DC Universe Online is a high-quality MMORPG developed by Sony Online Entertainment that recently transitioned into a free to play business model. Set in the comic fiction DC Universe, players fight alongside and against DC Universe superheroes to prevent the destruction of Earth from supervillain, Brainiac.
The choice to side with the Heroes or Villains is made during character creation by the selection of a mentor from Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman for the Heroes, and Lex Luther, The Joker and Circe for the Villains. Though both sides are united in their struggle against Brainiac and his war fleet invasion of Earth, fighting amongst the factions is ongoing, and open-world PvP combat is available on servers that allow it.
“Fortunately, what DC Universe lacks in initial character customisation it more than makes up for in gameplay and style.”
Pulling rank on Daniel Owens, I called dibs on playing as a Villain for this dual-review venture. Sadly, we made this decision prior to releasing the limited effect this choice would have on gameplay, so these reviews will likely be more similar than we’d originally hoped. Regardless, should you find yourself looking to walk on the lighter side of life, check out Dan Free to Play MMORPG DC Universe Hero Review, and leave we villains to our nefarious ways.
Back to character creation, I was a little underwhelmed with the options available. Both City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online felt as though they offered a substantially larger amount of choice in terms of powers and aesthetic, and the choice of mentor didn’t appear to change anything at all.
The various pools of power are drawn from iconic heroes and villains such as Poison Ivy nature abilities, Mr. Freeze ice powers, various gadgets, and so on; the choices of costume merely offer a fixed amount of ‘suits’ that can be mixed and matched to achieve various, often underwhelming results.
Fortunately, what DC Universe lacks in initial character customisation it more than makes up for in gameplay and style. It immediately obvious as you begin playing for the first time that this is a very high-quality MMORPG. Beginning as a prisoner on one of Brainiac War Fleet ships, the tutorial phase of the game will see you escape in glorious superhero fashion, destroying various cyborg manifestations along the way.
“Those choosing to side with Batman or the Joker, for example, will begin playing in Gotham City.”
Again regrettably, your choice of faction and powers will bear no effect on this section of the game, and you’ll need to complete it, again and again, for each new character you create. However, upon successfully escaping this ship, you’ll arrive in your first questing hub, and be given your first story quest; both of which are determined by your choice of mentor. Those choosing to side with Batman or the Joker, for example, will begin playing in Gotham City, and as such, will have their quests and NPCs tailored to match.
This, I like. A lot. I’m one of those guys that likes to make a lot of characters in an MMORPG; I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my fair share of end-game content in a good selection of core MMOs, but at the end of the day, it creating new characters, completing interesting quests and tackling difficult dungeons that gets me excited.
“Open-world superhero/villain PvP in Gotham City is about as much fun as you can safely have in an MMO without taking off your clothes and creating a Blood Elf in WoW.”
Which reminds me, the quests and dungeons in DC Universe are pretty much standard MMORPG fare; you won’t find anything close to World of Warcraft quest ingenuity here, but combined with your choice of travel power (from a possible Flight, Speed or Acrobatics), you’ll find yourself having all too much fun completing a huge number of ‘samey’ quests, thanks entirely to how you’ll finish them. Don’t get too excited though: creeping down buildings to sneak up behind enemies, for example, isn’t half as cool as it could have been, but sprinting up to them at full speed and hitting them in the face with a stick never gets old.
PvP is a bit of a mixed bag; while on one hand the open-world PvP is a refreshing change of pace from a lot of the ‘carebear’ action we’ve seen in Free to Play MMORPGs of late; however, some powers, such as flight, appear to make it all too easy to eliminate enemies without effort. On the other hand, open-world superhero/villain PvP in Gotham City is about as much fun as you can safely have in an MMO without taking off your clothes and creating a Blood Elf in WoW, and the PvP events that allow you to actually play as the core characters are a lot of fun.
All in all, DC Universe has far too much content to discuss here, and you already know enough to make an educated decision: up until a week ago, you needed to buy it and pay a fee each month to play; today, it free, and it got the Joker in it. Nuff said.