Two weeks ago at E3, the Massively staff had their first glimpse of DC Universe Online gameplay footage. Developers showing the trailer promised players could play equally well whether on a PC or PS3, engage in battles unlike any before and push the limits of the Unreal physics engine that is the technological base of the game. After getting my hands on a pre-Alpha build of the game this week at Comic-con, I can tell you one thing for sure: this game delivers on its promises.
I've rarely had so much fun playing an MMO in such an early stage of development. Running up the sides of skyscrapers at superspeed, picking up city buses and smashing them into enemies, encasing the bad guys in blocks of ice and punting them two city blocks, the list goes on. These activities not only make the player feel truly heroic, but create an environment where players can coordinate their attacks with each other to defeat supervillains in all new and unexpected ways.
At the Sony Online Entertainment booth on the exhibitor floor of Comic-Con, SOE Austin VP of Development John Blakely and Creative Director Chris Cao, along with SOE staff, manned multiple demo stations. Each station had one of four pre-built characters available for play in an world event set in downtown Metropolis. I was able to play along side Superman, Supergirl and Green Lantern as we battled Lex Luthor, Bizzarro and their minions who were bent on infecting civilians with a virus that would turn them evil. I could either fight the infected citizens and cure them when they are defeated (thus completing a quest) or go head-to-head with the named villains and their army.
The powersets I played with were: electrical-based melee, light-based ranged dps, fire-based archer and ice-based ranged dps. It's not entirely accurate to slot these characters into role archetypes. Though some have specialties like ranged dps or crowd control, they all have a large range of powers. The trick is that you can only slot four powers at any given time. Your character can go with all dps abilities or a mix of crowd control and group support abilities. Fortunately, powers can be reslotted between battles to alter your playstyle on the fly.
Battle itself was fast and furious. Every character has a fast low damage attack activated with the left mouse button and a slower, higher damage attack with the right mouse button. Plus they have the aforementioned four slots for special attacks activated with the 1-4 number keys. Each special ability has it's own cooldown timer. That's the basics. It's what you do with your powers that makes this game so exciting.