Beta Impressions: DC Universe Online - The First Ten Levels - Preview

By Chris "Bearded Gamer" Arnone, January 3, 2011
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When last I left you, true believers...oh wait. That's more a Marvel thing. Anyway, now that we've covered character creation, it's on to the first ten levels. The initial levels in any MMO are generally lots of single-player content and DC Universe Online is no different. The battles and instances aren't nearly hard enough to justify partnering up with people and you're still getting the hang of the gameplay mechanics.

My hero is a guy with flight and psychic abilities. I chose Wonder Woman as my mentor. Why? Because I love Batman and figured everybody else would pick him. I also like Superman and figured most everybody else would pick him. I don't know Wonder Woman very well and went that route. Your choice of mentor dictates much of the early-game content. By choosing Wonder Woman, my starting home base is the Chinatown branch of the Metropolis Police Department. Batman puts you in a Gotham Police House and Superman puts you in a different Metropolis PD station.

DC Universe Online Wonder Woman

Starting off, there are simple quests like going around Chinatown, checking out the sites. There are also time trials available for the different movement styles. The very first proved to be super-easy, though they definitely become challenging after that, flying through glowing rings with the clock ticking. NPCs inside the Metropolis PD station hand out quests as well as some quests that can be found on the street. First up was Madame Xanadu's magic house. It had come under attack and I had to beat up some random sorceress on the rooftop. That opened up her place as a shop for magical items, though they were all beyond my level. 

Then Wonder Woman started feeding me information on some possessed students. I would go to the designated area, beat up a few zombies, de-possess some students, and get further information for the quest. Quests follow the same lines as other MMO's, there are various agro zones you have to go to and accomplish small tasks like beating enemies, destroying objects, sealing portals, defending EMT''s etc. The experience points value for beating individual enemies or other such small tasks are inconsequential. Nevertheless, hitting the target number of defeated enemies will garner a nice XP boost. This first big quest was in pursuit of Felix Faust. He was trying to harness the power of these souls, hence all the possessions around Chinatown. After a half dozen or so of these different agro zones with small goals, I entered a building.

Buildings are instance dungeons in MMO language. That is, when you enter the building, your party is alone. That building exists separately for each party that enters. You are fighting amongst other players in the outdoor agro zones, but once inside a building you are on your own unless you partied up first. Felix Faust was holed up in the Chinatown Theater. After fighting my way through some hallways and possessed thugs, I confronted Faust. Zatanna showed up to aid me, providing some healing and helpful hints about Faust's upcoming large attacks. At level six, Felix was no problem at all. His defeat rendered unto me the standard bevy of experience points and new equipment to wear.

DC Universe Online Bane

The next major quest had me feeling even more "in" the DC Universe. Trigon had taken possession of Raven. She - in turn - had taken possession of Titans members Cyborg, Nightwing, Starfire, and Donna Troy. (Get your Google on, I'm not explaining who all these people are) After several agro zones, I was inside the Chinatown Science Police building where Raven was holed up. A handful of baddies in and I was fighting the four possessed Titans one after the other, fortunately gaining NPC allies as I freed them from Raven/Trigon's clutches. A couple winding hallways later, I had to go into Raven's soul-self to do battle with her psyche and free her from her demonic father's clutches. A little help from a shining white NPC Raven later, and she was free of his tyrannical possession.

So far, DC Universe Online does a great job of making you feel like a part of the DC Universe. NPC interactions with licensed characters are abundant and many of the locations are familiar to the adoring comic book fan. The combat, however, feels odd for a console. DC Universe Online is trying to strike a precarious balance between action and MMO controls. The square and triangle button are your primary close and ranged attacks, then abilities and consumables are assigned to the four buttons when you're holding either the R2 or L2 buttons, effectively giving you 8 slots to assign. Attack combos begin very basic but can be upgraded to different combinations of square and triangle as well as holding the buttons for different effects. That said, it never feels too much like an action game. Damage is still listed as "damage per second" and combat always comes down to how fast you can wail on the attack buttons, just like other MMOs. This all leads to a system that boggles expectations. Don't go in expecting Batman: Arkham Asylum combat controls, but don't expect standard PC MMO controls either.

DC Universe Online Watchtower

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Watchtower. You can teleport up to the Justice League's orbiting headquarters fairly early on and it is expansive. I'm fairly certain you could carry out an effective exodus of the population of New York City with this satellite. Watchtower gives you access to training, numerous shops, a multitude of quests, and teleporters to the other areas of DC Universe Online. Don't think just because you picked Batman as your mentor means you can't experience Metropolis and beat up on Superman's enemies too. I took my flying psychic over to Gotham and gave Bane a little how-to and what-for.

So far, my massively multiplayer experiences in the DC Universe have been enjoyable. I like the game, though I'm not 100% on paying a monthly fee for it yet. But then, I'm a console gamer. I believe MMO players and core console gamers have very different outlooks on gaming and value. Now I just have to try making it to level 20 before the beta ends. Wish me luck!

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