The bottom line is that DC Universe is a very different MMO than any of the ones I have played before. The underlying mechanics for all the previous MMOs I have played were based on “turn based” combat. This one is more in sync with old FPS game play, even though it is not an FPS game. The upshot is that the battles are fierce, fast and epic. While I am not an expert, I’d say the combat in DCUO is the best I have ever seen in an MMO. That plus excellent graphics, great voice work from real famous actors, great enemy AI, and a wide variety of mission types, makes DCUO a fantastic experience.
That being said, it is not perfect. The last super hero themed MMORPG I played was City of Heroes, where I played an Assault Rifle / Device character up through level 50. I decided to continue the tradition as a Dual Pistols / Gadgets hero in DCUO. In comparing the two games, you quickly find the strengths and weaknesses of the two.
In CoH, player roles were well defined. Tanks were tanks, controllers were controllers, Defenders defended. In DCUO, no one really has a defined role. They say there are defined roles but I don’t see it: Tank characters absorb a little bit more damage than others, Controllers avoid a little bit more damage than others, and healers can heal a little bit of the damage away. The powers exist among all three types to handle any role you want.
The reason for all this is PvP. In an effort to make sure there are no uber powerful builds that can dominate, everyone is essentially the same. Most characters have ranged weapons that shoot, throw, fire out of your hands, or your mouth, or your eyes, or your head. While they all look different, they all do more or less the same damage. Every character can fight, and while pure melee characters have some additional area of effect tricks when taking on multiple enemies, in one-on-one combat, no one has an advantage.
The negative of all of this sameness is that there is little replay value. I may complete all missions with my dual pistol / gadgets / athletic hero, and turn around with a character that is the exact opposite, say a wand wielding sorcerer villain that flies, and will ultimately have the same experiences, employ the same fight strategies, etc.
Another thing CoH did right was make it easy to form teams for missions. They did this through a very flexible communication system and team finder system. By comparison DCUO has an annoyingly weak comm system, and no team finder system. As a result, almost everybody plays solo, which is kind of sad for an MMO.
Controlling your character is also a weakness to DCUO, especially if you play on a PC. Many power moves are accessed by button pressing combos on a controller. On a PC, this is done with the left and right mouse button, for example: hold right, hold right, tap left for a move. This gets confusing, and if you are a person that creates many characters to play, remembering the key combos from character to character is confusing. Pressing F1 will give you a list of what you have, but this is impractical in the fast action combat in this game. After getting 4 key dual pistol powers, I collect passive powers that boost my stats instead. Despite this very bizarre way of controlling your character, it beats all to hell the monotonous button pressing I did in CoH and other Cryptic games like Star Trek Online (where I only played for about 2 months.)
Those complaints aside, none of which are bad enough to make me not want to play, I’m having a lot of fun battling villains in Gotham City and Metropolis, meeting all the great DC heroes and battling all the great DC Villains.