"BAM! POW! THWACK! ZOMG this game is cool!" That was pretty much my response when I got a chance to play DC Universe Online at SOE Fan Faire this past weekend.

I, like many of you, have been keeping an eye on DCUO for some time now. Admittedly, my interest levels may have been a little different than some of yours as I didn't read DC Comics when I was young. My mother felt comic books were too violent, so I didn't even really know many characters outside of Superman and Batman until my young adult life. But as it turns out, that's not a problem, explained Mark L. Norris, Game Designer for DC Universe Online. As you encounter various characters throughout the game you will get a Jim-Lee-Inspired comic animation that explains who the characters are and a bit of their history--perfect for a bloke like me who lived a somewhat sheltered childhood.

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style="font-style: italic;">Every character has ranged and melee attacks to deal with a number of challenges.

The game can be played on a keyboard or a controller. Mark explained that all controllers will be supported if they're supported by Windows. I, however, opted for the keyboard/mouse combo controls as the build of the game that I played didn't have an option to inverse look controls. It will be in for launch, Mark said, but since my dexterity in action games on the console rely on inversed look controls I went with the mouse and keyboard. I didn't want  to look like a newb, after all. Gamers will also be able to play on the keyboard and mouse on the PS3 version too, not just the PC.

So what happens if you're running about, bashing baddies (or goodies), with your wireless controller and all of a sudden it runs out of batteries? No problem. Just switch over to the mouse and keyboard on the fly. The game will auto detect which control set you are using and will switch to those controls immediately without the need for you to mess with the options window.

Every character in the game has ranged and melee abilities. The reason behind this, Mark told me, is that if a flying character has a ranged attack they can easily dispatch a melee-only character with no risk. So to prevent that from happening all characters can do both.

It's not hard to feel like a superhero in DCUO. Combos are numerous and easy to perform. During my play-through, since I was on the mouse and keyboard, the left mouse button performed a single melee strike. The right mouse button performed a ranged attack. This made the controls very intuitive. In order to perform a combo it was simply a matter of TAP-TAP-HOLD with the left mouse button for a melee combo. Different combos were available with TAP-HOLD or TAP-TAP-TAP-HOLD, and so on. It was not a complicated combo system at all and I instantly felt like a badass... without ever having played before. Now it should be mentioned that combo controls vary depending on the type of weapons used. Some are more complicated than others, requiring different actions such as holding the direction key one way while hitting another key. This kind of mechanic emphasizes player skill and not just character build. If you change weapon type, you'd do well to learn and practice its combos.

In addition to quick strikes, abilities are available as well. My character had eight abilities which were assigned to the 1-8 keys on the keyboard. These abilities allowed me to do many cool things, like trap a baddie in an energy bubble, call in a flying droid pet, or toss a sticky bomb. I also had healing abilities in case things turned ugly.

When creating a character, you select your power type, and your stances will define your roll. All characters do DPS, so that roll is not unique. How could you be a superhero without being able to do damage, after all? Fire and Ice powers are tanks, gadgets and mental powers are crowd controllers, and nature and sorcery powers are used for healing. If you need to switch your roll while in the middle of a battle a simple keystroke to change your stance will take care of it for you.

Every power type has two trees. For example Fire has the immolation and combustion trees from which you can select your abilities. All characters will also have access to a 13th tree, known as the Iconic Super Powers tree where you can learn abilities from famous super heroes. (For more information about the Iconic tree, check out our preview here).

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style="font-style: italic;">Combat in DCUO is intuitive and fun.

Combat in DCUO is like attaching jumper cables to your nipples. It's charged with fast action and intuitive controls. You feel in command immediately from your first intuitive combo to your plotted finishing strike. Since the game uses the Havok engine you can pick up objects around you and toss them at your enemies. But that's not all. Remember that ability I mentioned earlier? You know, the one where you could envelop your enemy in an energy ball. Once you've done that, pick him up and chuck him around. Go bowling for baddies. There's no part of that that isn't fun.

Every story area has a playroom that you can jump into to have some fun against the enemies. These playrooms are designed for solo play, but you can bring in some friends to have some fun as well. The space will reflect the main nemesis of the section of the story you're playing through. So, for instance, as was the case in my play-through, the episode was one of Harley Quinn, so I ended up playing through one of the Joker's Funhouses. (Harley is obsessed with the Joker and is a groupie of sorts).

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style="font-style: italic;">Harley Quinn is a tough challenge but has clear signs of her special attacks.

When I reached the end of the Funhouse and faced off with Harley herself I was introduced to my first boss fight. Like any other boss, Harley had a lot of hit points and special attacks. Mark tried to give me a heads-up as to what to expect, but in truth, he didn't need to. When Harley was about to perform her whirlwind attack it was obvious enough to stay away from her. When she stubbed her toe, it was clear she was dazed by the stars above her head, so I moved in to attack. In addition to these visual cues DCUO comes with its own built-in "Deadly Boss Mods" type interface where green text appears on the screen indicating what is about to happen and what should be done.

After defeating Harley I was awarded with Harley's mask - a purple grade item to equip in my equipment's head slot. The mask was an exact duplicate of Harley's mask. It had great stats too. The problem, though, was that my character would have looked right silly with a big black and red joker hat. This too, was not a concern to Mark though. He told me to equip the mask anyway. After I donned the hat I realized there indeed was no problem. The mask automatically adopted my character costume colors and instead of the bright red and black it appeared as the black and deep purple of my character. Beyond that, the game remembers each and every item you have ever equipped. So if you like the stats of your new equipment but prefer the look of an old piece of equipment, simply select the appearance you prefer to use. There's no need to use up inventory space with the old equipment either, as the game remembers the look even after you sell or destroy the item.

There are a few snags that I hope to see addressed before launch. At times the combat can feel a little disjointed. I had difficulty picking up items to throw at times. It seemed that if I wasn't at a perfect 90 degree angle and physically touching an object I wanted to pick up, I was unable to interact with it. An increase in sensitivity would resolve this issue. Additionally it was difficult to get a real feel for throwing the objects across a room as they seemed to just bounce off the roof above me and bounced away behind me as soon as I threw them. Given that the game has a few months yet before launch there is still time for SOE to address these small, but noticeable issues.

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style="font-style: italic;">PC and PS3 versions will not be cross-platform.

It would also be nice to be able to switch back and forth from the PC and PS3 version. Even despite the fact the game will not be cross-platform and PS3 players will only be able to play with other PS3 players, and the same for PC players, the game will charge separate subscription fees. So if you want to play both, you'll have to pay for two subscriptions. This is due to separate login systems. The PS3 version will use the Playstation Network and the PC will use the Station login. More details on this coming later this week in our exclusive interview with Lorin Jameson, Director of Development at SOE Austin.

Despite the above hiccups, DC Universe Online promises to be an exciting addition to the online gaming space. Action players will feel right at home and RPG fans will have their familiar mechanics. Getting into the action is quick and easy and it's not hard to find the fun in the game as it beats you over the head with more clever systems and fun gameplay than you might expect possible from an online game. SOE may very well win the hearts of comic book fans, action game fans, online gamers, and RPG enthusiasts in a single strike with the launch of DCUO in early November.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our DC Universe Online Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016