DC Universe Online Switch Review
Online games are a tricky beast. Always full of such promise, they rarely deliver a satisfying core gameplay experience. That’s what sets DC Universe Online apart. Where most other MMORPGs fail, it succeeds and builds on a strong foundation to create a worthwhile and yes, addictive game. Now ported to Switch, it’s easy to see it becoming the go-to online game for fans of the genre.
DC Universe Online begins with a stunning cutscene that establishes a story sure to delight comic nerds. Suffice to say, it involves a plot by Lex Luthor, the mass murder of DC heroes (a crossover event tradition!), the arrival of Brainiac, and time travel shenanigans. Unlike the similarly presented The Old Republic, the story being told lends itself to the gameplay. Luthor has distributed superpowers across the world, and all the players are the result of his master plan. It makes sense in the context of the DC Universe, but it also makes sense in terms of an online game. You are not the most important person in the world- but maybe you could be!
Why So Serious?
This also extends to your interactions with other DC characters. When you play a DC game, you probably want to hang out with Batman. Smartly, DC Universe Online has you pick a member of the Justice League trinity- Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman- as a mentor, who guides you through the story. This gives you a great reason to be rubbing shoulders which such luminaries while again, not exaggerating your importance in the world, especially given that there are thousands of other similar heroes playing through the same story. It’s the perfect amount of empowering excitement without shattering the suspension of disbelief.
Beyond the story though, the gameplay is much stronger than other MMORPGs. It’s not as tight as comparable single-player games, but it’s not as monotonous as your typical MMORPG fare. It’s a real-time beat-em-up. There’s no auto attack button, you combine strikes and ranged attacks with your super moves (which naturally operate with a cooldown meter.) This makes fighting mobs of enemy goons feel more akin to Overwatch than a Bioware RPG. That’s a very good thing. It keeps the combat fun and action-packed.
Again though, it’s not on par with a pure action game. The movement is a bit floaty, and the hits a bit imprecise. But considering the most popular superhero game right now is Marvel Ultimate Alliance, it’s proven that a shallow beat-em-up is something people want to play, as long as it’s fun. And with flashy, diverse powers and clear roles, DC Universe Online is a lot of fun.
The other place the game shines is in the character creation. On the Switch, the graphics are fine. But there are a lot of options and more importantly, the costume bits you are offered are all extremely distinctive, especially if you’re the kind of person who spends a lot of time thinking about superhero costumes (which I am.) You can either start with a template based on a DC hero or villain, ranging from Joker and Bane to the Flash and Black Canary. Lame. It’s way more fun to start from scratch, figuring out your color scheme, emblem, and silhouette, matching it to a power set and movement style, and creating a coherent superhero theme.
A Labor of Love
…Or not! Despite the well-crafted story, DC Universe Online isn’t exactly the pinnacle of roleplaying. I encountered plenty of OOC talk, idle chit-chat, and strategizing. That’s fine! Because the game is so colorful and plays like an arcade brawler, it’s a good one to play socially. Beat up the bad guys and talk about whatever you like. Not every MMORPG has to be a strict fantasy escape. Even if it says “roleplaying” right there in the name, that doesn’t mean it needs to be like everything else.
That’s what I like most about DC Universe Online. While all the components are very familiar, the game is well-designed to be what it is. If a certain feature is derivative, that’s because it works for the story and gameplay experience. You can tell that this game is a labor of love, and it is maintained by a team that not only loves the source material, but loves fun games as well. And since my Switch is portable, I can grind for levels wherever I go, and take the Amazing Flamefist to the levelcap and beyond.
***A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by the publisher.***
- Fun beat-em-up gameplay
- Superbly presented story
- Strong aesthetics
- Character creation is a blast
- Take your Switch on the go!
- Floaty controls
- Limited opportunity to roleplay