Pros:

  • Large amount of character customization
  • Tons of powers to choose from
  • Faithfully set DC universe
  • Dynamic combat mechanics
  • Great main story
  • Content rich (if willing to pay)

Cons:

  • Feels like a very long trial
  • Non-story quests are repetitive
  • Large client size
tl;dr – Dynamic combat and deep customization improves on City of Heroes and delivers a modern, if somewhat formulaic, superhero MMORPG.

DC Universe Online is a superhero MMORPG developed by Sony Online Entertainment, now known as Daybreak Game Company, and published by WB Games. It was first released on January 11, 2011, and after a less than stellar launch, went free-to-play on September 11 of the same year.

Gameplay

DC Universe Online is a superhero-themed MMORPG. This isn’t to be confused with the other massive comic book IP known as Marvel Heroes though. Whereas in Marvel Heroes you’ll play iconic heroes like Wolverine, Hulk, and Spiderman, in DCUO you customize and create your own hero. It’s also not a hack and slash MMO, but is instead a more traditional MMORPG with modern actiony elements.

As alluded above, DC Universe’s combat is fairly twitch based. There are the typical hotkey numbers for casting skills, but a lot of the game revolves around combing basic attacks and blocking. There’s a bit of a seesaw effect which involves responding to opponents’ moves with the correct counter. Offensively, players have weak and strong attacks at their disposal along with melee or ranged options. Defensively, players can block, block break (counter block), or interrupt (counter block breaks). It’s not as frantic as playing an MMOFPS, but it does reward player skill more than just knowing skill rotations.

This game has a lot of character customization options. First you can select whether your character is a hero or a villain. If you select hero, your character will join the Justice League. Pick villain and you’ll be part of the Secret Society of Super Villains. After picking a faction, you then select your character’s appearance, gender, personality and movement animation. There are a lot of options for character appearance, and players can generally make what they want.

DCUO has no fixed classes. Instead, a character’s build depends on the combat style and superpowers selected during character creation. Your combat style affects how your character normally attacks. On combat styles you have: One-Handed, Two-Handed, Dual Wield, Brawling, Martial Arts, Staff, Shield, Bow, Rifle, Dual Pistol and Hand Blast.

Superpowers include Fire, Earth, Ice, Rage, Gadgets, Quantum, Light, Mental, Nature, Celestial, Munitions, Sorcery, Electricity, and Atomic. Each superpower has two paths, one focused on DPS, and another focused on support. For example, Fire, Earth, Ice and Rage have a tanking focused support path while Gadgets, Quantum, Light and Mental have crowd control based support path. It’s worth researching the specialties of different superpowers before diving in too hard with a new character.

This game has a large variety of both PvE and PvP content. Many free to play MMOs tend to falter in one department, but DCUO feels viable for both crowds. Like most MMOs, PvE is based on quests or missions. First, you have the Mentor-based missions which are your main storyline progression. Unlike other MMOs that have a single storyline for all classes, in DCUO your main storyline differs based on your faction and the mentor you selected at the start of the game. You’ll also have freelance missions, which are your standard optional repeatable sub-quests.

PvP content in the game depends on your games’ server type. There’s an open world PvP server where heroes and villains can fight each other on the map. On non-PvP server you can still have PvP gameplay, but only on select arena maps. There’s also a special type of PvP, Legends PvP that, instead of fighting as your character, allows you play as your favorite DC character like Superman or Batman. Legends PvP serves as a nice diversion from your main character, and it’s also a bit better balanced because of the constrained gameplay.

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The Good

DC Universe has a lot of character customization options. Sure, you’re not playing as the iconic superheroes themselves, but the character customization is extensive enough that you can copy their playstyles and appearances. While you may not be able to play as Superman, you can create a pretty similar replica (albeit a bit less invulnerable). The Legends PvP does at least the competitive fans justice though that want to see the game from the shoes of their favorite superhero.

And honestly, it actually works out better that not playing as the iconic DC characters. The story works is more appealing as a budding, new superpowered character. And unlike Marvel Heroes, players actually get to feel unique because the world isn’t full of just a handful of characters repeated over and over. DC Characters also make appearances in the mission storylines too so the IP doesn’t feel as wasted as you might be fearing.

But what makes this game really great is the fluidity of DC Universe’s gameplay. Players can traverse Gotham City and Metropolis with near unlimited freedom. You can fly above the skyscrapers, jump roof to roof, or sprint from one end of the city to the city. The environment is wide open, and you can interact with a surprising number of objects on the map. For example, you can lift cars and chuck it out of the way or shoot barrels full of oil to ignite an explosion. The battle system feels natural after a short while with players dishing out and countering combos like they’re second nature. It’s fairly intuitive and works really well for a superhero MMO where everyone has some uncanny ability to fight.

The Bad

Now, the downside to this free to play superhero adventure is that a lot of the game’s content is locked under DLCs. Many combat styles and powers are paid content, especially the flashier moves. F2P players also have smaller inventory space. It’s not game breaking by any means, and the system really is quite fair. Just keep in mind that this title is more like an extended demo than a full fledged game. In fact upon reaching level 30, you’ll pretty much find that you need to buy the ‘episode’ DLCs to progress further. With 27 episodes in DC Universe, there’s a lot of content. But there’s also a lot to pay for.

The game is also somewhat repetitive. The main mission quests deliver an engaging story competitive with top MMO games. Unfortunately, the story isn’t enough to carry you to the endgame. Repeatable quests will eventually be necessary to level up. They aren’t anything worse than standard PvE leveling, but standard PvE leveling feels like a waste of time.

It’s not a huge negative, but it’s worth noting that DCUO is huge. The client is a 50gb download, and every patch requires an additional 10gb download. DC Universe also gets patched a lot. This is not a game I would recommend for those with bandwidth caps. It’s especially bad if you’re just a F2P player since a large amount of the download size are the paid contents that you’re not going to play.

Closing Thoughts

DC Universe Online is a superhero themed MMORPG that gets almost everything right. The customization is great, the combat is dynamic, the cash shop isn’t pay to win, and the story integrates familiar DC faces with a compelling plot. However, players must keep in mind DCUO is more like an extended trial. But that seems pretty fair for what you’re getting. This is a strong recommendation for anyone drawn to it.

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