Back in 2008, I finally came to the determination I was done with City of Heroes. You never forget your first anything, and CoH was my first MMORPG. I fought villains in Paragon City relentlessly at first. I was in love. It was the ultimate in wish fulfillment and for the better part of ten months, it became my primary kick. However, I soon found myself nerfed into obscurity as did my friends by the forces of Jack ‘Statesman’ Emmert and his gameplay-hating regime of sysadmins. There was no end game. All the missions were the same. And, worse, I was paying for it.
So I quit.
I remembered at the time setting forth my new policy: I should not be made to pay for something I hardly use. I was shelling out ten bucks a month for something that languished on a partition of my Mac I barely looked at. I was done paying fees.
I guess that time heals all wounds. Or, that I’m a slow learner. Because I picked up DC Universe Online.
It started innocently enough. Just before Christmas I found out I could play the Beta, and it was available on PSN if I shelled out $17 for three months service (a service which I plan to let lapse if possible). So, I spent seven hours downloading it and the patches for it. I goofed with it, only half-heartedly paying attention. I didn’t want to get burned again. I didn’t want to learn to love an MMO again. I didn’t want to pay the goddamned subscription.
But I did. It’s now safely tucked away in my own personal Batcave. So you get a review.
I have to admit – this is a departure from what I’m used to. For me, MMORPG was something you did at a desk. Preferably one close to a bathroom and close to a phone. You needed a keyboard. You needed a mouse. Ventrillo was optional, but a good idea; I typed fast so I never needed it. I suppose if you’re a PC player you still get this experience. However, it has been quite some time since I had a PC that was geared towards gaming, so I opted for the PS3. This has lead to mixed results. But the big difference is not the means by which I play. The big difference is the quality of the game.
Games like City of Heroes (and Champions Online according to second hand info) can feel very ‘no frills’ at times. The pantheon of famous supers in these games pale next to iconic names like, say, Superman. Paragon City? Where’s that you say? I can think of more iconic fake city names. Like, say… Gotham City? Ring any bells? This game has substance that oozes out of it like honey. You get to fight alongside a mentor hero or a mentor villain. These mentors are names you’ve heard. How about Batman? Easy, sign up. Lex Luthor? I think you will find him a hard but fair tutor. The Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman? Yup, them too. So I needed to be reminded of who Circe was, but… way better than doing task forces for that douchebag Positron out in Paragon City.
‘But, is it good?’ I hear you asking. I’d be inclined to say yes on the basis of the Beta and the actual release. The gameplay itself is not as novel as one would hope. MMO follows a very strict set of guidelines in general: 1-through-0 keybound commands, kill collect x on the whim of the guy with the question mark above his head. By these terms, the game is nothing special. There’s no doubt an online economy (I have yet to delve into these matters as of this writing) and you can sell stuff and get power-up items. In this, the game is nothing special. However, the presentation of this is very different from other MMO’s. Not only do you have the familiar substance of the DC Comics Universe characters and settings, but the execution there of really gives you an immersive feel. When you go on a mission against the cops in Gotham City as a villain and have Catwoman crash in on you, it really makes you feel like you’re a player in the game. You’re not doing Positron’s laundry in DCUO. You fight with heroes and villains that you grew up with! I had dreamed as a child of living in a world where Superman was real, and that I could find some missing Kryptonian link in my blood. That will never happen, but this is as close as I’m going to get.
This strength however is ultimately it’s downfall in a sense. As mentioned above, most MMOs, in my experience, are the same. It’s a matter of window dressing and how you accent the core mechanics. If you don’t dig superheroes, well… maybe you need another MMO. Lord knows there’s enough of them. What it comes down to is liking the core mechanic and the shiny stuff they put in front of it. I like superheroes, so this ain’t a real big jump.
The biggest downside I’ve had so far though is that it’s harder as a console player to interact with other heroes. I’ve no headset or bluetooth device to use with the system. There’s no keypad for my controller. I’ve no mouse to better direct where I want to fly. These are distinct disadvantages to playing on a console. PC players will no doubt be able to get by just fine, but it kind of sucks for me. Sure, I can throw money at these problems, but look at this. Do you wanna pay $50 for that? If you have a PC setup, I’d recommend that platform just based on the social aspects alone. Of course, I can Skype via my smartphone or iPad if I really have to, or others who have bluetooth on hand can probably use their existing tech. So who knows, maybe this isn’t as big a problem. I’ll know in a few more months.
The last detail I’d note is their menu system… which needs some work. There’s a lot of stuff in there and it’s slow to page through, but I imagine I’ll get the swing of it with enough play.
Overall, I’m a huge nerd. I love superheroes. So of course I love the game. However, I’m not going to rate this. Not yet. Come back in a month and we’ll see a rating. Until then: KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!!