Wot I Think: DC Universe Online

By Richard Cobbett on February 2nd, 2011 at 1:00 pm.

If I were the Riddler, I'd totally abuse Batman's good nature. I'd be like 'Batman, riddle me this - where are my car keys?'

Over its 30 levels of BIFF! and POW! and KICK! and making things go SPLODE!, DC Universe Online gave me more awesome moments than any other MMORPG I’ve ever played. It also reinforced everything I hate about the genre. Let me explain, with words.

DC Universe Online is a MMORPG in action game drag, and the best compliment I can give it is that it actually pulls it off. Within obvious limits, of course. Get into a fight with anything a couple of levels ahead of you on the progression curve and it’s going to spank you into jam no matter how fast your fingers are. Every item you gather is a collection of stats first and a deadly Atlantean battle-axe second. Under all the spandex, it’s still 90% about maths.

Minute-by-minute though, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a genuine superhero/villain game, and not just because you’re playing as one. My villain for instance was an Acrobatics specialist, and if that sounds dull compared to Flight or Super Speed, believe me, it’s not. At the absolute minimum, Acrobatics lets you clamber up any wall or vertical surface, then glide down from the roof crossing half the city. Throw in a talent point and you can unlock a grapple. Now, forget climbing. Just tap a building, hit the key, and you shoot right up on your own. Another talent point buys you the same thing horizontally. Another one gives you rocket propulsion, shooting you right up to the top of the skybox and keeping you up as long as you like.

These aren’t just powers with cool names, but core abilities that make travel so fast, so fluid and so arcadey that it’s actually enjoyable just getting from A to B in a cool way. There are even optional races to practice them, which are a great way to kill time while the lying, lying instance queuing system turns a “1 minute” wait to into a half-hour foot-tapping session. City of Heroes and Champions Online have fancy travel powers. Acrobatics destroys them both.

I defy you not to laugh when Giganta shows up with a nasty case of super-cameltoe. Dead serious.

Want something deadlier? Meet my dual-pistols. It may seem boring to play a superhero game and take guns instead of something like hand-blasts or a mighty quarterstaff, but you haven’t seen these. Simply hold down the fire button and they unleash the fury not just at a targeted enemy, but everything in a direct cone. Tap a direction key though and you can stay locked onto one target, and effortlessly turn the second gun in any direction. Not only does it look awesome, especially when the targets move so that the hero nonchalantly crosses arms without even pausing fire, it gives incredible fluidity to the action. You can target a specific enemy if you want to, locking on for ease of aiming and attacking, but you can just as easily stand in the middle of an enemy army like the Angel of Death, just spreading the love. When I activate my Venom damage buff, the bodies hit the floor faster than the spent bullets. Action is fast, frentic, and above all, kinetic, letting you grab the scenery and hurl it around, send enemies flying, and really cut loose, right from Level 1, when most other RPGs have you punching rats.

More than any other MMO out there, DC Universe Online also does a great job of giving you cool stuff to do with whatever powers you chose. Every few missions, you’re sent to an instanced dungeon where you fight with or alongside pretty much every character ever to appear in a DC comic book, and almost all of them have at least one twist or interesting mechanic. Generally, MMOs save their interesting bosses for the higher-level content. Not here. I teamed up with The Joker, leading my own Insane Clown Posse through a police benefit before beating up Batman. I went toe-to-toe with The Flash and his silly-hatted predecessor, Original Flash, using one of Gorilla Grodd’s machines to de-evolve them one at a time into apes that would help me crush the other. I beat up the Teen Titans, first picking a couple of members to bring over to the path of true evil, then fighting alongside them as we polished off their friends in a big battle royale. DC Universe doesn’t simply use its characters, it rejoices in them. If you like the original comics, this is the most fan-service heavy game of all time, even ignoring the Power Girl costume piece that every other female hero seems to be sporting.

And yet…

Pffft. Esra RUOY dekcik...

For all its good stuff – and believe me, I’m leaving out plenty, from the PvP that lets you play as signature characters, to the bounties scattered around the world that have you going up against the heroes/villains in groups – there’s often something deeply unsatisfying about the experience of playing DC Universe Online, and usually from things that shouldn’t be a problem, or whose absence nobody would ever have noted. Take the comic book sequences for instance. They’re short, beautiful rewards for completing the story arcs, and should be awesome. In a way, they are. The problem is with their subjects. They don’t actually form part of the story you’re playing, but rather give you a character profile of someone you just finished dealing with. This is silly. Half the time it leads to you watching a grand, arrogant video of how awesome the hero/villain currently is, while said hero/villain lies quivering at your feet in a pool of their own pain. Even when not, shouldn’t this stuff come before we’re done with the story arc, when it can add context to the fight ahead. Or in a few cases, just explain who the hell people are. Joker? Fine. Sinestro? Okay. Black Adam? Eclipso? Brother Blood? Never heard of them, sorry.

This isn’t one-shot bizarre storytelling. DC Universe Online tries several new things, which is commendable, but few of them work particularly well. On a wide level, most struggle with the problem that the writing is usually bland, and the voice acting often plain bad. Stalwarts like Kevin Conroy (Batman), Mark Hamill (Joker) and Michelle Forbes (Circe) do their usual decent job, but the majority are adequate at best, and often appalling, in both performance and direction. There are also diary entries scattered all over the city as part of a running collection quest, which is a great idea, but aren’t usually worth listening to. And the incredibly short chats with various heroes and villains have them feel like cardboard cutouts of their comic selves.

By far the worst things that should have been good though are Booster Gold’s phenomenally boring tours of Gotham and Metropolis. These could have been really fun, highlighting famous locations and making it clear that yes, You Are Here. Instead, they’re pointless wastes of time in which you just run to a kiosk and sit around for a few sections of uninteresting, unfunny blather from a character who has no right to be so dull. Dammit, I like Booster Gold! This was a great atmosphere-building idea! What happened? What went wrong?

Sadly, there's no bonus XP for awesome-posing.

The cities are the most mixed part of the whole game. Structurally, both Gotham and Metropolis look great – Gotham’s perpetual midnight with the Bat Signal up high contrasting perfectly to the lighter, late-evening gold of Metropolis. They’re packed with good stuff, including most of the places you’ll want to see, and wonderfully free-form. You can soar and speed and climb wherever you like, with the phenomenal draw-distance making it feel like the world is yours alone.

Unfortunately, it practically is. Both cities are almost deserted. Outside of mission areas, where heroes and villains stand around duking it out all day long, the streets tend to be a ghost town. You have motorway-sized road networks for a handful of cars, and hardly many more civilians. The silence isn’t helped by the fact that the woeful chat interface means that nobody really talks much, except occasionally to get a posse together to take on one of the signature heroes/villains and claim a bounty. After several hours wandering basically empty streets, I realised I was actually feeling nostalgic for World of Warcraft’s Barrens Chat. If that means nothing, let me explain. Saying that you miss it is the MMO equivalent of going to your doctor and saying “Thanks for the medication, but I’ve decided I actually prefer pissing blood.”

Thankfully, you don’t usually have too much time to notice, as you speed from mission to mission. There’s a decent flow, and most of the quests are automatically given you, centring around either a nightclub for villains, or a police station for heroes. (Both use the same map with different decorations, which is a bit depressing, but does lead to the hilarious sight of a teleporter to the Hall of Doom, the home of the Society of Supervillains and the greatest bastion evil this side of Apokolips… with a safety-conscious WATCH YOUR STEP sign on its stairs.)

We're the OTHER Insane Clown Posse. Ask us how magnets work. I dare you.

When you get to the quests themselves… well, this brings us back to what I said at the start about MMOs. DC Universe disappoints me most because it does so well at being different, only to end up shrugging and shovelling out stuff we all know is crap, simply because it can. Seriously. In a game with so much great content, so much imagination, so many options and so many things to do… why in the name of Superman’s crimson pants are the vast majority of the open world missions, “Kill 20 of this. Use 10 of these. Oh, and collect 10 of those,” type stuff?

They’re… so… tedious. These quests are too long, very rarely offer anything interesting (a few exceptions aside, like being turned into a zombie co-ed at Gotham University, or facing off against Green Lanterns and their magic constructs), and don’t even try to hide the fact that they’re there because MMOs feel they have a God/Visa-given right to waste our time. Not only should DC Universe be better than this, it’s utterly pointless. The levelling curve is already very short, and the absolute explosion of content when you reach it is genuinely impressive. Falling back on the traditional, boring, long series of solo-missions to pad things out is both pointless and stupid, since even a relatively casual player will easily hit Level 30 in their ‘free’ first month, or more likely give up midway through, like several people I know already have.

What else could it have done? Plenty. Unless you play on a dedicated PvP server for instance, there’s exactly one open-world PvP event – a very tedious capture-the-stuff game called Ring War. How about some more things like that? Until Level 30, most of your missions are delivered automatically. That’s perfect for generating stuff on the fly. Where are the random events? Why, for instance, is Braniac’s invasion of Earth confined to one small area you only bother with at low levels? (Not to mention that it’s only mentioned a couple of times, despite half of Metropolis and Gotham being trapped behind Rikti War Walls in his bottles.) Where’s the tug-of-war between good and evil? Where are the grand goals to push for beyond loot and rep points?

They’re not here, that’s where. DC Universe has a great setting and two awesome sides with decades worth of celebrity to play with. More than any other new MMO, it had the chance to do something special, and more than most, it’s a game that often tries to do exactly that. Given this, it’s a real shame that it feels like it lost all interest and plumped for the laziest way out for its basic levelling template – the one everyone is cursed to spend far, far too much time with.

Still, there’s always the expansions. Hope definitely remains.

Please do not literally streak through the sky. There may be children watching.

The other great MMO failing that DC Universe seems bizarrely happy to live down to is being quite staggeringly opaque. From start to finish, it’ll flash up reminders of things like pressing CTRL to pick up loot or SHIFT to block and break out of roots, but don’t expect any detail on, say, what tanking is, or advice on how to play in a group. The power-sets you can choose from, including Fire, Sorcery and so on, are geared around specific character roles – the standard DPS, Tank, Healer/Controller set – none of which are properly explained in character creation. (You can respec individual skills, but not your core choice.) You get vast amounts of loot during the game, all of which features stat-modification, but which stats matter to your role?

“Er,” DC Universe Online mutters. “Press SHIFT to block and stuff.”

Again, this is something that MMOs all feel free to do, casually assuming that the fans will fill in with a wiki or similar, and by god, am I tired of it. No game should make you read a wiki to pick up the basics of going BIFF! and POW! DC Universe Online doesn’t do it any worse than the others (with the notable exception of its lack of tooltips, especially when suddenly shapeshifted); its arcade style and console-feel just makes it more obvious that it didn’t bother doing anything to fix it. And as we all know, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good games to do nothing.

Or alternatively, for evil to wander into a low-level instance and celebrate getting to Level 30 by one-shotting everything, like I did yesterday. But I digress…

It may not be an Iconic Power, but a kick to the balls does the job at least 50% of the time.

Despite this grumbling, I did get to Level 30 – and it’s worth repeating that for all the generic rough, DC Universe Online has no shortage of sparkly bits. These actually increase as you work through the game too, with simple stuff like battling Bane’s Venom-powered goons on the Gotham docks giving way to some wonderfully ridiculous later levels, like turning into Greed personified and leaping around giant floating chunks of rock high above the city. It’s by far the most enjoyable of the superhero MMOs to play, and if Sony keeps to its word about there being a constant stream of regular content updates, it’s a terrific base for some really solid, innovative MMO design over the next few years. The opportunity is there to be seized.

It’s not however a game I think I’ll be playing next month. My biggest regret with my character was not creating her on a PvP server, but attempting to fix that by creating an alt and playing alongside Comrade WasteManager, I quickly realised that I had absolutely no desire to climb through the 30 ranks yet again, even with the added fun of being ganked every few seconds. (I could have ganked back, but I’d chosen to play a hero. Such things are a No-No according to the Big Book of Justice.) Likewise, as cool as much of the endgame looks, from raids on Arkham Asylum to new co-op game mode called Duos, I’m just not really in the mood any more. I’m an official member of the Society of Supervillains, which means I get to hang out behind the big glass window in the Hall of Doom, flipping the bird at rookie villains as the omnipresent villain-helper Calculator explains to them that one day, they’ll be as amazing as me and my main man Mr. J. That’s the achievement I was playing for all this time. Now I’ve got it, I’m done.

I don't care how tough you are, I am NOT losing to a villain who used to be called 'Egg Fu'.

Ultimately, I easily got £30 worth of value out of DC Universe Online, and clocked up roughly 35 hours playing it over the last couple of weeks. That’s roughly 34 hours more than most MMOs that aren’t an anagram of ‘Carrot Dwarf Wolf’ usually get out of me, which says a lot about how good the good bits are. Even the bad bits, with a few exceptions, are mostly disappointments rather than core, tooth-grinding problems. As much as I bitch about the generic quests and the storytelling, the cool bits more than made up for it. I’ve met almost everyone in the DC Universe. I’ve beaten up most of Gotham and Metropolis. I’ve worked alongside the Joker. I’ve sucked souls for Circe. I’ve even kicked Batman in the balls. I was a proper supervillain.

And in the end, I enjoyed myself. Grumbles aside, I had a good time with DCUO, and don’t hesitate recommending checking it out for a month if you’re at all interested in a new comicbook MMO. It’s one of the most refreshing I’ve played for ages, a much better superhero game than either Champions or City of Assorted Superpeople. When it dares to be different, it does so damn well. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t quite go far enough to break out of its MMO roots, and truly become the legend it comes so close – so close! – to being.

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73 Comments »

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  1. John Walker says:

    HARLEY LOVES ME BEST!

  2. Alex Bakke says:

    Hmm. On the one hand, awesome. On the other, A-levels.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Zephro says:

    From what I’ve played it just seems like it’d be a more amusing single player game with a stronger story. I don’t talk to anyone on it and have no particular urge to re-subscribe.

  4. arioch says:

    Yeah I agree almost entirely with this review.. I had a fantastic time levelling up and the amount of content that suddenly pop up at 30 is quite impressive – but still I do not really have any inclination to carry on playing.

    I think it is probably a game that I might keep around and renew in a year or twos time to see what’s new.. but until then it will sit unused wasting hard drive space.

    I easily got its £30 worth out of it, it is far bigger and more impressive than any AAA single player game I’ve played for a while, but to be honest it really is a single player game in MMO clothing, and to be honest if they had taken all of the massively multiplayer stuff out and left a coop beat em up that you can blast through with 3 or 4 mates after coming back from the pub, I think it would be game of the year.

    Making the combat as awesome and fluid as it is still amazes me in an MMO though. Especially after the button mashing untactile experience given by WoW or the “turn on your guns and hope” combat of Eve. It is Batman Arkum asylum online, with no lag and more abilities.

    Buy it, get to 30, and be satisfied that you have got your monies worth is my recommendation.

  5. Tei says:

    I have not seen much bugs on the game. What is noticeable are different tastes and guides in design, like the total lack of tooltips, and the setting to run at 30 FPS (that can be disabled).. stuff that make the game feel rough. The overall feel is that the game is the better SuperHeros MMO to date. Better than Champions Online, and better than City of Heroes, because DC Universe is more Heroic and more Iconic.

    Also, a lore thing,.. having two influential Lex Luthor, make for some deep in lore. What is the real motivation of the timetraveler Lex Luthor, and what is the motivation of the ourtime Lex Luthor? Don’t trush Luthor!

  6. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    Stupid question: if your character can’t fly, and your friend’s character can, can your friend pick you up and fly you places? I mean, since it happens all the time in superhero comics (and looks a little silly) it would be neat and make a lot of sense.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      No, but everyone has travel powers from the very start, and at least two of them let you fly. I wouldn’t be surprised if Super Speed offers it as an upgrade as well, although I haven’t actually checked.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Cool, thanks for the answer. I still think it would have been a sweet thing to offer to players, also would improve the ‘team’ experience. But you’ll hardly hear me complain about developers trying to minimise travel times for all players in an MMORPG. ;-)

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, travel times aren’t a problem. You can warp to the nearest safehouse whenever you want, and once you get a feel for the design of the Watchtower/League of Doom, it’s easy to switch cities. When you’re in the right general place, it rarely takes more than a minute or so to get wherever you need to be. Despite flying over the same content roughly a million times, it never irked me in the same way as something like Warcraft’s taxis.

    • Danarchist says:

      Flying is probably the easiest travel power but no where near the most fun. Like he said in his article acrobatics is a game unto itself. I played to 20 with a flying character then decided I wanted to check out the villain side and made a top hat wearing sorceress with a trench coat and two killer looking pistols. Of course acrobatics was the only choice!

      After the first couple levels I caught myself running way past my target area just because I was having a freaking blast leaping from building to building, running allong walls, and discovering little quirks of the travel power like jumping at a certain time in a fall making me glide etc. I just gave in and ran about for almost an hour last night looking at things and seeing what crazy ways I could get around obstacles.

      Although it will show my age, I haven’t had this much of a “Holy Crap!” reaction since I played the original everquest and came over the hill to look at the er….kara’s(?) The visuals are something new, and the integration of combat and movement are nearly perfect. If for no other reason buy this game just to go through the different weapon sets and power sets, the graphic artists should win some sort of award or at the very least get interviewed by somebody so their names get out there. I want more of their stuff to show up in other games! God maybe Bethesda could hire one of them.

    • Christian O. says:

      Anyone remember waiting for the tram, because lag got so bad, you couldn’t get into the first or the second train? Good times, City of Heroes.

  7. BigJonno says:

    Best review of DCUO I’ve read, I think you got that all spot-on. The only thing I’d disagree with is the stats. If you go to the stat screen and click on them, you get a nice explanation of what they actually do and the numbers involved. It could have done with a quick “Go and look at your stats page to see what they do.”

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Thanks!

      I think it needs more than that screen though. There are so many numbers, especially when doing things like group looting, or trying to work out whether something like 23 Might actually means anything in real terms, that it just feels silly. In this context, the kit really should be cool for what it is, not what stat-boosts it offers. Really, it’s one of those ‘fine by MMO standards, but those standards are unfriendly and need a kick’ problems.

    • BigJonno says:

      Yes, that I’d agree with. Just having that information explained in-game at all made it a huge step up from most MMOs, but it does leave a little to be desired.

  8. zipdrive says:

    A very enjoyable review, Richard the Cobbett. For me DCUO being a “play for a month and you’re done” MMO is actually a positive- I’ve never gotten into MMO as I simply don’t have the time to sink into one, especially when there are so many awesome games around. DCUO might pop my massively multiplayer cherry. All I need now is to convince some friends to join me…

    BTW, is there a demo?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Not unless you count buying the game, playing it, then phoning your credit card company to falsely report the theft of your card and claiming the money back. Which you probably shouldn’t.

    • DSR says:

      Unfortunately, no, no demo.
      But this is probably because if you had like 14 days trial… you would quit game before it ends.
      Its a blast for like week or so when you’re having fun with new abilities, but after that its just like some dull beat em up with no REAL goals(Done all the fun quests only “kill 10 monsters” left).
      I mean its not like anyone gonna actually RAID in that game…

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      There ARE ten day trial keys to go with a box purchase, as that’s how I’m playing the game right now. The review feels completely spot on- though I have one complaint. Why are there only six power types? Is Superman’s power type REALLY Ice? I thought it was punchin’ dudes.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Ah, cool. My copy came from Steam, so I didn’t get one to pass out.

    • Dexteroo says:

      DC Universe is now DC Universe: Free to Play. Your Way.

  9. WeFlySpitfires says:

    Man, I’m actually tempted to try DCU now. It never held any appeal for me before but somehow you make it sound, um, appealing. But I wouldn’t be a bad guy. I’d be a good guy so I could defend Batman’s balls from miscreants like you.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      You can have Batman’s balls. I’ll keep Harley’s everything else.

    • Groove says:

      Villains beware the might of …. The Cup!

      Protecting what you hold most dear: Truth; Justice; and Your Balls

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Just the one? I would have thought the International League of Übermenschen could scrounge up the cash for more than that, heck even my old comprehensive had two communal boxes.

  10. Jake says:

    I think it’s alright for a hero to gank a villain – in fact I am pretty sure that’s part of the job description. I play as a villain on a busy PVP server and I think the PVP is the best part of the game – and I barely ever PVPed in WoW. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop (acrobatics is the best) to surprise some foolish do-gooder is great fun. My server has plenty of Barrens chat – mostly whining about ganking, which should be considered a fact of life on a PVP server.

    Also Black Adam has been in some great comics. When you fight Isis as a villain you see a cinematic explaining who he is. I think the cinematics have to be careful not to spoil comic book story lines, but the more you know comics the better it is. For me, the cut scenes were one of the high points of the game, I especially loved the Etrigan one. I also didn’t hear any bad voice acting but this is quite subjective – I have heard people claim both that The Flash is voiced terribly and brilliantly.

    The biggest problems are the two mentioned here – a lack of documentation or instruction and poor chat. At 30 I had little idea of what I should be doing, and no real way to communicate. It seems more fun to play it like a single player game when MMO aspects like these are missing, I couldn’t get motivated to find out what I should be trying to do at 30 in terms of tactics, stats and optimising my character. I’ll come back to the game later on I think.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “When you fight Isis as a villain you see a cinematic explaining who he is.”

      No, AFTER you fight Isis as a villain you see a cinematic explaining who he is. If you don’t know, as I didn’t, the questline leading up to that point may as well have been about Bob from Croydon. That cool comic book sequence should either have been a finale to the battle, showing him get his revenge on Faust or something, or come earlier, so that I knew why this story mattered. The game just assumes you’re in the loop on everyone you encounter.

      (Etrigan was another problematic one. “YOU FEAR BRAINIAC? I… AM… WORSE!” Er, no. I just kicked your rhyming-couplet loving arse without even breaking a sweat. Save the bluster for when you’ve earned it.)

    • Jake says:

      True, it is a bit odd. But you could see those first encounters as just an introduction to the character: you beat Black Adam and Etrigan when levelling up, but only in a temporary, initial scuffle kinda way. Certainly they’ll be back properly -as a raid boss perhaps – at some point.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I’ll generally take a good story now over the possibility of one later on. In a similar way, I hate it when MMOs save their good content for the endgame, since all that means is I’ll probably never see it.

    • Danarchist says:

      I fought Cat Woman in some quest line and again much later in my leveling. I am not sure if it was the same quest chain but she did reference that I had beaten her once before :)
      The story of the game is fairly by-the-(comic)book fare, but how it is told can be really fun. I think having done more than a few arcs though having the cut scene before the battle would have taken me out of my groove. I use the little movies as my glow of success moment, and a chance to switch back to my keyboard and mouse from my usb ps3 controller.

      The Alerts have proven to be incredibly interesting from the very first one at level 9 or so, think its called “Area 51″. I like how some of the teamwork mechanics work in this game. I do see burning out eventually though, but having played wow for 6 years I think im a little more of a neurotic completionist than most.

  11. adonf says:

    “No game should make you read a wiki to pick up the basics of going BIFF! and POW!”

    So what about a manual ?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Read it if you like. It’s on the site, and it’s rubbish.

      http://www.dcuniverseonline.com/manuals/DCUO_Manual_PC.pdf

      But no. Even if it didn’t suck, no modern game should expect you to read a manual, especially something that’s going to be as changeable as a MMO and where screwing up is going to have such painful consequences when dealing with other players. Learning by doing is a million times more effective than reading from a book, and much more fun.

    • DrGonzo says:

      No Richard! You sir, are incorrect. There is nothing wrong with a game being complex and requiring you to read instructions or a guide to fully understand it. But you shouldn’t need to read a manual for this type of game.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      It doesn’t hurt to have one for many genres, but I’d argue that the game itself should always do the lion’s share of telling you what you need to know these days.

    • sneetch says:

      For complex games, I expect tutorials to lead me into and explain the game in general, but I expect a manual to explain the rest. As in I don’t expect the tutorial to explain every tile in a Civ-style game in detail but it should mention the different features that different tiles have and those tiles should be detailed in the manual.

      Preferably a printed manual; online/in-game manuals are great but trees be damned, I want to be able to read it on the bogwhilst indisposed!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      See, for me, that’s what tooltips and info screens are for. Not only can they give you the raw numbers, but situational advice like “Yes. This is a good place for your town.”

    • gwathdring says:

      I don’t expect an in game tutorial to explain everything. But especially in a complex game like Civilization or Europa Universalis I expect really good tooltips. Even if I read the manual cover to cover and understand how to play, I might forget where things are or what this icon means. In complex strategy games, I expect to refer to the (printed or ingame) manual from time to time. But a tutorial should always tell you how and why to begin the game.

      A tutorial should always at least be able to get you playing with a strong understanding of why it wants to to play a certain way. A tutorial for a Civ-style game should explain which advisors are most important starting out, where to build your city and a short explanation of why, which initial technologies you could study based on particular goals later in the game. It can be heavily scripted, forcing you to make certain choices, as long as it explains the reasons behind them and a few other options you might have picked. In an MMO, something short explaining power sets/classes in a less thematic and more mechanic way is quite helpful. If an MMO posts stat numbers everywhere clearly, it should probably make it clear what all of them mean in the early levels or character creation.

  12. Zeno says:

    Yeah the cinematics could have been handled a lot better. I mean, after you beat Bane you get one from The Penguin… who had nothing at all to do with that quest.

    The overlap between hero/villain quests was also pretty lame. I get that everyone should be fighting Brainiac, but why am I rescuing these civilians while doing it as a bad guy? For that matter, a lot of the villain quests seem to involve going up against notable villains.

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    oceanclub says:

    Funnily enough, this post makes me want to resubscribe to City of Heroes, an MMO which – though I ditched it when I got into WOW (am now over that too a long time), I still have fond memories of – especially as, unlike WOW, casual grouping was far easier to do.

    P.

  14. DevilSShadoW says:

    I picked DCUO up out of boredom and because i didn’t want to renew my eve sub (because i knew it would just suck up every bit of free time i had) and i found it absolutely marvelous. It’s not grindy, the meeting with the whole DC hero/villain lineup is awesome and most of all it doesn’t require you to google and wiki for gear and optimal skills and whatnot. I’m lvl 22 right now (been playing for about 3 days) and all the gear i have on me i just stuff i found and decided that it was better than what i previously had on me. Bear in mind that i play on a pvp server and i rarely lose a pvp to someone my lvl (or a tad higher for that matter). All in all, DCUO is deff worth the 34pund admission price. It will definitely deliver on entertainment value for the money.

  15. godgoo says:

    Ive never played an MMO, this would be the first that has ever even piqued my interest purely because of the licencing and I’ve almost seen enough to give it a try, but… I just don’t understand how these games get away with being subscription based AS WELL as charging full price for the initial purchase?

    Am I missing something? what justifies this in comparison to say the online shooter genre? I genuinely struggle with this concept, if it’s a case of ‘that’s just the way it is’ then I will continue to boycott this genre!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Technically, it’s to pay for the future development/patches, support and server costs. In practice… £10 a person? Cough.

      (I’d have preferred DCUO to follow the Guild Wars model of buy-the-game, then play for free, with micropayments/adventure packs/expansions on the top, myself, but hey-ho. I’m sure this way will make more money for Sony.)

    • godgoo says:

      Yes, kind of an obvious answer I guess. I was taking these things into account and I definitely do not fall into the category of people who would swallow £10 a month for this! I mean, how much more development/ server cost can there be in comparison to say Bad Company 2? maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s loads!

      Maybe it’s a demographic thing, I mean, I’m considerably more than a casual gamer but I don’t live at home or earn a great deal so an additional £10 a month is a cost I actually have to justify (that’s more than my phone costs me!) and I suppose I simply can’t justify that for a single title, I’m still baffled anyone can.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Or £34 for 35 hours of play might make you think its worth it?
      You get the first month included and subscribing after that is up to you.
      Play it, unsubscribe play again in 6 months time with the new content.

      Of course my personal recommendation would be to pick up box set of City of Heroes/Villains for about £6 and play that -include the free trial and get a month and half of play time. That is a game I would love as a single player to, if only for dynamic player led changes in the world.
      Works on old laptops too.

      I know the statement is hated (at least for the reason to be playing them), but MMOs save me money: spend £3.50-£15 a month and buy no other games.

    • godgoo says:

      ‘Or £34 for 35 hours of play might make you think its worth it?’

      No, not really when these games tend to involve so much filler and grind, plus you’re not accounting for the initial purchase so the first month free is actually a lie, I’d much rather spend £25 on a Mass Effect and enjoy quality throughout, or the same amount on BC2 and get my social/online fix for nuffin! I think it depends on what type of gamer you are as to whether the genre in general appeals enough to justify the spend.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mungrul says:

      @Richard: I’m in full agreement regarding the Guild Wars price model, and honestly am quite baffled why no-one else has adopted it. It’s obviously incredibly successful for ArenaNet.

  16. ScubaMonster says:

    Why this game turned out disappointing? SOE. Turning out disappointing MMO’s since… well forever.

  17. Gaff says:

    One thing I disliked was there was no introduction to PvP whatsoever. I rolled on a PvP server but I expected there to be some kind of tutorial or popup or something at least giving some perfunctory details about it, but instead my first experience was just when I was ganked randomly in the middle of a mission.

  18. DrugCrazed says:

    +1 for the Carrot Dwarf Wolf anagram.

  19. Torgen says:

    My experience intro to PvP in beta was heroes stealthing in the middle of a pack of mobs needed for a low level villain “kill X of Y’ mission, then gang-banging the hapless villian when they were flagged when hit by incidental fire.

    (edit for clarity)

  20. Barnaby says:

    This pattern of games being released that have potential but just didn’t put quite enough love into, is becoming more and more apparent to me. If you want an incredible, and I mean incredible, video game you have got to be willing to put a lot of time and a lot of money into it on the front end. Luckily since this is an MMO they have time to add new content, but I can’t imagine them straying too far from their current formula.

    While I kind of despise Blizzard at this point, they and the few developers like them are the ones creating the games with longevity that I feel can truly be called good (polished/fun) games. Not that I really like WoW, as I never bothered leveling past 40 and I still haven’t (and probably won’t) bought SC2, you can tell that their games have something that others don’t. What that SEEMS to be is shitloads of time and money put into them, and not having a publisher constantly breathing down their neck to finish the product.

    Basically my point is, without a shitload of time/money spent developing a game, we really aren’t going to get the level of games this reviewer, myself, and others seem to desire. It seems that the way games are made nowadays, we may get a title that does everything right once every half decade if we are lucky.

    Opinion, AWAAAAAAY!

  21. Soda6 says:

    I agree with this article. The game has some amazing stuff and I’m really enjoying it, but as you said, doesn’t push that extra bit to get out of the MMO grindland.

  22. Shadram says:

    Kinectic combat? You mean you have to dance in front of your screen to make your avatar flail aimlessly and hope the lag doesn’t kill you?

  23. Arglebargle says:

    I just don’t get the love for DCUO. I spent two weeks in Beta, and just quit before it was even done. (Though I did find a bug or two!)

    There is so much that’s not done well in this game. Poor character and power customization. Terrible UI. Two strikes from the get go. Add in overly clicky combat obviously aimed at a PS3 controller. Perhaps it’s that the DC universe has no particular draw for me. (Other than the Batman) The game reminds me of why I mostly check out the indie comic scene.

    I think the game was trying to be the first MMO title for the console. Especially as that model succinctly puts the cabosh on the second hand and rental market.

  24. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Kinectic?

  25. Quine says:

    Inspired by the words above and fancying some fast-paced MMO combat to tide me over until the Proper Games get released, I finally relented earlier and purchased this on Steam.

    13 GBs later, and my god! I’d forgotten what an absolute nightmare this sort of thing was to get running. Steam waves an activation key at me, but I have to login to the Sony Station whatsit to subscribe. Dig out my old Planetside-era account and find it’s not bothered about the key. Okay.

    Oh, of course now I have to enter a credit card so they can sneakily charge me more cash when my 30 days is up and I forget to cancel. Okay.

    Oh, it still thinks I need to subscribe, Restart the client. Okay.

    Oh it’s defaulted to the US server. Right I’ll change that. Shame they don’t, like, take any region info from my Station Pass details. That would be useful. Still -making progress.

    What’s this- EU server downtime sometime today? Check the link, oh the EU servers will be down in whatever EST translates to over here in Europeland. Thanks for making the effort there guys.

    Actually that’s not going to be a problem because it’s busily downloading a 9.0 GB patch now. The entire game install was 13 GB! Did they decide to burn and redo all the game assets since launch? Have they suddenly shipped a patch to double the content in the game?

    I fear I may never get to find out at this rate, but if I do I shall certainly be making a character in a suit called something like Sony Executive and encourage everyone in the borough to kick him in the balls.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I had exactly the same thing when it launched. Grrr.

    • Quine says:

      Although I did just find out that CET was Central European Time and not some US zone, but the rant strength is still flowing fairly strongly.

      This particular experience reminded me of the ghastly enforced sign-ups to EAs ‘social’ rubbish before they’d allow me to play Dragon Age and Mass Effect, and they didn’t even have subscriptions.

      Grrr indeed!

      I read that it might have been swapping my default US server zone to EU that summoned the massive patch. I really hope it’s not full of Polish dialogue conversations et. al. when I specified UK English in the settings already…

  26. malkav11 says:

    The sad thing is I pretty much knew who every one of those characters you mentioned are. Although I’m a little shaky on the exact details of Black Adam and Eclipso, I know I’ve read comics with them in, and I have a vague idea who they are. And Brother Blood is a Teen Titans villain – a cult leader they keep running into.

    • Jake says:

      That’s not sad!

      I just want to say that Black Adam is one of the best DC characters, the storyline in the comic ’52’ involving him is excellent. He should get a new PR guy.

      I have to admit though I had no idea about Brother Blood because Teen Titans never really appealed to me.

  27. outoffeelinsobad says:

    I wanna kick Batman in the balls too!

  28. thebigJ_A says:

    All the superheroes had to do to defeat your insane clown posse was bring a magnet.