ZAM's DC Universe Online Gameplay Impressions

Editor-in-Chief Darryl Gangloff got the chance to play through the early areas of DC Universe Online at SOE's recent press event. Read on for his thoughts on combat, character creation and more!

Combat is one of the main factors that lets DC Universe Online stand out from other MMOs on the market. It honestly plays like a console action game, which is why it makes sense that it will launch on both the PlayStation 3 and PC at the same time. There is no auto-attack, and you won't be clicking any abilities on a menu. This game is all about hitting buttons and chaining combos, so be sure to log into the game with a console mentality. After playing the game using both a keyboard and a PS3 controller, I would recommend the controller every time. It just seems more natural to attack and use my powers with the controller than repeatedly clicking the left and right mouse buttons.

With that being said, this form of combat works for the game. It's fluid and requires some skill to keep the combos coming. Every time you add a power to your arsenal, you have to keep in mind how it will affect the rest of your abilities as you're mashing buttons. It may not appeal to fans of the standard auto-attack feature found in many MMOs, but players who are looking for some action may see it as a breath of fresh air.

Once you break free of Brainiac's ship, you'll find yourself in Metropolis or Gotham City, depending on your mentor. Tech heroes and villains start on Batman's turf, while everyone else will begin their adventure in Superman's city. These areas are simply massive, and I actually spent a good amount of time just flying around and enjoying the view. Brainiac's influence is noticeable, with many landmarks trapped in huge domes. They truly feel like living, breathing cities, and I'm sure that effect will only be multiplied once more players enter the game after launch.

Eventually I had to stop sightseeing and try out some episodes, which are the quests of the game. These vary greatly for heroes and villains. For example, a new hero many have to stop Gorilla Grodd from devolving humans into apes. That's pretty noble, right? Well, ZAM Man decided to follow the path of evil and had to suck the souls out of civilians. One noteworthy aspect of episodes is that you can simply click “complete” in your menu once you've completed the task to gain your rewards. There's no need to travel back to the NPC who gave you the episode. It's a nice touch.

I certainly enjoyed my time with the starting areas in DC Universe Online, and immediately found myself wanting to create new characters to try out different powers. My main gripe with alts is that both heroes and villains have to play through the same Brainiac ship with only subtle changes. Since the game's design actually encourages players to create numerous characters, it would be nice to have a couple of different introduction scenarios.

My other concern regarding the game is its length. During the main presentation at the event, members of the development team said that it currently takes about 40 hours to reach the level cap, which is 30. They emphasized a focus on end-game content and stated that the game has been designed to play regularly without the need to sit in front of your monitor or TV for hours at a time. While I certainly appreciate that concept, we'll have to wait and see how console gamers and MMO players ultimately respond to DC Universe Online.

On the other hand, I was highly impressed to hear that SOE plans to add new content to the game every month in the form of featured characters and episodes. Think of it as getting a new comic every month. In addition, the team will be offering larger quarterly updates and regular expansions. This wealth of content could certainly help alleviate any concerns that players may have regarding the game's length.

Overall, DC Universe Online is certainly a game that console gamers, MMO players and comic fans should keep an eye on when it launches in early 2011. I look forward to the further adventures of ZAM Man next year.

Darryl Gangloff, Editor-in-Chief

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