DC Universe Online: The Good, The Bad and the Future

DC Universe Online logo
DC Universe Online logo

So much of my time has been spent playing my Superman hating hero, Lineage in DC Universe online, but I had to take a moment to give my opinion on the game. While I had been looking forward to this game since its announcement it was seeing so many of my friends playing it that made me finally decide to buy it instead of waiting a few more weeks. I do not regret my decision, but there are pressing issues and long-term questions about this MMO.

The Good

I remember playing City of Heroes and thinking about how cool it was to make my own hero from scratch. Unfortunately, issues such are repetitive missions, level grinds and lack of custom powers quickly turned my love to loathing. With DCUO, I decided not to read all the developers notes or message boards. I wanted to come into this game like a child who received it on day one and make my decision of whether it was good or not based on firsthand experience not what is “coming soon”.

  • Character Design – Sure, it may not be as in-depth as City of Heroes is, but it is a great start. You cannot only make a completely original hero, but if you wish, you can pretty much copy any hero from DC, Marvel and beyond.
  • Power Layout – You have your two primary powers, but you also can choose from Iconic Powers that give you abilities such as Superman’s heat vision or Batman’s batarangs. This allows you to really customize your character whether you are a min/max’er or a concept creator.
  • Into the Fire – What I mean by this is you do not start of fighting purse-snatchers. From the beginning, you are going up against the big names from Scarecrow to Bizarro and everything in between. This makes you feel like a hero not some jerk in a mask.
  • Heroic TeamUp – From the start of the game you team up with well-known DC superheroes and this continues throughout the game. For those that though they only give you missions from police stations and the watchtower are wrong. Sure, often the heroes do not do much, but still fighting alongside them is very cool and I know there is much more to come.
  • Similar but different – Sure, most missions have you go to a location take out a bunch of bad guys and then rinse and repeat. However, there is enough variety in not only the locations and bad guys, but the story layout and endgame (mission wise not complete game wise) to keep you interested and wanting to play more.
  • Dungeon Tile sets – This was one of my biggest issues with City of Heroes, check out my report on it. When I say Dungeon, I mean an instance where only you or your team can enter. In COH it was always an office or a warehouse and sometimes a science lab, but with DCUO every instance is unique even if it is an abandoned warehouse. It makes the game seem much larger than it is and it keeps it from getting boring which is a very good thing.
  • Easy to Play, Easy to Level – There is some risk, but no more than what you will find in World of Warcraft and believe it or not this works for this type of game. You can get your butt kicked, but if you learn your role and play correctly, you can solo or group and succeed. In addition, you can level at a good pace, which COH should have learned does not mean you will quit once you max out. If there is more to do and added gameplay such as PVP, end game instances and other content you will continue to play or role a new character.
  • Voiceover and Cut scenes – They work in MMO’s and DC has given us fans of the Batman, Superman and Justice League cartoons a great gift with their voiceover work. Sure, some of the random voiceover gets repetitive, but the mission voiceover and voices from names we know makes it win win. The cut scenes just make you feel like you are part of the story and they look awesome to boot.

Now there are more good things I can say, but let us move on to the bad.

The Bad

One must always keep in mind that no MMO is going to start out perfect. There will be issues in any game you play and it will take time for the developers to not only fix the bugs, but also tailor the game in a way more people will deem favorable. Many people are spoiled because of games like World of Warcraft that while it still has its issues has been polished after years of patches and expansions. The key is seeing what will happen once the changes are made and if you like it now it will only get better.

Launch Bugs

Here are some of the most annoying issues at the moment.

  • Losing audio after a cut scene – For some people after finishing a mission arc and getting the cool cut scene they lose audio and only a complete restart of the game fixes this.
  • Vanishing Weapon – Sometimes when entering an instance, upgrading, or changing your main weapon even once you equip it the weapon does not take effect. The good news is all you need to do is un-equip and reequip to fix this.
  • Disappearing Power Layout – This one is weird because I am not sure what causes it. Sometimes your power layout, which is the number 1 through 8 keys where you can use your powers sometimes  disappears from the UI. Now you can still use the powers it is just that you cannot see them. Strangely, it will fix itself on its own randomly.
  • Windowed Mode No Save – You can select Windowed mode, but if you log out and log back in it does not save your preference.
  • Alt Tab Crash – Some people say they crash or lose audio when alt tabbing out to their desktop.

Playability

Here are some complaints about general gameplay. Keep in mind much of this is caused by people being used to what they can do in World of Warcraft.

  • Alt Tab Issue – In some cases, Alt Tabbing out to your desktop can cause issues including loss of sound or even a game crash. In addition to those issues if you select windowed mode you still have to alt tab out to use your desktop unlike World of Warcraft where once you are in windowed mode you can seamlessly switch between desktop and the game.
  • Chat and Social Issues – It will take time to get use to different chat interfaces, but with DCUO having to type in commands for inviting people to group, adding friends or joining a guild would be better if one could use their mouse to click within the UI.

Nit Picking

Some of these are good points and others would make Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons proud.

  • In PVP level 30’s greifing low levels – Welcome to PVP servers in MMO’s
  • Blurring of textures in the distance – The word is this is because the game was made for the PS3 and the PC together so while you can up the settings on your PC there will be limitations.
  • Random Bad guys/Good Guys saying the same thing repeatedly – Even with 50 million spent on the game each mob cannot have its own voice.
  • Sharing credit for a kill or having a kill stolen – You take the good with the bad. If you hit Funhouse three times and got the kill even though he would have stomped you into the ground then you have to accept that someone will steal the civilian you were supposed to save.
  • Mission repetitiveness – Welcome to gaming. Think about the best comic book you have ever read, in the end you still have random fights and a mystery and a boss fight. This is how much of gaming works and in an MMO it is a staple.
  • Gold Selling Spam – Welcome to MMO’s ignore and report feature coming soon.

There are more bugs and issues, but my too long didn’t read alarm is going off.

The Future

I have personally seen a lot of launches and some have stood the test of time and many have fallen hard to the bottom of the MMO well. The key to a MMO is not only the launch, but also how fast they can fix issue before the masses leave for another game.

Keys to DCUO’s survival

  • Bug Fixes – It may seem like a no brainer, but bugs can kill it for some people faster than others. Perhaps a PC or MMO vet will expect launch issues, but many ten year olds wont. SOE has to fix these quick or they may see a mass exodus.
  • Content – Since the level cap is 30 and you can reach that quickly the key is giving people a lot to do once 30 to keep playing just in case they don’t want to re-roll. Content at 30 does not have to mean end game. You can add missions and other thing to do that are not necessarily an end game raid, but it has to be fresh and fun and sooner than later.
  • End Game – There has to be big massive raids and fights that you would just not see during your normal missions. It is not always about loot, but about feeling you are on the forefront of the game fighting the big fight and not continuing on like a foot solider. Many people play these games to be the big shot and the end game is the big game.
  • Level Cap increase – It is going to come either way, but the key is knowing when to allow players to move on to that next level or ten as it were. You cannot just add levels for nothing, there must be a reason and all the added powers, gear and content to go with it.
  • Overall Story Arc – You have to keep the overall story going and going in a manner that makes sense and is fun to the player. Sure, we may love fighting against Bane with Batman, but we want to see Brainiac get his brain bashed or have him achieve a small victory that keeps the war going, either is good.
  • PVP – PVP can make or break a game because PVP can effect PVE and in the case of DCUO, PPV can extend the life of a game for those who rush to max level. While it is true the majority of people will PVE it is best not to ignore the PVP player or you might find some of your most loyal subscribers going elsewhere.
  • Intangibles – This includes everything from discovery quests and world events to special offers and give-a-ways. You can never over promote and if you keep your fans interest inside and outside of the game you will have a winner on your hands.

So much more

There is a ton more to say on the subject of DCUO, but for now I will continue playing and asking questions and hopefully get some answers from the developers. If you are thinking about getting this game, try it out. The game has buddy passes so you can try it before you buy it, but I think you will end up buying it. If you already are playing, stick with it, I have faith good things will continue to unfold and your voices will be heard.

I’ll see you in game.

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J.A. Laraque

J.A. Laraque is a freelance writer and novelist. His passion for writing mixed with a comedic style and intelligent commentary has brought him success in his various endeavors. Whatever the subject, J.A. has an opinion on it and will present it in writing with an insight and flair that is both refreshing and informative.