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I just dodged an attack.
I'm not sure if you understand how revolutionary that sentence is. At least for me. One of the earliest things I had to wrap my head around in World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs was the irrelevance of location in combat. In WoW, if you're in range of an attack, you're getting hit. (Well, the attack could "miss," but you know what I mean.)
In fact, players have broken down MMO combat to such a degree that it barely requires human input. They've got cooldown timers and power chains down to the millisecond, and they've written macros so they don't even have to keep track of those milliseconds.
That's why the combat in DC Universe Online is such a breath of fresh air for me. Even if it does sometimes feel like button mashing.
DCUO combines the skills, cooldown timers, and mana management of traditional MMO combat with the one-to-one button presses of an action-RPG. In most MMOs, once you've clicked on an enemy, you'll automatically do basic attacks any time you're not actively using some other skill. That's not the case in DCUO — you press square for a melee attack with your chosen weapon, triangle for a ranged attack (if your weapon is capable of one). And if your enemy tries to dodge, you move back into range and push them again. You can also use different button combinations to cause knockbacks, stuns, and a variety of different strikes.
Of course, your foes can hit you, too, with ranged or melee attacks. But you have a secret weapon: a block button. Hold R1, and suddenly that swinging fist feels like a cool breeze. Hold R1 and push the left stick to the side, and you'll dodge-roll away from that laser blast. It's an incredibly empowering feeling to know that you are capable of making your enemy miss.
The other refreshing thing about DCUO's combat is the way you can change power loadouts on the fly. Every power set is capable of dealing damage, whether solo or in a group. But each one also has the ability to fill one of the other traditional MMO group roles: tank, control, or healing. A quick menu shortcut lets you change your "stance" from one role to the other. And many of your powers and skills behave differently when you're in your group stance as opposed to basic DPS.
So if you're in a group instance acting as the tank, but you need to quickly dispatch an enemy, you can swap stances, blast him with one of your powers, and switch back immediately. It makes you feel like you can take on any situation — just like a real superhero.
This combat system makes every fight in DCUO feel dynamic, even chaotic. You almost have too much to keep track of: your location relative to your enemy, the timers on your powers, your remaining energy, your opponents' attacks, knowing when to block or dodge…and all the while you pound away with your melee or ranged attacks. And you really do have to mash those basic attacks and combos to do consistent damage.
It can get a little too frantic at times. For me, that's a welcome change from standing toe-to-toe, immobile, and staring at those little icons as they reload.
Is DCUO a button-masher? Yes. Is that a good thing? Absolutely.