easter eggs everywhere that DC fans will eat up. Want to visit Crime Alley, where Bruce Wayne's parents were killed? Go for it! You'll even find a pair or roses lying on the pavement, a hint that Bruce Wayne may have just been there honoring their memory. There are also built in "tour" quests that follow a series of automated "Booster Gold" terminals around the cities, introducing you to the multitude of locations and their histories. The graphics look great, even though I have them on the lowest settings. (Some texture popping, as you approach far away buildings, but I don't mind that at all.) I can't imagine why anyone would choose a movement power other than flying for this game, unless you want to miss out on the expansive view available.

3. The voice acting is very well done by a cast that will likely make many nerds giddy. A number of voice actors from previous animated incarnations of DC characters have returned for this project, and their presence is more than welcome. (My understanding is that this game will be the last time Mark Hammil ever does the voice of the Joker. A real shame, as he does such a fantastic job with the iconic character.)

4.The action is sweet and feels great with a controller. Beating up baddies and button mashing my way to victory has rarely felt better. (I should note, however, that a controller is really the only way to play this game. I tried it out with a mouse and keyboard, and the experience was beyond awkward. It was terrible and impossible for me to enjoy.) Although marketed early on as an action game, it's an action RPG. GREAT news for me, since I suck at action games. If I can't beat a baddy because my gaming skills are lacking, I can always fall back on level-grinding my way through.

5. The game still isn't without the annoying trappings of MMOs. Even in a non PvP server I've gotten one or two requests to fight somebody. (Which you don't even have to acknowledge.) Another time several players decided to team up and block access to a room that is commonly needed by all players, just standing there to block movement, knowing they couldn't be attacked in the non-PvP server. I had to wait about 10 minutes before they were booted from the server, though other players seemed to have been waiting much longer. (This has only happened once, though, and I have two characters at about level 12 now.) And when you reach about level 10, most missions basically require you to team up with others in order to be successful, or spend insane amounts of time level grinding. (Bad guys yield very little XP. Completing missions is the primary way to earn it.)

There is very little that might provoke meaningful thought on spiritual matters. It's mostly a thoughtless "beat-em up" superhero game. The only point I thought was interesting was that in creating a magic-based character it is assumed that, like Wonder Woman, you derive your power from "the gods". The DC Uinverse does not normally assume this of all magical characters, so the forced limitation in character concept felt a little lame for a preferably monotheistic fellow like myself.

 If you play the game on PC, feel free to look me up. I'm not very good at using the chat interface yet, so please forgive any perceived ignoring. So far my two characters include "Vincent Craft" when I play solo and "Paeter" when I play with my buddy. (Though I've already snagged the name of CFOS and suspect he will emerge in the world of villains sometime soon.)

A really fun game that I probably would have even paid for eventually. You don't need to spend any money to enjoy the entire game, although I gladly forked over 10 bucks for the light-based (Green Lantern) powers. And considering that it's completely free, if your system will run it, you've got nothing to lose in trying it out!

Quality: 8.5/10
Relevance: 5.5/10

Minimum System Requirements:
CPU / Processor:      P4 3.0GHz  or AMD equivalent
 RAM / Memory:      1GB
 Video Card:      nVidia 7800+, or ATI (AMD) 1950 or greater
Storage / Hard Drive:      30GB of free hard drive space
Operating System:      Windows XP SP3 (32-bit)
 Internet Conntection:      Broadband Internet Connection required

System I Played On:
AMD Phenom(tm) II P650 Dual-Core Processor 2.60 GHz
AMD M880 with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
3.72 GB Storage
Windows 7
Direct X 11
Internet: Cable

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