Last week, Sony Online Entertainment LLC made DC Universe Online (DCUO) free to play. The game is available as a digital download for the PC and PlayStation 3. DCUO is rated “T” for Teen and is suitable for children 13 years and older; however, the online content (like the chat room) is not rated. After months of being a subscription only game, DCUO becoming a free-to play follows the trend many other online games have established, including World of Warcraft. Curious about DCUO and having a great internet connection, I decided to play the PS3 version.
I was eager to play this game. But the game was not eager to have me.
As reported by Examiner.com, the demand for the game overwhelmed the capacity of the servers, causing the game to crash for both PC and PS3 platforms. After Sony’s announcement, about 120,000 people were drawn to the chance to fight alongside some of DC’s iconic heroes for free. Although the servers were back up shortly after the crash on Thursday, when I played the game I got kicked out because the system had to shut down for routine maintenance. The stability of DCUO is the main problem with the game. Sony underestimated the lure of Batman and the word “free.” I knew the game would take a while to download (three hours for me), but I did not expect the wait I had to endure just to get in.
When you start the game the first time, you are prompted to select between the PvP and PvE environments. PvE is player versus environment; in this mode, no other player can attack you, so you can focus on fighting NPCs like criminals and soulless thralls. Many prefer the PvP (player versus player) mode because players can attack other players. I selected PvP mode. The story and the world is the same as PvE; I just like having the option of fighting other players when the mood strikes me. The free version allows players to create two characters, so you can have one in PvP and the other in PvE, and you can have one villain and one hero. The choice is yours.
Regardless of the environment, the beginning is the same. The game opens with a beautiful, detailed computer-generated animated movie. The world is a desolate war zone; the heroes battle villains, but are losing. We cut to Lex Luther telling Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman that he has traveled back in time to warn them that the constant fighting leaves them vulnerable to their true enemy—Brainiac. To fight Brainiac, Lex stole Brainaic’s exobytes, microscopic devices that steal powers from heroes. Lex releases the exobytes into the atmosphere to create a new breed of super-powered beings. We are to become the army needed to defeat Brainiac. This explains how thousands of people got powers in the DC world.
After the short opening movie, you create your character. You can imprint your character with the morality and powers of some of the DC characters like Superman, the Joker, or Batman, or you can have a custom creation. I created two characters, a hero and a villain. My hero, WonderLynn, has an acrobatic movement style, fights with duel weapons, has sorcery powers, and has a comic personality. Her mentor is Wonder Woman. My villain, AwfulLynn, also fights with duel weapons, is serious, shoots fire, and moves at super speed; the Joker is her mentor.
Your hero (or villain) starts in Brainaic’s ship, so if you create multiple characters, you can have two characters in the free version, expect to play this sequence each time. Once you finally start playing, the gameplay is quick, smooth, and fun. The tutorial prompts are helpful, and learning the mechanics of DCUO is unobtrusive and flows with the action. You reach level 2 quickly; holding the Start button opens the navigation wheel. The navigation wheel allows you to access traits, inventory, your journal (details about your missions), a map, options (to change game settings), and the Marketplace. DCUO is an RPG, so you can assign points to skill trees to develop certain powers and attributes. Loot drops in this sequence so you can compare stats of items. The interface is clear and concise. When you highlight an item in your inventory, you can see the increase or decrease to your stats. Hitting X equips an item; you can sell extra items when you find a vendor to keep plenty of inventory slots open.
At the end of the beginning escape sequence, you get to fight alongside a DC icon. If you’re a villain, it’s Lex Luthor; if you’re a hero, it’s Superman. Afterwards, you’re teleported to a safe house where you can meet vendors, get your mail, and sometimes get missions. Your mentor will also give you missions when you are in the open world. The open world is where the fun begins. DCUO is an MMO, and fighting soulless thralls with strangers is one of the best parts of the game. The world is vast, and plenty of enemies are available to fight. If you’re in PvP mode like I was (everyone’s in the same world; those who are PvP have a flag by their name), expect to get attacked by villains—whether you’re a hero or a villain.
The open world is where I had the most fun in the game. I enjoyed running over buildings, and when I was a villain, I ran across water. Pressing the left stick toggles between movement modes, so switching between walking and climbing was easy and didn’t interrupt my gameplay. You access your powers by holding down L2 and pressing one of the buttons.
You cannot use your powers constantly; in the upper left corner are your health and power status bars. If you get injured, the color fades on the screen and a ring of red appears; when you hear a heartbeat, your health is very low. You can run away and rest to recover your health; if you have assigned a health drink to a slot, then you can hold down R2 and press the appropriate button. You don’t die in the game; you get knocked down. After you flee, you are sent back to your starting safe house.
One final note about the open world: When you have your navigation wheel open, you can get attacked. I suggest going to a roof before accessing the navigation wheel.
Although I had a great time beating up thugs, throwing heavy objects at cops, and burning soulless thralls, it’s not enough to make me continue with the game. Why? Because I do not enjoy waiting thirty minutes to start playing. I have to admit that I fell asleep while waiting in a login queue with 7800 others in front of me.
While playing the game, sometimes there are loading times when you transition between locations. The load screen with the Joker was up almost ten minutes; the picture of the Joker is intense, and he stared at me so long I thought he was beginning to speak to me. The moment that frustrated me the most was when WonderLynn got stuck in the environment. I had to quit the game. I was going to play more, but there were 9800 players in the login queue. Yeah, I was not in the mood to wait another half hour to play, so I went to bed.
Perhaps in a couple of months when DC and Sony (hopefully) have the bugs hammered out, the game will be more enjoyable to play to where I’m not falling asleep waiting for it load. However, right now, I can only recommend this game to diehard lovers of action MMORPGs and DC characters. I was looking forward to fighting by Wonder Woman’s side, but the wait times have discouraged me, so Wonder Woman will have to fight Brainiac with those who have more patience than me.