With all the movies in the cinemas and series on the screens, this last decade has proven that superhero hype is always in style. As gamers, we all know what it’s like to let our imaginations run wild, to lose ourselves in the roles of the fantastic. Whenever someone mentions Superheroes, certain names will always spring to the forefront of the mind. We all have our favorites, wether because they have awesome powers, or maybe we can relate to their struggles. Well, how about a game that gives you the power, that lets you put on your own cape and fly around to save the day. Not just any hero, you!
GAMEPLAY: FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET
DC Universe Online has recently celebrated it’s 5 year anniversary and it looks like it is still going strong. Currently with over 20 chapters of playable content, the Universe just keeps expanding. Porting over to the Xbox One later this year, players of the console can finally join PC and Playstation for the fun. Set in the DC Universe, all the locales, adventures and styles have been greatly inspired by the graphic novels that have littered the media for decades. The fans and creative wizards at the Daybreak Game Company and WBGames have virtualized many titanic clashes lifted directly from the pages of the most epic stories in hero history to create immersive “Episodes,” such as the War of Light, The Sons of Trigon and Amazon Fury.
The story starts as all good comic book stories do: in the future. The Never-ending battle between good and evil has come to a head and the casualties are not minimal. Believe it or not, Lex Luthor is the last man standing, yet before the dust even has a chance to settle, Brainiac sweeps in for the kill on a defenseless Earth. Having waited in the wings, Brainiac used his technology to create Exo-bytes, nano-tech bugs, to copy and store the skills and powers of the all the world’s meta-humans. Never one to go down easy, Luthor steals the exo-bytes and travels to the past where the exo-bytes are unleashed, creating a whole new generation of Heroes and Villains, in order to give the Earth one last chance to halt the Brainiac Invasion, before it even begins.
The basic Free to Play version of the game grants you six character slots, allowing you to devise more than one powered persona. It’s here that the game begins; creating your very own caped crusader. There are many combinations of body types, powers and personalities that you can mix together before choosing who you prefer to mentor you as you begin exploring the main story campaigns set in the giant sandboxes of Metropolis and Gotham City. There are abilities to choose from across the franchise, providing a pretty package of potential powers. Fire, Ice, Psychic, Gadgets, Sorcery, you can even have Heat Vision! Who doesn’t love Heat Vision? Upon completing your creation, the tutorial begins with Oracle/Calculator talking you through an escape from the clutches of a Brainiac scout ship. From there you can venture off into the world and be the Hero/Villain you always dreamed you could be. Super Speed, Flight, even Zip-lines are on hand to convey yourself around the city.
CONTENT: MORE POWERFUL THAN A LOCOMOTIVE
Being an MMORPG there are many features in the game to take advantage of. You can team up with your friends to undertake duo missions, or even join in many of the 4 and 8 player raids. There are even some iconic arena locations, such as the Batcave, where you can face off and prove who is the most mighty. With enough players, you can set up a League of your own. You can even design your own idyllic base to hang your cape and prepare for your next hazardous happenstance. Being Super is great. Having said that, it can be so good to be bad. Being a Villain you get access to alternate missions and scenarios. One instance in particular provides a chance to take the big blue boy scout, Superman, down a peg or two.
Daily, Weekly and Monthly bonuses are rewarded for completing quests and will keep you coming back for more. Seasonal events are also on hand to spice up the holidays. Larfreeze steals Christmas, the Star Sapphires steal more than a few hearts on Valentine and the sizzling Summer heralds an Atlantean Invasion, each with their own loot drops and style themes. One of the great things about the games dynamics is that it all depends on you. You can brazenly leap from fight to fight or calmly take your time to explore and uncover the Brief and Investigation icons dotted around, to reveal more of the backstory behind events.
BEHIND THE SCENES: WHAT MAKES A MAN OF STEEL?
In terms of gameplay and content, one could go on forever. However what really makes it feel like a Comic Book Extravaganza, aside from it’s obvious star power, is the artists and performers behind the scenes.
The Voice Over Cast includes Kevin Conroy reprising his role of The Batman, as well as others from Batman: The Animated Series. Even Mark Hamill contributed his talents for The Joker (God Bless the voice of Mark Hamill) paired with the comical tones of Arleen Sorkin, the trademark voice of Harley Quinn. Though for some of the minor NPCs the dialogue delivery is questionable, on the whole I’d say the voices successfully deliver the corny yet captivating comic-speak we have come to expect from a genre of this caliber.
Better than the way it sounds is the way it looks. Comic Book Artist Legend Jim Lee is largely responsible for the colourful, crisp aesthetic that has been incorporated. He has penned many recognisable images since he began in 1987. His professional works include Uncanny X-Men and Batman and has contributed his abilities to styling the wonderful world and characters at hand. Writers Geoff Johns (who has scripted episodes of Smallville, Arrow and The Flash) and Marv Wolfman (whose expertise have graced comics for both Marvel and DC, including Nightwing, Teen Titans and Blade, and even co-created Tim Drake/Robin) both lend their words and wisdom to the assorted plots and pitfalls to dramatize the multitudes of raids and operations. All of this comes together very neatly in the cutscenes that occur the first time you complete a mission, creating a conclusive impression of a job well done. In the early days, these were all penned and displayed through semi-still images. Nowadays the action is acted out by all manner of super sprites, to give the main plot points that extra “Biff, Thok” and “Pow.”
THE SCORE: IN BRIGHTEST DAY, IN BLACKEST NIGHT
DC Universe Online is an encouraging community of superheroes that gives gamers the chance to emulate almost any kind of graphic novel character they could possibly want to be. Considering the rate of the games’ growth, and accessibility on multiple platforms, in a few years it could even give games like World of Warcraft a run for it’s money. However, the bigger the game the more data space it needs. It currently takes 40GB on my system. The free to play version is very compelling but it does only allow you to do so much. After a certain point, to get the full DCUO experience, you will need to either buy the content bit by bit or subscribe to be a member. Once you cap level 30, tiered equipment is required to boost your stats to tackle the tougher challenges. Yet with every expansion, your options for diversity in-game will grow, revealing new power sets, costumes and battle armour to coincide with the ever increasing danger from the various galactic threats. Occasionally there were server issues when the game first stood on it’s feet, but it looks like those problems are a thing of the past (touch wood). Everytime there is a major issue of this nature, they are very generous with rewarding gamers for their patience and feedback with items such as iconic styles and free subscription time. Typical of most MMORPGs is that it doesn’t really have an ending and could potentially go on and on. The concept of becoming your own character and making a name for yourself in the world of DC comics, is by itself, very appealing. Capes and utility belts aside, it isn’t only the action and adventure that makes this game great, but the artistic integrity and vocal ingenuity that makes the whole experience “Super.”
Pros and cons
+ Iconic DC powers/stories/experience
+ New content continually added, expanding the “Universe”
+ Create your own Super Hero/Villain.
– Big game, lots of hard drive space.
– Need to pay for the full experience.