And then there’s DC Universe Online, which is a game I just don’t think about all that much. Which is odd, as it may very well be the most successful MMO Daybreak is managing at the moment.
Some of this, of course, is down to the fact that it’s a game that seemed to launch almost by accident, with little to no fanfare and remarkably little promotion. But it’s also a game very different from many of its predecessors; where many superhero MMOs seem to be derived, on some level, from the archetypes put forth by CoH, DCUO does its own thing. And that alone makes it worthy of a closer look.
In fact, weird though it might look to read, I think DCUO is actually the one game on the earlier list designed as an MMO first and a superheroic game second. And while that brings with it a different set of challenges, that means the game also doesn’t have the same sort of problems that its thematic predecessors often shared.
That’s not to say DCUO is any less of a superheroic title, mind you. It just seems to focus first on the MMO side of things. You’ve got your gear to set up (even if you unlock styles and can always re-arrange your costume), you’ve got your group content formats, you’ve got stuff to buy and sell, and so forth. Maybe it’s just me, but I certainly felt during my brief time with the game that it was coming from a very different place.
Of course, it’s also designed for console sensibilities; the game was initially on the PlayStation 3 as well as the PC, and over time it has expanded from there. That also comes across in its design, and I think some elements of the game (like the races) seem particularly created to encourage players to play the game like a single-player open-world title. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
And then it’s based off of the DC comics universe. I have mixed feelings about that, too; while I’m a big fan of several stories DC has told over the years and can talk endlessly about the good stuff behind the universe, there’s also a strong sense of the franchise wanting to put the most… boring elements of its universe foremost all the time. Like we keep getting “beat up Superman” as a big plot point when there are much more interesting things to be done with even the big man himself.
It’s not based on a specific DC universe, mind you, which works in its favor. Heck, the whole multiverse theory comes into play right from the start; Lex Luthor travels back in time after having killed all of the heroes in his era in the hopes of creating new heroes to beat back a massive invasion force. It’s appropriately convoluted and hits the right notes, although some parts of me wonder if the premise exists chiefly to create an impressive trailer in which lots of heroes get blown up.
So I have lots of mixed feelings here. But all of them wind up averaging into a game I only dipped my toes into ages ago, back on Massively-that-was when I was trying to extend the lifespan of a column about superheroic MMOs. Which is not enough to really base a firm opinion of the game upon.
When I did play it, though, I enjoyed it. I thought it had some really interesting design ideas, and while I’ve alluded to feeling as if some elements come from a bit of a “serving multiple masters” element alluded to above, that doesn’t diminish my overall interest. The fact that the game has instanced content specifically designed for pairs alone piques my interest, as someone who often has a partner in crime when I’m playing an MMO specifically.
There was stuff I remember not liking as much, but… well, I’ll get to that, won’t I? Maybe I’ll like it more now. If not, it’ll at least be interesting to read about.
I’m also pretty sure I won’t get up to the whole Amazon Fury arc, which is a good thing. I don’t see why you’d push to get fantasy elements into a game where one of the big selling points is that it’s not fantasy. Ah, well.
While the game doesn’t quite have traditional classes, it does have some interesting areas for characters to focus on in terms of initial build, stuff that you can’t really change after the fact. The biggest point, obviously, is whether your character is a hero or a villain. Even though the very structure of the game means that villains wind up saving the world on a regular basis, it’s worth starting out by seeing if I’ll be fighting on the side of the angels or the devils, so to speak.
CMA: What should my alignment be?
- Hero (50%, 89 Votes)
- Villain (50%, 90 Votes)
Total Voters: 179
Each character also gets a choice of three separate mentors tied into the character origin. The choices are pretty straightforward; your character’s powers might be technological (derived from superior machinery), magical (derived from magic that seems to be functionally equivalent to technology in this case), or metahuman (you’re just naturally more than human). Batman serves as a mentor to tech heroes while the Joker serves as one for tech villains, for example; I could have arguably combined the two into one poll, but let’s make them separate and I’ll build my optional rubric from there.
CMA: What should my origin be?
- Tech (32%, 55 Votes)
- Meta (40%, 70 Votes)
- Magic (28%, 48 Votes)
Total Voters: 173
As always, the polls will close at 6 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 30th, so you have plenty of time to get your votes in and let me know what you think about my next choice of destination. Until then, you can feel free to leave feedback in the comments down below or send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. And yes, I didn’t include a poll about power and weapon sets; I figure I’ll get to that as I see which particular sets grab me. Atomic has a good chance of being in there.