I’ll be honest here- I don’t know much about the lore behind DC Comics. Much of what I do know comes from cartoons, and the watching of, well into an age where I should have stopped watching comics and started watching, I dunno, Survivor or something equally as terrible. From these cartoons, as well as a few gems I picked up just randomly over the years, I do know a few things worth noting. Most of these have to do with superpowers and the people who have them, with no regard to things that are actually happening or have happened in the comics.
Maybe it was my subconscious desire to play Arkham City when it came out compared to an effort to save money for the holiday season, but when Steam announced DC Universe Online was now a free to play, I had to pick it up. Maybe I’m just a sucker for super hero based MMOs.
I honestly know more about the names of heroes and villains in MMOs than I do about their motivations and in many cases, their powers. But, here’s the run down of DC Universe Online, which I’m going to try to spell out for those of us who have no idea who these people are.
At some point in history (presumably the future), the heroes and villains are having a huge throw down. From the opening cinematic, it’s been going on for a while and the city (Metropolis, maybe? Looks more like Rubbletown) is looking worse for wear. Honestly, the opening cinematic is there for those who are deep in the lore of DC to have their own private loregasms as they watch heroes like the Green Lantern get the crap knocked out of him by not… Green Lantern… Man. And Wonder Woman fights someone who is equally as scantily clad as her. Oh, and then the Flash explodes for some reason?
But Tophat, you cry at your monitor, because you have been huffing paint. Was the Green Lantern Hal or Kyle? Is the flash Wally or that other guy who is also apparently the flash? Just how scantily clad was this lady fighting Wonder Woman? Well, hold it. I’m gonna have to stop you right there. Why don’t you get out your COMIC BOOKS, NERD.
Crap, I just got done writing you off, but now I have nowhere to put this pen. Where the hell did that pocket protector go? Dammit.
Anyway, after a long and involved CGI battle with tons of fan service, Lex Luthor (who is now wearing some kind of robot suit that he has apparently had all the time) lures Superman back down from space, where he was just chillin’ and soaking in some sweet sunlight. Which, I guess he had to get in space because they were… fresher? Hell, I dunno. To make a long story short, Supes gets kryptonite-d pretty hardcore, and then gets the shit stabbed out of him by Lexy boy. DEATH ENSUES.
But then, because he wasn’t paying attention, Brainiac invades! You know Brainiac, right? No? Shut up, I’m telling a story here.
So, Lex flees back in time to warn the heroes about the upcoming dystopian future of awful, and drops a boat load of tiny robots into the atmosphere, containing superpowers collected by Brainiac and his robot minions. What was that? Why was Brainiac collecting powers? Because he… uh… look, if you don’t stop asking questions, we’re never going to get to the end of this.
The powers get infested into the populace of the world, which are then kidnapped by Brainiac, who doesn’t like the idea of these LOSERS running around with powers stolen from him that he stole from other people. That’s where you come in.
You start the game, as with any good MMO, in a character creation screen. After suitably picking your powers, costume, morality and mentor (As a villain, I went with the Joker. JOKERBROS 4 LYFE) you’re bumped into the game in the middle of an escape from Brainiac’s collector ship. This conveniently doubles as a tutorial level.
I gave my hero the power of ice and super speed, which can also be used as an attack skill when I’m not zipping around the city and running up walls. My hero also has the power of assault rifles. So far, my character’s ability to shoot people is the dominant skill. I did this mostly because it amused me to think that my character had absolutely no idea what a gun was until she got infected by these super power robots.
After the tutorial level, off I went into Gotham City, doing the odd job for the Joker, while facing off against and meeting up with other villains and heroes who I either barely recognized or didn’t remember. Through most of the game, you receive a lot of random information from Calculator, if you’re a baddie, or… uh… yeah, I dunno for the heroes, who acts as a bit of a narrator and dispenses sarcasm.
What I like about this game is that it does feel like you’re a part of the DC universe, though I think the only two cities I’ve been to are Gotham and Metropolis. A lot of other locations exist as instances, though I tend to steer clear of them because MMO people have a tendency to be awful to randomly meet up with. The whole game is voice acted, which does wonders to fully immerse yourself into the game, and there are tons of lore items and investigations to complete. These usually just involve finding a glowing green or blue exclamation point on the ground and holding E until you get the information or collectible item. If you fully complete an investigation, you’ll get an achievement, as well as an item, which actually adds a reason to learn as much as you can.
Each equippable item changes your character’s appearance, and unlocks that style to be used any time you want. Again, a good reason to collect gear. And while the voice acting isn’t ALWAYS spot on, it’s at least present and not a wall of text.
The bad thing about this game… well…
You should NOT play this on the PVP server. (As far as I know there are only two servers, PVP and PVE) If you attempt to play PVP, be prepared because Gotham, well, it feels rather small, if you get my meaning. And there are always five or six members of the other faction running around with the sole purpose of making it impossible for people 20 levels lower than them to progress. Also, super speed, while hilarious, has a tendency to get you stuck on lamp posts, running small circles around and around forever.
Also, I have some problems with the targeting system. DC Universe Online is actually a lot more action oriented than other MMOs, so you can actually actively dodge or block attacks. Hitting tab will lock on to a target, but it seems like the range on the targeting has to be awfully close, especially for a hero with the power of guns.
Still, DC Universe can be a solid game, especially if anything I said in the opening plot part of this article made any sort of sense to you. And it’s a bit different from other MMOs, which makes it nice, too. I’m not saying I’ll be in DC Universe for the long haul… the game feels too small and crowded for me to want to hang around for long, but it’s a nice diversion from all that not-playing Arkham City I’m doing.
So off you go. Choose your loyalty, make your hero, and see just how much of DC’s lore you actually know. What? No, look, Brainiac, he’s this… Well, I mean he really wants to just collect… you know what? Google it.