Let me just get this out of the way now. After all these years, SOE still strikes me as an amateur operation. This thing launched on Monday, today is Saturday, and I tried to play every night this week. Their servers let me log on twice, and one of those times I was booted before long. I’m going to leave it there, because we run a PG operation at Gemtrix, and I know I wont be able to contain myself if I start talking about how I feel about SOE.
Unfortunately, my browser crashed after writing more than half of this blog entry, so I’m going to have to do my best to replicate the vibe that I had going on. DC Universe Online starts off where almost every other MMO starts off… a character creation screen. I found myself pretty impressed with the assortment of not only skills and cosmetics, but some little things that spiced up the process.
One thing that is cool is that I was allowed to choose how my character would behave when he’s AFK. Do I want him to stand there looking like a badass? Do I want him looking like a doofus? In the end I made a para-military villain who wields a rifle and is an acrobat. What’s cool is for once, they did a great job letting me choose my actual haircut & scruff, not to mention the black framed glasses that I am wearing as I write this blog, so this guy ended up looking kind of like me to be honest.
The tutorial itself was your standard mmo walk through. It was 100% voice acted (which goes a very long way IMO), and after 15 minutes I felt like I could kick the crap out of Brainiac himself. One very cool system implementation was the way equipment works. If you loot something, you unlock it’s “look” upon equipping it. What this allows is for you to have the appearance of anything that you’ve unlocked, while utilizing the stats of a completely different item. I think this was a really good call considering that a lot of what makes a comic book hero unique is their appearance, and how that appearance changes over time.
Another top notch feature is that the UI disappears when you take a screenshot. Some of you just read that and didn’t care. Alternatively, if you are a screenshot junkie (like I am), you just had that “all is right in the world” feeling eh?
So as soon as the tutorial is over, I found myself in a bar (yussssss). After getting acclimated, I was contacted by The Joker (my personal psychotic mentor). At first he had me attaching bombs to police cars. I thought that was pretty mature for a DC endorsed game that is peddled to kids. A few minutes later, the next leg of that quest line had me attaching said bombs to police officers. What kind of game is this? This is the kind of game where a cop is running away from you screaming “someone get thing thing off of me” before he explodes into a mess of The Jokers confetti right before my very eyes.
From there I quickly learned that ganking is in full effect on PVP servers and there is really no quarter from it. At level 7 I was getting mauled repeatedly by level 30s wherever I went. I wouldn’t say they were camping me, but there were just packs of hero’s lighting me up. If I played for 3 hours, they killed at least an hour of that time by tearing me a new ass during my missions.
In the end, I resorted to my crafty ways. If you take a close look at this second screenshot, you’ll see that I was hanging upside down under an elevated rail line, waiting for gank squads to clear the area so I could get back to my mission. The acrobat travel ability is indeed versatile, as you can not only run on ceilings, but you can also run on water. You only get to choose one of three travel options (flight, super speed or acrobatics), so it’s great to see that picking the one that sounds gimped is in reality very powerful.
The game itself plays smooth, and despite the hard time I had getting onto the server, the game runs flawless and fluid. No lag what so ever, and SOE said that they had 120,000 new subscribers since launching the free to play model on Monday. There was a queue to log in, but even though there were over 1,800 people ahead of me, it somehow only took 5 minutes to get me into the world.
Speaking of the world, I can safely say that the art team did a superb job making it feel like we are in Gotham City. There are moments when you will be face to face with the well known superstars of the DC world, but what makes the game special is that you will also interact with the suppoorting cast that rounds out their lineup.
Most importantly, its the subtle things, like the Bat Signal which would periodically appear in the sky for reasons unknown to me. Thats the stuff that makes the game interesting. Working directly for The Joker is expected. They have to put that stuff in the game because most periphery fans (like me) only really know about the main DC cast and events.
The fact that we are indirectly given the opportunity to actually learn more about this storied franchise is in itself compelling, and combined with the pricetag of FREE, one cannot go wrong. If anything, this game is a fine placeholder until SW TOR comes out next month, so I can see myself putting it in the gaming rotation, but that consideration only exists if SOE can sort out the server fiasco.
Here’s one last picture of my first day on the job at DC Universe Online. At times, it certainly feels grand. If you have time, head over to Steam or http://www.dcuniverseonline.com and give it a test drive. If anything, the character creator will keep you busy for a half hour all by itself…