So I'm taking a break from playing tonight, and I'll use the time to talk a bit more about DCUO and hopefully it won't end up being as disjointed as my game reviews typically are.
Let's start with character creation. The character generator in DCUO is not as involved as most other superhero MMOs, like City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online, Freedom Force, or any others I might be missing*.
You start with gender and size. Then you advance to an optional step - the 'Inspired By' section. You can make a super hero/villain based off of some of the more iconic heroes/villains from the DC universe. If you choose to do this, you'll move directly to 'GO' and go to the 'make adjustments/finish character' page. The heroes/villains that you can choose from are: Bane, Catwoman, Joker, Mister Freeze, Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Beast Boy, Steel, Flash, and Martian Manhunter. You will automatically be loaded out with a powerset, weapons, travel power, morality, and outfit that match your inspiration. Should you skip the optional step, you get to customize your character starting with your powerset: fire, ice, nature, mental, sorcery, and gadgets. Then you pick movement: flight, super speed, and acrobatics. Followed by weapon style: one-hand weapons, hand blasts, bow, brawling, dual pistols, dual wielding, martial arts, rifle, staff, and two-handed weapon. Finally you advance to morality (hero or villain), personality (your stance when not moving), and your mentor/origin. After doing all of this work you move on to customizing your appearance (hair, skin, gear, and the coloration). Finally choose a name and get started. I'll also note here, that Warner Brothers/DC/Sony did themselves a favor with character creation and made it easier for players to copy the iconic super heroes/villains that they are going to end up copying anyway. In fact this game encourages it! Re-read the above paragraph for confirmation.
It seems like a lot, and I have not gone in to any detail regarding what the powersets actually do, how the weapon styles work, or options for your appearance. But trust me, this is possibly the most bare bones character creator for a superhero MMO.
Alright, now lets move on to some gameplay. One of the first things I noticed upon starting the game, was how the controls (movement, attacks, the camera) are different from a 'standard' MMO. Your camera is not glued to your back. If you turn around using the WASD movement keys, you have a very good probability of seeing the front of your character. In addition, your mouse is always on 'mouselook' (except when you open your menus). In a more traditional MMO, you control your camera with the mouse buttons, and steer with your keyboard. Not the case here. I should mention at this point that you use your mouse buttons for attacks - that's it. Left click is for melee attacks, and right click is for ranged attacks. After a little probing I discovered why the controls/keybinds are set up the way they are - this game dual released for the PC and the PS3. So the developers set the game up to operate from a console controller as well as keyboard/mouse input.
Also, unlike traditional MMOs, when you pick up and equip gear, you can adjust your costume on the fly after equipping new equipment. For example my 'Batman' hero has retained his original costume except for his gloves and boots. Equipment comes from different sets and each set provides a different appearance item for item; so you can really trick out what your character looks like. I've seen very very few characters who look the same.
The game itself moves very fluidly. The graphics are very pretty and the world is pretty seamless. The two main cities are huge, and are differentiated by subtly changing suburbs. But fear not! The main storyline, and all of the minor sub-plots provide real crunch to the game, making each new endeavor feel, well, new. City of Heroes/Villains is probably the worst offender when it comes to every aspect of the game appearing to be a cookie cut-out of the element before it. Each mentor gives you missions that revolve around their 'rogues gallery'. However, just because you have one particular mentor, doesn't mean that you are banned from accepting missions from other mentors. In fact I've found it incredibly beneficial to move back and fourth between Gotham and Metropolis doing missions for Batman and Superman/Wonder Woman. I can advance my level past the 'recommended level' for the mission so I have a reduced chance of getting knocked out (aka. dead) by goons - because they love to swarm you.
Missions start small and finish big. Starting in Gotham, I was immediately set on the trail of the Scarecrow. I began by taking out his goons, then moving up to getting samples of his newest fear gas, then busting up the fear gas dispensers, and eventually culminating with taking the villain down in the sewers of Gotham. The missions update without you needing to go back to the quest giver (thanks Oracle!) and automatically adjust the difficulty of 'dungeons' (where you fight the main bad guy) depending upon the total size of your party. Also, there are 'wanted posters' that you can get missions from to hunt down random heroes/villains - like Solomon Grundy. And the wanted poster missions are hard. Really really really hard. You cannot solo them. Period. Which is kinda awesome.
There are a number of 'Easter eggs' in the game. Collectible clues/news updates bits of storyline fluff that just add to the fun factor for doing exploration. And upon completing a series of these you gain achievements. Hell you gain achievements for damn near anything. But I can't really complain about that, because every time I complete an achievement I get a little boost to my ego, and I want to go dig up more clues, news updates, etc.
Overall, I've very satisfied with this game. The graphics, gameplay, lack of repetitive feel, being able to solo 99% of the game, the voice acting, and overall fun factor. It's just damn fun to play. I think this weekend I'll start leveling a villain, so I have something to compare my hero experience with.
And I'll leave with this parting tidbit. If you start playing this game, after completing a mission arc, you get to see a little 'cut scene'. It's animated...kind of. The cut scenes are done in a comic book style with panels. And they are just fantastic to watch. Don't skip through them, do yourself the favor and just watch and enjoy them.
*There are relatively few superhero MMOs out there. Damn few; they just don't seem to last.