A few of Massively's staff members have beta-tested DCUO for about a month now. We have been biting our tongues for just about as long as we could. We have seen the highs and lows of this game. Making an MMO with proven mechanics is hard enough, but when a developer delves into unexplored territory, there are always huge risks. As with any game in still in production, not everything will be perfect. I will keep this in mind as we step into this DC Universe.
Prepare to be amazed by the exhilarating graphics, excited by the high-octane mechanics, confounded by surprising glitches, and flabbergasted by the astonishing voice work. Step past the cut for the whole story and the screenshots I took as I was playing through the first six levels of DC Universe Online!
If I may digress here for a moment, I will tell you of an encounter I had that made the game more interesting, one that would not have happened if I were on a PvE server. There is an encounter at a fairly low level in which villains and heroes were tasked with removing the Venom tubes from Bane's goons outside the Gotham city lighthouse. It took a while, but eventually, a villain and I stared down the same thug. Once this thug was beaten down, the villain and I ended up fighting each other over who could claim the prize. I won that round, but there were other rounds in which I was out-skilled. It was not about who rolled the right number on a die, but rather about who hit the right move or combination of moves at the right time. That was exciting to me.
The first place this game falls short is the character design section. The character designer is certainly not short in color choices, as the image above demonstrates, but unfortunately, when it comes to the physical shape of your character, gamers who have played Champions Online or City of Heroes are going to be a bit disappointed. To be clear, the quality of graphics are on par with, or maybe even above, the graphics of Champions, but the choices in gear and especially body shape are more limited. However, there is quite enough gear to distinguish yourself from other players, and as you finish quests in the game, you will receive more and different gear. I venture that this limitation is to ensure the quality of combat mechanics, because even a minor mesh change requires more information be sent to the client, thus requiring more bandwidth usage. I am still on the fence as to whether this was a quality decision.
I was instantly greeted by Oracle, who as you may know used to be Batgirl but who now operates as a superhero computer hacker. She was attempting to get me off the ship and safely back on Earth. I was in a room by myself with a single NPC robot. This gave me a chance to test out the controls. My left-click performed a pistol whip move, and the right-click alternated firing the right- and left-handed weapons. As with most PC games, the mouse controlled the camera movement and the aiming reticle. A red box would surround an enemy target if it was in range and within the aiming reticle. If I hit the tab key, the controls would lock onto the current target in the reticle and create a distinct crosshair on the enemy. Later I would learn that a yellow reticle indicated a non-enemy target and gray indicated a target out of range. For those who are interested, every weapon has both a melee and ranged attack, even the ones that would seem to be strictly melee.
As with most opening quests in modern MMOs, this Brainiac ship instance served as a tutorial. I learned about the gadget power sets, which are divided into Tricks, Traps, and Iconic powers. At level 2, either a Trick or Trap power was available for me to choose from. I picked the electric grapple under Traps. The Iconic powers were not available to me until a later level, and movement mode could be toggled. Climbing walls was a bit tricky at first, but after a bit of time, I found it quite fun. (Later I was able to try out both super-speed and flight on other characters, but acrobatics is by far my favorite.)
Eventually, the tutorial led me to the main gunnery room where Brainiac's guardian waited for me. After I removed the couplings from the gun turret and defeated the guardian, Superman was able to teleport in. Superman (voiced by Adam Baldwin -- no, not one of those Baldwins, rather the one of Firefly fame) defied Brainiac and invited me to help him hold off Brainiac's forces until Oracle was able to hack the ship's transporters. The Supes and I finished off those robots without breaking a sweat, and eventually, Oracle opened one of the transporters, sending me down to Gotham City.