Preview: DC Universe Online Beta Impressions

DC Universe Online Beta Impressions

DC Comics and Sony Online Entertainment's new MMO, DC Universe Online recently opened the doors for a major beta release - enlisting the help of pre-order gamers as well as PlayStation Plus members.

We were fortunate to be granted access to the PS3 beta and after a very intense and arduous playthrough, Game Rant is ready to give you the beta impressions of the game.

When players first start the game, they must choose which server to start their characters on - one of two PvE (Player versus Environment) servers or one PvP (Player versus Player).

For anyone that doesn't know the difference between PvE and PvP, PvE lets you toggle between enabling and disabling PvP, for example, a hero or villain could play through the game without having to worry about being attacked by their nemesis. PvP is always on in the PvP server, so players can't go around the corner without worrying about being attacked by the opposite alliance.

After selecting which server to play on, an intro movie is played that displays a very grim future where all of the world's heroes and villains are killed by Brainiac - with the exception of Lex Luthor. Lex travels back in time (to our present) in the DC Universe - to warn the Justice League of the great danger Brainiac poses to everyone's existence. Fortunately, Lex stole what he calls "Exobytes," which contains the stolen powers of the fallen heroes and villains from the future. These Exobytes are sent by Lex into Earth's atmosphere where they will grant superpowers to any human they come into contact with.

DC Universe Online Intro Movie

Once the intro movie has finished, players can now create their character, or as DC Comics says, "The Next Legend." After giving it a lot of thought, I chose to create a hero on one of the PvE servers. I wanted to be able to experience the hero side - without having to worry about getting attacked by villains.

In setting up the characters, players first choose a male or female as well as whether the character will be a hero or villain. For the character's build type, players have the option of a small, medium, or large build. For example, large build-types have very a bulky, almost Bane-like appearance, where as medium build types look like your typical heroes in top physical condition, and small build types have a kid-like appearance.

When it comes to picking a template for the character, players can explore a myriad of custom options or, to save on a little time, skim through the "Inspired By" option. "Inspired By" selects attributes such as powers, movement mode, weapon, and costume based on prior DC characters.

DC Universe Character Creation

For the purpose of the beta impression, I created a hero named Kid Destiny, a sorcerer - allowing him  which heal himself as well as his allies. Kid Destiny can fly as well as use hand blasts for ranged attacks. Since I selected Batman as Kid Destiny's mentor, after the tutorial, gameplay started off in Gotham City.

The tutorial is one of the best aspects of the DC Universe Online beta. By the end of the tutorial, players will find that not only are they completely accustomed to c0ntrolling the character in and outside of battle, but also navigating through the game's menu. Not to mention that players can easily get to levels three of four before the conclusion of the tutorial - which provides for an easier experience starting out in either Metropolis or Gotham City.

The size and scope of each of the starting cities is awe-inspiring. DCUO does a great job with the various movement types: Acrobatics, Super Speed and Flight. Each one provides a unique experience that makes their character feel natural - as though they really do belong in the same world as DC Comics' greatest characters. The in-game experience is solid. Acquiring missions, as well as knowing where to go, is made easy thanks to a yellow arrow on the mini-map - which always points in the direction of the next objective.

When players go to DCUO's equivalent of dungeons, they can team-up with a variety of fan-favorite characters including Batman and Superman or the Joker and Lex Luthor. Teaming up with these heavy-hitters gives the character a real sense of the epic battle that's unfolding as well as their heroic, or villainous, role in the DC Universe mayhem.

DCUO Free-To-Play

One of the most challenging, but at the same time rewarding aspects of the beta, is the Arenas and Alerts. In the Legends PvP Arenas, if a player has unlocked an iconic character such as Batman or Harley Quinn, they can form a 4-man team to battle another team of players made up of characters that would otherwise never be playable during the game. The PvP Arenas are not for the faint of heart - and should only be attempted once a player has leveled up a bit.

The first instance, or Alert as it is called in the game, is Area 51 - and attempting the mission with up to four players has to be one of the greatest experiences in the beta - if for no other reason than how challenging it is. DCUO really stresses the importance of having a well rounded and balanced team - meaning a team that can cover the four primary roles: Damage, Tank, Healer, Controller. By working together, players can ensure that they will not be taken down easily.

This brings us to the one major flaw that DCUO will need to get straightened out before release:

Friending players. as well as adding them to a group, could not be more difficult - oftentimes, requiring several tries before succeeding. One redeeming factor, once someone is in the group, even if they have to leave the game, they will remain in the group.

DC Universe Online PS Plus Beta Access

In addition, there were also some occasions when, after defeating the boss of a dungeon, the player or even the entire group would have to replay the mission - after leaving the dungeon. As anyone can imagine, this is pretty frustrating - especially after having successfully defeated some of the game's harder bosses such as Giganta or Scarecrow. That being said, it is important to remember that this is a beta and these types of glitches can be pretty common - and easily resolved before the final release of the game.

DCUO is shaping up to be a pretty impressive MMO when it launches, but can it stand up to the likes of World of Warcraft? Think players will be able to justify paying a subscription fee instead of playing the game for free with a micro-transaction system? Let us know with your thoughts and comments below!

DC Universe Online is set to be released on January 11, 2011 for the PS3 and PC.

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