It’s Free, But Is It Worth Your Time? DC Universe Online, Free to Play Review

*Note: This editorial is based on the PS3 version, and was first posted on Infinite Ammo.

I don’t know what possessed DC Comics and Sony Online Entertainment to even dream that they could force a subscription-based pay model on console gamers. Many, like myself, enjoyed the first (free!) month of DC Universe Online, and then promptly put it up and never touched it again when the idea of $15 bucks a month (plus that original $60 price tag—thank god my copy was a gift) came looming over us like the Doom of Damocles.

Thankfully, they wisened up and adopted the free-to-play model that many online MMORPGs have taken up—in turn drawing in more players and making more money from microtransactions and the dedicated subscription players than they ever did before.

But even with this change, the question remains—is it worth your time?

Presentation

This is my hero and his summoned demon sidekick; I secretly call him F.R.E.D.: Frightening Red Entity of Detroit (I assume all demons are from Detroit).

DCUO is a pretty good looking game. It won’t win any major awards, but it does really well, generally. There are plenty of times where I would take my character, the Risktaker—an arcane hand-blasting super-speedster—and run everywhere possible. Up buildings, over water, to the edges of the map, and beyond. Thankfully, with the thousands of newcomers, DCUO hasn’t had to drop its overall graphical quality to compensate. But I did notice the occasional frame-rate drop, especially when in large battles.

This doesn’t usually derail from the experience: but it can be frustrating when you’re literally jumped by a group of enemy players, and you’re powerless to fight back or try running away… because you’re waiting for the game to catch up to the action, and then just as fast, you’re dead. This happened a few times during my playthrough, and it annoyed the hell out of me.

As far as being a hero in a virtual DC Universe, I was hoping for something more vibrant and lively. Unfortunately, the world is quite devoid of character: there are the occasional innocent bystanders who cheer you on, but often you’ll pass very quiet, empty places. With the storyline, maybe that makes sense: if thousands of everyday people all of a sudden had powers and became heroes and villains, I’d be scare as hell to go outside. But then there’s the occasional traffic stop where cars are meant to move and then they just stop, frozen, obeying an unchanging traffic light until the end of time.

Gameplay

This is a Soul Well. I have no idea what it does, but I can do it.

Battles are everywhere, either through in-story battles or just random action. During my recent playthrough, I continued a bit of my previous, unfinished, vague, and very generic quest to stop some kind of evil sorcerer or some such, with missions from Zatanna and some of DC’s other magic-based heroes; but I quickly forgot it in lieu of searching for random battles to throw myself into. What I found was pretty diverse. There were Gorillas from Gorilla City, led by (surprise surprise) Gorilla Grodd, who were setting up some kind of device. I casually joined a few other DCUO players and then went my own way to find more adventure. I came across some evil Braniac drones and later ran past some barbaric animal men, both whupping me pretty bad. Unfortunately, I didn’t run into any help against these guys, which would’ve been nice. Occasionally battles can be interesting, like when there are unique objectives, or when I threw an explosive barrel at an enemy and they threw one back at me; but generally these are all the same monotonous battles.

There are side missions to do too: you can duel other players one on one; you can take on Movement Race challenges; you can collect Lois Lane updates that hint at new missions; or just join in huge raids. There is stuff to do, if you chose to really immerse yourself. The question is will you want to?

The Verdict

DCUO is pretty much the same game you’ve played before, just with far more people in it. While I thought this would drastically change my gameplay experience (I love Co-op—seriously) it didn’t, because I didn’t really find that many strangers to play with, and not many of my friends have tried it out yet. Even with company, though, this game is much like other games of its type: repetitive. If you like MMORPGs, you’ll like this. If you like MMORPGs and DC Comics, you’ll love this. But with a huge harddrive install (it asked me to free up 16 GB of my drive) and no trophy support for free players, I’m not sure if the average gamer will want to devote time to this when there are so many stellar games out right now.

My opinion?

When there’s nothing else out, and you’re not busy slaying dragons in Skyrim, kiling soldiers in Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, hunting the Joker in Batman: Arkham City, wrestling in WWE ’12, or doing insane missions in Saints Row the 3rd, play this.

Is it just me or is that building extremely phallic?

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