Let's make this clear right up front - I'm a huge comic book nerd. There's a reason my journalism career started with Wizard Magazine. I was also top of the list for visiting the Sony Online Entertainment booth at E3, wrote our preview, and even talked briefly with Marv Wolfman there on the show floor. So to say I'm excited for this game and have high expectations would be an understatement. On with the first of several previews for DC Universe Online. After all, what single preview could contain an MMO?
After sitting through two and half hours of downloading, I was greeted by the brilliant CG movie that was shown at E3 and has circulated the web for months now but this version features some extended narration from James Marsters as Luthor. It gives the backstory of Brainiac's invasion of Earth and explains how there can be all these no-name superheroes and supervillains popping up all over the world and features additional voice talents like Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Adam Baldwin (Superman). Then it's off to character creation.
After choosing your gender and good/evil alignment, the character creation starts off with the three aspects that determine what, in other MMOs, would be considered your class. You pick your power from a list that includes fire, ice, psychic, sorcery, and gadgets. Some of these are more defense/offense oriented like fire and ice. Some are control oriented like psychic powers, and then there are nature and sorcery which are considered to be healing oriented. Nevertheless, all the powers have elements of offense and defense even if it isn't their forte.
Next is movement type. There are three choices: flight, super-speed, and acrobatics. The movement types don't limit players in any way and they all have their benefits and disadvantages. Flight can go vertical and stay that way with ease, but takes damage when forcefully grounded. Super-speed can run up walls and moves faster than flight, but going vertical isn't as easy. Acrobatics use climbing and a loping stride to get around and while at first not the best option, unlocks some very handy dodging abilities the other two don't have.
Then you pick your mentor. Heroes pick from Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. Villains pick from The Joker, Lex Luthor, or Circe (an arch-nemesis of Wonder Woman). Your mentor determines who is giving you mission briefs and also much of your early game content. Picking The Joker would put your early content in Gotham fighting against Batman and his allies. Picking Wonder Woman puts you in Metropolis's Chinatown (Wonder Woman doesn't have a set city she defends in the DCU) battling villains like Felix Faust and Circe.
After determining all the game-affecting factors, next come the aesthetics. This section is deep, folks. Skin color and skin type are all variable. I made a superhero with chrome skin and a supervillain with leopard fur. You can change your size. You can pick a demeanor from a list that includes flirty, primal, and powerful, which governs the physical presence of the character. The costumes vary from Golden Age Jack Kirby designs to comic book movie leathery-looking to suit and tie non-superhero looks. Every piece can be altered and everything (and I do mean everything) can be adjusted in terms of color. Half the enjoyment of the game is seeing all the looks people are coming up with in the beta, including replicating existing DC and Marvel characters.
If that weren't enough, more designs and looks can be unlocked by playing through the game. As you equip new weapons or armor, you can choose whether you want these to affect your appearance like in most MMOs or whether you want to keep your originally designed look no matter what you put on. This can be adjusted on a piece-by-piece basis as well.
So far, so very, very good. The character creator gives you lots of options, whether you want to replicate your favorite character in comics or bring your own creation to life. I've been playing through the beta for several hours now, so stay tuned for the next preview: "The First 10 Levels."