DC Universe Online came out January 11th and I picked up for the Sony PS3 a week later. I had been playing World of Warcraft (WoW), just getting my Night Elf Druid up to level 73. I’m wanting to get into the latest WoW Cataclysm expansion but the grinding through levels really wears on me… yes I do dungeons, but at this level, there isn’t much variety. Well, enough of WoW, this is about DC Universe Online (DCUO). It is a game that is going to have many comparisons to WoW. Having played WoW, I can explain the differences from a non-biased perspective. I’m a console gamer at heart but understand the keyboard and mouse controls of a PC. This is my first impression of DCUO since I’ve only played it a week. I picked up the PS3 version because I prefer the controller over the mouse/keyboard and love to sit on my couch and play the game on a big HDTV. I will try to include more updates later.

Let me start off with the background story of DCUO. Before buying the game, I thought that it was cheap that everyone happened to have super powers. After watching the story video, I now understand why my super hero is bestowed with such great powers. Brainiac is behind it all. The super heroes have been fighting the evil villains all this time and didn’t notice that Brainiac was stealing their powers. Fighting continues until only Lex Luthor is left alive and he sees an army of Brainiac ships descending to earth. It then flashes back in time to Lex talking with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. He has returned from the future to warn the super heros (and villains) that Brainiac will be taking over earth in the future. Lex has stolen the Exobytes that took their powers and sent them back to earth. Anyone touched by an Exobyte gains the super powers within it. This is why most people in Metropolis and Gotham City are now super heroes. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are to become the mentors to all good super heroes while Lex Luthor, Circe, and The Joker will take care of all evil villains.

Now that you have the basic storyline, you will understand the makeup of the game. With these six as mentors for those with super powers, you can sort of relate this to the different races within World of Warcraft. When creating my first character, I did all these comparisons for my self, having just played WoW the past weekend. Unlike WoW, I have a lot more choices to customize my character so it will be my very own creation in DCUO. I start by picking the server I want to build my character on. There are PvP (Player vs Player) servers and PvE (Player vs Environment) servers. Once that is done, you start on your character by picking the gender and body size… using Large, you could make a character like the Marvel Hulk (I’ve seen many Marvel-like characters in this DC game). Then you get to customize your character. You can start with a template based on many iconic heroes or villains we all know and love. This is the easiest way to get started because everything is selected for you based on which hero or villain you chose. If you want to have some fun, you choose the option to select all the features for yourself… and boy, there are a lot of features.

Character summary screen. Have it your way.

Customizing your character could take you a good thirty minutes if you want just the right look and feel. You start by selecting whether you want to be a hero or villain. You can then pick a personality that doesn’t affect the game but gives character to your on-screen avatar. Who is going to be your mentor and what power do you want to use? I selected Superman as my mentor but picked Nature as my power. Your mentor determines the path you will take in the game and your power determines what abilities you will be able to choose from. How about my movement mode and weapon choice. Just because Superman is my mentor, I can choose to fly, use acrobatics, or run at super-speeds like Flash. For my weapon choice, I selected hand blast over other things like dual pistols, bow and arrows, staff, brawling, etc.

Once you are at this point, you come to a summary screen where you can verify you have all the attributes you want. Go back and change something if you need to. Want to fly instead of run at super speeds? How about wielding a large two-handed weapon instead of the hand blast you selected. Make sure everything is right and then you can move onto customizing the look of your character. This is where DCUO really shines. You can change everything from the top of your head down to your feet. All types of boots, capes, wings, masks, belts, etc, are in the virtual closet for you to choose from. An unlimited color palette is also available for those non-colorblind people (yeah, I’m colorblind and needed my son to help me pick my colors for “Dark Flyer” on the Relentless PvE server) to pick the right shade for their costume, hair, eyes, etc. For your skin, you can select looks like a tiger, wolf, undead, stone, and many more. Want a blue smurf looking hero? Go for it! (okay, maybe it’s more like the blue man in Watchman… only with clothes) When you have your hero or villain looking just the way you want, it’s time to select your name and then start training with your new powers.

One thing I want to point out here is the advantage DCUO has over WoW with character creation. With DCUO, you can lock in the look of your armor pieces like your boots, masks, belts, etc. That way you can keep your look throughout the game or change it up, whenever you want, with any new item you may find. You can also gain the new abilities of a better item without messing with your look. With WoW, you pick the best items based on the traits of it and are then stuck with how it looks on your character. Don’t match? Too bad! It’s a small thing, but it matters to me.

Your game HUD with map, quest objectives, and action bar at the bottom.

Every hero or villain starts with the same training mission. You have to escape from one of Brainiac’s ships. You learn your basic melee and ranged attacks as well as blocking and locking onto targets. You can lift items to throw and interact with objects to help the mission progress. With WoW, you lock onto your target and then throw your attacks or spells one at a time. Each one has a casting time that you have to wait for, with most, and you can’t be moving. This just doesn’t cut it for a super hero or villain. You start DCUO with your weapons and attacks ready to go. You can jump in the air, dodge out-of-the-way, or just take a beating to your enemy. Change attack directions at any time. (You won’t get the WoW message stating that you must be facing your target) As you will soon find out, you can upgrade your weapons and attacks as well as gain new powers. You play DCUO more like an action game and not turn taking game. So I’ve got the quest structure of WoW without the slow, stand-still combat.

I said that there were going to be WoW references and this is a great time for another one. DCUO has skill and power trees similar to what World of Warcraft has. You gain a new power point for every even level you go up and a skill point for every odd level. I picked Nature as a power, so I can invest power points in my plant or morph powers. Plant powers allow you to snare, poison, or pull your enemy toward you while using other abilities to heal yourself or your group. Morph powers allow me to change into a wolf, gorilla, or a few other creatures and gain new fighting abilities. There is also an iconic power tree that unlocks at level 10. This lets me pick powers that the iconic super heroes would use… how about shooting beams out of my eyes like Superman! Skill points are used on your skill trees. I picked flying as an ability and hand blast as my weapon. My skill points are used to upgrade my flying or weapon. I can now swoop down and knock enemies over or throw more powerful attacks using my hand blast weapon. There are many skills and powers to unlock, but only so many can be used at once.

Use your power and skill points any way you want.

WoW has an encyclopedia of spells, abilities, and powers, but they are always hard to keep track of. I know that the die-hard fans will like having all their action bars full on their screens. With DCUO, you can only keep eight items on your action bar. Six can be your skills and abilities, but the other two are reserved for a healing item and trinket. I have a bat drone that flies around and helps attack the enemy with me. This goes in my trinket action bar slot. There are other items that you can get to go here too. What seems like a big limit on DCUO really is not. Your action bar changes depending on your stance. If I’m in my attack mode, I put damage items on my action bar. If I’m in a healing stance or morphed into a wolf, I have another action bar for each of these that I can place appropriate powers on. Also, like I said before, DCUO plays more like an action game. I have a button for melee attacks, another for ranged attacks, and different combinations of tap and hold sequences, between these two, that create many powerful attacks. With WoW, I memorize what keys or icons to click to bring on a barrage of attacks over my enemy. DCUO gives me some major powers with the action bars and quick melee and ranged attacks at the touch of a button to take my enemy down. Send off a blast in one direction and whack the enemy attacking from behind with ease. A couple more button presses and I’ve healed myself or called in lightning to bash all the enemies away from me. I feel right at home with this game.

If you’ve played WoW, you no doubt remember starting out with your first quest. It was probably something like “Go and kill 10 wolves” or “Collect a tooth from 15 boars”. Real exciting stuff, right? I thought so at the time. Playing a massive online game like WoW was new for me and I loved to see other people online fighting around me. I had my trusty staff and a few simple attach spells. After a few months, I had grinded my way up to level 73, where I’m at now. I feel like a level 30 WoW character when starting quests in DCUO. I can fly right into the action and attack groups of enemy right away. With WoW, if someone came along and started killing creatures around me, it did me no good unless we went into a group together. In DCUO, if I group or not, I can still get experience and dropped items when we are attacking the same enemies or taking over the same objectives. Speaking of dropped items, in WoW I had to go to each dead creature and loot them to get the items and gold I needed. In DCUO, the items or money hover in the air, and with a button press, they are automatically collected. I can take down groups of enemies and when finally done, I can collect everything all at once. And just like WoW, with groups of players, you can Need or Greed for the big-ticket items that are dropped.

Many quests will have you fighting along side your iconic heroes.

DCUO has Quests, Alerts (Dungeons), Raids, Arenas (PvP), and more. Just like World of Warcraft, you can play cooperatively with other players on your side or against players (PvP) on the opposite side. Group up with a few friends and take on some of the Quests. Many quests have multiple sub-quests that must be completed and lead up to the fight with a boss character. Quests are categorized so you can tell if it can be completed by yourself or if you need multiple players to tackle it. Four player alerts or eight player Raids can be played through many different areas depending on your skill level. There are multiplayer Arenas where you compete with others to capture flags or conquer areas of the map… similar to modes in WoW.

The maps of DCUO consist of Metropolis and Gotham City. I can’t really say how big these areas are compared to WoW because there more ways to access the areas. In WoW, you could travel through woods, towns, and dungeons, but they all compromised the main map of Azeroth, Outlands, Northrend or the new Cataclysm areas. In DCUO I may be fighting on the top of skyscrapers one minute or down in the streets another. If a quest takes me into a building, I’m then enter a whole other area that is loaded and doesn’t appear on the main map. It could be Lex Luthor’s science building or a crazy fun house where Joker’s enemies may be lurking. These are like going into the open dungeons within Wow. All I can say is that there is a lot there. There is also a Watchtower for heroes and Hall of Doom for villains to use for purchasing high level items, re-specing their character, practicing combat moves, or teleporting to other areas of the maps quickly. Using these is the only way to get between Metropolis and Gotham City.

Group up with others for even more action.

Is DC Universe Online a replacement for WoW? Probably not. The millions of players on WoW can’t be wrong. There is something about it that they like. It does play closer to a turned based game like the old Dungeons and Dragons dice based game. The faster button masher isn’t going to win the battle in WoW. It is about how you use your spells and abilities. They are both social based games that you can play with others or by yourself if you so desire. WoW offers crafting for those who like to do leather working, mining, or herb collecting for extra money. DCUO has races where you fly, run, or jump through the rings, placed around the map, for the fastest time and extra experience. They are the same but different. For me, DCUO is a break from the grind of WoW. I will probably switch between the two every few months. Right now I’m loving the action and faster pace of DCUO.

DCUO isn’t perfect. There are many users in the online forums complaining about problems with the game. There are also those who are reminding them that this is still a new game and is no different from WoW with the problems it had during release back in 2004. This isn’t a burned disc game made to be played like other console games. It is a massively multiplayer online game that will need to be patched and smoothed into a better play experience. WoW had the same problems when it was released and has taken all these years to refine the play. The recent Cataclysm update changed the whole beginning world because most new players quit after getting to level 10. WoW isn’t a game for everyone.

DCUO also looks to have been built for the PC first and then ported over to the PS3. The menus look to be designed for a mouse and keyboard. Just try to add a player to your friends list. You have to use the d-pad to move all the way over to the list of users and then select the ‘add as friend’ option. It would be like tabbing through options in Windows when you just need to move over the option with the mouse and click on it. Click on the start button and you are presented with a bar of options that you need to use the L1 and R1 buttons to navigate through. Mouse users would just click on the option. Hopefully they will come up with some kind of wheel menu system that you select by moving the control stick in the appropriate direction. Text chat has canned messages that you can quickly select with the d-pad, but if you really want to say something to a friend, you need to bring up the on-screen keyboard and select letters with the control stick. You can hook a USB keyboard up to the PS3 if you are going to be typing a lot. My son uses his cell phone to talk with his friend in the game. Why? Because the game has voice chat but it doesn’t work at this time.

You can even attack while flying!

Patches, patches, and more patches. That is what this game needs. We are already on the third patch since release two weeks ago. If they listen to users in the forums, hopefully they game will become more console friendly. Again, World of Warcraft had many of its own problems and took a long time to get where it is at today. Out of the box, DCUO already has many of the new features that took years to show up in WoW. It also has new features that I wish were in WoW, like locking the look of my character and easy pickup of dropped items.

I’m only one week into the game and am having a blast with it. I run around and do quests with others… not worrying about chat. I join alerts (dungeons) with other random people and we play our own parts as Tank, DPS, Healer, or Controller (WoW terms except for Controller which is new to DCUO). I buy and sell items and then upgrade my character as needed. I even check out the looks of new items to see if I want to update my character’s style. I’ve gone from using a flowing cape to having a rocket pack on my back. My style, My hero! This game has so much going for it that I overlook the little problems. I also make sure to post anything I find to the forums so that it can hopefully get fixed.

Will I still be playing this after my 30 day free period is up? Right now I’ll say yes, but I’m only level 16 and need to get to level 30 to experience everything in the game. I’ve watched my son with his villain and he is playing different quests from me. I also see where he is playing the same quests but from the villain side instead of the good playing hero. The game is $15 a month after the free period is up and there are discounts for buying multiple months up front.

There are a lot of details that I did not give in this article and it is still a lot of reading. If you are interested in the game, check out the official dcuniverseonline.com website for game play videos, playing guides, and more in-depth information on your powers, skills, weapons, and mentors. There is even a great forum post with a lot of useful information about playing the game. If you are playing WoW and want something with a little more action and better animated enemies, check out DC Universe Online. Try to remember how WoW was when it first came out and give this game a chance.

DCUO is more action oriented, so don’t make to many direct comparisons to WoW. I don’t want to hear that DCUO doesn’t have crafting, an auction house, or action bars that fill the bottom and right of my screen for all my spells and powers. I don’t want that in this game. I don’t feel like I’m grinding in DCUO. I feel like I’m part of a larger story to save the world! Oh, there’s lots of voice acting and cut scenes in this game, so you don’t have to do a lot of reading like in WoW. Enjoy the game. I’ll let you know what I think after 30 days.

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Update 1/31/2010

Okay, so it hasn’t been 30 days yet, but I’m ready to give an update. I am at level 23 with my super hero in DC Universe Online. I’m still enjoying the game very much but am starting to run into some bugs that are keeping me from continuing on in different quests. As an example, one of the alerts, Oolong Island, has a small boss that needs to be defeated at the beginning. While fighting him, the doors to the room shut around you. If your group all dies during this fight, there is no way to get back into the room to continue the fight. I keep thinking about how many bugs were in World of Warcraft when it came out and how many continue to show up after each major update. As long as Sony patches these bugs, it is not really a problem… just something expected with large MMO’s.

 

The bigger they are, the harder they fall!

 

 

I’ve also thought about the pacing of this game over what WoW offers. I mentioned that this does not have crafting or an Auction house like WoW, and how I don’t like those things. (As a side note, I did see in the forums that an Auction house would be implemented in DCUO someday) To me, WoW seems to be more for the Farmville type crowd. It is a large society of markets, businesses, and jobs. To take care of your Leather working skills, you need to buy supplies from the businesses like curing salt or thread. You then have to skin the animals (crafting) to gain the main materials. Finally, you either equip the finished product, give it to others, or sell it at a store or in the auction house. I gave up on my crafting. It just added to the grind of the existing game. You can spend just as much time doing these chores as you do completing quests or dungeons. There’s fishing, bread making, leatherworking, mining, collecting herbs, and much more. If that’s your cup of tea, then go for it. For me, I’ll stick to quests and dungeons.

I’m really enjoying the combo fighting system of DCUO. I’ve learned a lot of weapon skills that I can pull of with the melee and ranged buttons. I’ve also carefully placed my skills and powers on the action bar at the bottom. I keep my transforming skills in the same location so I can switch in and out of my Gorilla (recently gained) and Werewolf forms quickly. I also have attack or healing spells that I keep in the same spot so I can use them no matter what form I am in. While on the subject of skills and powers. There are many listed for me to select from when I level up. I found that there are many innate or passive skills that I don’t have to worry about assigning to my action bar. So, now I can gain a power to lift larger items like cars and throw them at the enemy. Others are like higher critical hits, better healing, more health, weapon mastery, and higher defense. Many of these are unlocked for purchase at higher levels.

I’m having a log of fun with the quests too. They flow from one to the next without having to return to complete every sub-quest, like in WoW. The stories are also interesting and each main quest always ends with a great comic-like animation to complete it. For example, the Poison Ivy quest had me starting in part of the city where people were infected and, for some reason, beating them to a pulp revived them. I then move to a park area where man-eating plants and other enemy need to be taken out. I find a sub-quest where some scientists want seeds from the plants so they can study them. I then carry these back to their truck while fighting. I eventually work my way to Poison Ivy’s lair where another sub-quest has me rescuing fallen police officers. I fight my way through the lair until I get to Poison Ivy as the final boss. She has control over Robin, so I have to fight him to knock some sense into him. He then helps me to fight the other creatures that she has control over. Once we beat them, she gives up and Robin takes her in.

 

It helps when you have a friend at your side.

 

 

This reminds me of another type of weapon I forgot to mention before. There are throwable items in many dungeon areas within DCUO. Many are just items lying around like chairs, computers, or vending machines. The better items are barrels with markings on the sides. You have the plus sign for health barrels, flames for the exploding barrels, snow flakes for the freezing barrels, and the hazard symbol for the poison barrels. There are others too but I have not tried them all yet to see what they do. When you are in the heat of the battle, you just start to grab and throw. I’m careful to watch out for the health barrels because if I thrown them down, I get healed while beating up on the enemy. This just adds another layer to the action (dodge, block, and jump) of DCUO.

I’ve also tried watching out for other players too. Like I mentioned before, you don’t have to be in a group with other players to gain loot and experience from the fallen enemy. As long as we are working on the same group of enemy, we all get what we are due. I’m not worried that someone is going to steal a quest item from me like in WoW. You do need to group with others if you are entering a quest dungeon. Otherwise you enter by yourself. I tried a quest dungeon last night and kept getting overrun by the enemy. I then exited and waited for another to show up at the entrance. We then grouped up and then completed the whole dungeon. The quick chat (down on the d-pad) allowed me to ask the other person to join the group and then thank them when done. No need for the keyboard. A new type of quest, I found since my last writing, also needs the help of many other players. It is a villain quest that collected by the wanted posters… it might be called something different if you are playing as a villain. The quest asks you to defeat a villain that can be found in a marked area of the city. The first time I found a giant Egyptian Anubis villain. I started attacking, he hit me once, and I was just about dead. I left and tried again later. I found that you need to attack these villains with many other players helping. It takes about five minutes before you beat him and complete the quest. They are randomly running around in the middle of another quest area. A nice change of pace from the normal quests.

I played more of the PvP arenas too. I enjoy working with my team to put a whupping on the enemy. A king of the hill arena had turrets that we could arm to attack for our side. It’s really different being attacked from all sides as well as from above or below. I can fly into a battle and start attacking before I even land. Using attacks from my flying skill tree, I can swoop down and knock the enemy over. Another PvP mode like Legends, I didn’t enjoy at all. For this mode, you pick from pre-existing characters like Batman, Bane, Robin, and five others. The problem is that a few of these are over powered. I’ve heard this in the forums too. Some can start an attack and keep it going so that you don’t even have a chance to get up or block. There are quests that state I must complete each of the Legends once… so I’m just doing it to finish the quest. It is the game’s way of getting you to try everything at least once.

I’m hoping the bugs and few balance issues of DCUO get ironed out soon. I’m also finding features that I wish were added like the ability to cancel any quest I no longer want to complete, or an option to skip my leveling up until a later time… I can’t see my objectives if I’m in the middle of a quest and level up. These issues are few and far between, so I’m still enjoying the story and the overall game itself.

As of right now, I’m going to try getting to level 30 before my free period is up. I may then wait to renew my subscription until I see more patches come through to fix some of the problems and bugs. They are asking for a lot of feedback on their forums so I’m hoping they are really going to stand behind DCUO and make it a great game. If you really love the DC Universe and all the super heroes and villains within it, you may want to pick up this game. Otherwise, sit back and wait to see how much support it gets from the developers. I’ll give you another update soon.

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Level 30 Update

 

February 7th marks the day that I hit level 30 in DC Universe online. The road to this level was a little rocky, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As I worked my way to level 30, I noticed more people working together to complete quests. I was able to find others in Alerts (like WoW dungeons) who played their roles as Tank, Healer, DPS, or Controller… more on this in a bit. I’m more comfortable with the game now, so getting around and saving the earth is becoming second nature. I’ve beaten a few of the “Wanted” bosses with others and have had my butt kicked a few times. I even heard, in reviews, that DC Universe is getting an Update later in February.

Updates! Yes, DCUO is getting an update that will add a new iconic character with her own level 30 episode… Catwoman. She will also be available to play in Legends mode and will also leave some other nice content to loot. We are also getting some new investigations, collections, PVP zones, and a Valentine themed Alert and PVP battles. They are committed to providing content on a monthly basis and this is the start of it. Oh, and a WoW type auction house is being added. That will make many happy. You can read more about it on IGN’s site.

 

Don't get stunned by the ice.

 

 

I was just glad to read about new content already. I’ve been expecting patches and am patiently waiting for more bugs to get squashed. This has actually made me want to continue my $15 a month subscription for another few months. Speaking of the monthly payment, you may want to keep an eye out this week. Sony is going to be offering three months of DCUO for the price of two. From what I read, if you keep up with your subscription, you can continue to pay $29.95 for three months. That sounds like a good deal. I never get any discounts from World of Warcraft.

Okay, so I mentioned the roles that we play in the Alerts. While nearing level 30, the Alerts (dungeons) are getting tougher. The problem with DCUO (WoW has the same issue) is that new MMO players don’t understand anything about switching into your character role of tank, healer, controller, or DPS. The person who plays as a tank attracts most of the enemies and takes the damage that they deal out. The healer then keeps the tank… you guessed it… healed. The controller manages the groups of enemies by stunning or freezing them so that the tank doesn’t get overwhelmed by too many. The controller also restores power to those who need it. And finally the DPS, which everyone does by default, deals the extra damage to any of the enemies. What I find happening is most players don’t switch out of their DPS mode and play their assigned roles. You then have everyone dying because there is no one there to heal them, control the enemy, or to keep their attention. I played a new level 30 Duo (two player dungeon) last night and I was the healer and the other person was the tank. The enemy mostly attacked him and I just made sure he stayed healed and attacked when I could. This makes for great cooperative gaming!

Speaking of cooperative gaming, since I’m now at level 30, I’ve unlocked eight player Raids. Now I get to play a couple of the larger dungeons with more people. As I mentioned above, I also unlocked the 2 player Duos and hard mode for the Alerts, Arenas, and Legends mode. There is also some exciting new level 30 Legends armor that I can work on getting to pimp out my character’s style. I’ve also found that quests have opened up in the Watchtower, so I’m excited to see what new things are available for me at this top level. I’ll post another update once I’ve spent some time as a true super hero.

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