Back in the Good Old Days, pretending to be a super hero required going to the store to buy costumes, training hard with your local Kung-Fu sensei and, of course, walking to the Justice League headquarters (AKA your friend’s DC-decorated basement) barefoot in the snow uphill both ways.
Soon all you’ll need is a PS3 or PC and a copy of DC Universe Online.
Yes, the age of sewing your own costumes and jumping off tall structures is over now that Sony Online Entertainment will be their new super hero MMORPG based in the DC comic book universe.‚ I was lucky enough to sit with Wes Yanagi, Senior Producer at SOE, as he showed me all the cool features in the upcoming game.
Yanagi chose to describe DC Universe Online in an interesting way.‚ He decided to call it an “Action MMO” making it clear that this game was unique when compared to the numerous Massively Multiplayer Online games available today.‚ What makes DC Universe Online an Action MMO is that none of the combat sequences need to be scripted and waited on.‚ Instead of planning out attack sequences, players can improvise with the control their super hero by rattling off seamless punching, kicking or power attack combos instantaneously.
The features in the RPG portion of the game are exciting as well.‚ Upon creating a character (using the character creator as described a few paragraphs below), players will be able to decide if they would like to become a villain or hero in the DC Universe.‚ This choice will determine how characters will approach quests and which famous super hero NPCs (Batman, Bizarro and Wonder Woman, just to name a few) they will interact with.‚ As characters level up, players will be able to “build their own legacy” as they game namesake within the super hero/villain communities.‚ Eventually, players get their characters invited to join the Justice League or Legion of Doom, depend on which moral route they take.‚ Also, with the in-game stories and quests being written by some of DC’s most famous writers, the RPG aspect of DC Universe Online is an exciting prospect for even the most casual of comic book fans.
No DC Universe-based game would be complete without the ability to visit some famous landmarks.‚ The folks with Sony Online Entertainment recognized this need and developed their upcoming game accordingly.‚ Players will be able to take their characters to such places as Metropolis, Gotham City, Justice League and Legion of Doom headquarters, STAR Labs and many others.‚ Though I wasn’t able to get a look at places like Gotham or Metropolis (the concept art of these places is available in our gallery below), I was able to look at some in-game action inside STAR Labs and the Justice League HQ.‚ The environments seemed authentic, clean and rendered well, which is no surprise given that many of the game’s locations were created and designed by legendary comic book artist Jim Lee.‚ I especially enjoyed the intricate and brightly colored designs in STAR labs.‚ I can’t wait to see more in-game renders as they are unveiled.
Sony also stepped up and created a legitimate character creator for DC Universe Online.‚ The creator is based on three basic concepts of customization: the super power of the character, the power source of that super power and the movement style of the character.‚ The super powers include options such as fire, ice or mental abilities while the power sources can be anything from a simple ring on your character’s finger to something as complex as your character’s eyes.‚ Finally, the movement style of your character can be walking, flying or possibly something in-between.‚ The character creator also allows players to completely customize their character’s costume, color scheme and accessories, making it nearly impossible to find someone else who has the exact same super hero as yourself.
Once a color scheme and costume is established, all items that are picked up and equipped on a player (such as a helmet or body armor) will automatically adjust to your character’s design.‚ For instance, say you find a green item but your scheme is red.‚ DC Universe Online’s developers have found a way to change the item’s color to match your scheme when it is equipped.‚ Also, lets say you’ve found a helmet that looks good on your character, but you’ve also acquired a less-fashionable helmet that has better stats.‚ Instead of having to choose between the two, players can now just take the statistically better helmet and make it look exactly the same as the better looking one.‚ These two features allow players to avoid that multicolored “hobo” look that many gamers encounter in MMORPGs.
There’s very little to not like about how DC Universe Online is coming together.‚ It’s a game that is clearly staying true to its roots and addressing many issues that MMO fans have grown to hate.‚ Unless there is some fatal flaw in the gameplay or gaming engine, there wont be much that could hold DC Universe Online back from becoming a very popular and entertaining RPG when it drops sometime late 2009 / early 2010.