DC Universe Online
From: Sony Online Entertainment
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3 (Console exclusive, also available on PC)
Last time, we looked at the basics of the game and the experience of living inside a digital DC Universe.
After your first 20 levels, though, the formula shifts slightly. Individual enemies become harder, and full-length missions become much more difficult to survive. That's where grouping and leagues come into play.
Forming a group in DC Universe Online is extremely simple. In the community window, you can literally select anyone's name from a list of people that are nearby and invite them to team-up with you with a simple click. if you know a friend's name, you can add them to a friend list and group that way, too. If you want to further identify, you can create a League, and search your friends that way, as well.
Once in a group, you can go do anyone in the group's missions alongside them. This makes staying alive in these later levels easier, and allows say a level 28 hero help a level 18 hero level-up faster. It really feels like a team-up, too; someone asks you to join their fight, you take down the big bad, and you go your separate ways to fight another day. It's the type of thing that happens in comics all the time, and it's nice that it is so easy to do in this game. The only problem you may run into when grouped is when you get to the final boss of a mission. Make sure your whole group runs in at the exact same time, or else one or more could literally be locked outside the room. It's the most frustrating thing that can happen in this game, and hopefully a glitch that is being worked on as we speak.
Sometimes, when the major villain is just someone on the loose outside, you don't even have to group to team up. You're flying through Gotham and see someone fighting Clayface? Dive down into the action, and not only do they complete their objective, but you get experience too. This sort of thing is what makes this a living, breathing comic book universe more than anything else can.
The other big way to directly interact with your fellow players is to fight directly against them. On PvP (Player versus Player) servers, this can be done at pretty much any time. You might be trying to complete one objective as a hero, and a villain trying to do the opposite might take the fight to you. If you're on a PvE server, you can go into PvP arenas, where you play against other people's own characters or even unlock "DC Legends" like Batman and Robin, controlling the DC Heroes in objective-based battles.
What you really "get" as you move into the last third of levels (level 30 is the current cap, or top level you can achieve in the game), is the driving sense of action. Sony Online Entertainment actually figured out how to validly put an MMO on a console, and not make people think they were playing something on the wrong platform. Even as you get far more powers than you can keep on the single-tier power rack, you gain new "stances" that allow you to make multiple lineups, and tune them to specific situation. Got a friend that can't seem to get past a specific mission without dying? Take a Tank or Healer stance and use your health and ability-enhancing powers to help them forward. Need to go in and make some noise? Put all your best attack powers in one row and dish out some heavy-duty damage. Even as you approach, and hit, level 30, you can still do a lot of customization, which keeps the game interesting as you enter your 20th, 30th, 50th hour playing.
This is a game that definitely rewards your long playtime though, as with the greater difficulty comes much bigger (and thus more fun) payoff. Taking down a level 29 beast like Killer Frost while simultaneously fending off an army of OMACs is just plain fun, no matter how many times you die trying (and yes, you probably will die, more than once). As you get closer to that magic #30, as well, you're more likely to find other big-time heros traversing Gotham and Metropolis. Randomly running into Batman and having him tell me I'm doing a great job was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced in a game. I'm pretty sure my 11-year-old self did about 20 backslaps after that one.
Next time, we finish up our initial review of DCUO with a look at the level 30 "end game" content, and some possibilities of what will come down the road to keep us playing.