DC Universe Online Hands-On Preview

DC Universe Online seems like an obvious extension of the popular comic book brand. The fact that the game hasn’t even entered Alpha testing does little to tame the rabid MMORPG fans that are looking for something outside the staple fantasy genre. With so many heroes, villains and morally grey characters in the mix, how could DC Universe Online be anything but awesome?

At first glance, DCUO  looks like every other MMORPG out there. The title follows the standard set forth by Ultima Online and its ilk, with health, mana, and equipment bars littering the screen. The preview build that I saw was running off of a PlayStation 3, but it was tough to notice a difference between the console and PC versions. While the overall resolution is lower on PS3, I didn’t notice any reduced spell effects, feel encumbered by a controller or get hamstrung by hardware lag.

Technical prowess of the PS3 aside, I did get to see a bit of new content during my demo time. I was handed a pre-built shock-heavy character that fights the good fight with the Justice League of America. After some spell practice, I ran to aid a group of biologically tainted civilians. Combat against the Joker’s thugs was quick and dirty, with electrical bombardments, physics-based attacks and environmental items dealing the most damage. Adding to the complexity of battle was an appearance by several famous DC characters, with Batman helping to revive the endangered civilians and battle by my side. As if the Dark Knight didn’t offer enough help, some of the former brainwashed mobs joined our ranks as well. After easily dispatching the zombie leader, I was awarded with a piece of loot that automatically matched my previously chosen color scheme. No longer will avatars need a visit from the Queer Eye people to keep them looking sharp!

It appears as if SOE really plans to keep players constantly rubbing shoulders with the characters that have made DC comics such a long-lasting brand, and that’s a damned good thing. I am thankful that SOE has plenty of development time left, as the environments remain incredibly empty and undetailed outside of the sparingly used interactive pieces. As interesting as the demos have been, one has to wonder what the general grind is going to be. Will the MMO focus on quests and instances? Is general mob farming a viable strategy? What we don’t need to worry about is the PC-PS3 cross-platform play, as it seemed to work fine from what I was shown. If SOE’s focuses on the gameplay and story as much as the technology, DCUO will be hard to pass up.

DC Universe Online remains undated, although we expect it to be released sometime in 2010.

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