Champions Online

Please welcome new guest writer, bastun_ie, writing about adventures in Champions Online.

There are too many elves. And orcs. Even if they're called by some other name. Every MMO I've played to date has been fantasy based - UO, DAoC, WoW. Oh, there's an exception - EVE. But I found the learning curve too steep and frankly, a 10-year-old game that manages to bluescreen a 4-year-old PC has issues. Plus, from my limited experience, the combat seemed dodgy - pick a target, orbit it at a certain distance, and keep shooting. Yawn. Space combat should be like Wing Commander (I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the Wing Commander IP is just crying out to be turned into an MMO!)

So three things prompted me to try out Champions Online. First was a creeping boredom with WoW. I've been playing since day one, I've a level 80 feral kitty raiding Icecrown, and am co-leader of a raid community. I love the raiding, it's the bits in between that induce a "Can I be arsed logging on?" in me. Second was a desire to try a different genre, beyond the opening few hours of a new MMO I'd managed since EVE. No more elves or orcs... I've always loved the superhero genre - I was raised on 70s and 80s Marvel, and a modern-day setting with superheroes seemed sufficiently different to WoW to warrant a look. Thirdly, and most importantly, Cryptic, the publishers of Champions Online, are releasing Star Trek Online in February, and I'll be buying that on Day One, because I've been a Trekker since forever. So I wanted to see how the company behind it was running an MMO. And slightly increase my chances of getting into the closed beta...

I picked up Champions in October. This is a review of my experience of the game to date (where my main has reached level 21 out of a current max of 40). Installation was smooth, creating an account was counter-intuitive, but was managed eventually. First up is the character creation screen. You start by choosing your powers. There are no character classes, as such, in Champions, but the traditional tank/dps/healer roles are present. You can choose to use one of 19(!) archetypes, or as they are called in the game, "frameworks" - or you can go wild and custom build one. The frameworks are the "basic" superhero types we all know and love - fire-users, electricity-blasters, ice-men, power-armour wearers, telepaths, and so on. The full list: Electricity, Force, Archery, Munitions, Dual Blade, Single Blade, Telekinesis, Might, Darkness, Sorcery, Fire, Ice, Gadgeteering, Power Armor, Fighting Claws, Telepathy, Celestial, Supernatural, and customised. The only obvious omissions I can see in that list are web-slinging and stretchy.

Each framework gives you two default powers. One will be a weak attack that when used will also generate energy for your character, while the second is a slower, more powerful attack that, when used, uses up that energy. Depending on the framework, they'll be ranged attacks, melee attacks, or a mixture. Each of the default frameworks also has two ability stats that are more important than the others - for instance, Strength and Intelligence are the primary stats for Power Armor heroes, while a Fire-based hero needs Presence and Recovery. A character's two primary stats start out at 12, higher than the others which remain at 5.

Next up is your character's appearance. I'd decided on a Celtic-themed goddess-avatar type. The next three screens are for gender, face, and body type. The face and body screens let you do a fair bit of customisation - it's a simple job to get the body looking like you want, from an elfin waif up to a musclebound Hulk-like brick.

Next is the costume screen. Prepare to waste an hour or so - this is great fun. You'll likely spend 10 minutes just clicking on the 'Randomise' button and laughing, or going "Wow, nice!" Pretty much everything can be changed or altered, and the variety is endless (with more options being added in patches). First time round, I wanted to get into the game pretty quickly, so didn't spend too much time on this, but it's pretty much possible to create any type of costume/appearance you want, from a "traditional" costumed human to some pretty far-out demon, robot or alien types.

Part of the T&Cs, obviously, is that you're not meant to duplicate any living person or break any copyrights (a problem City of Heroes/Villains apparently suffered from) and while it is hard to duplicate existing superheroes (and people) it's certainly not impossible. I've seen an almost perfect Thing, Captain Marvel, Batman and, er... Stan Lee - but in general, people try to be original (for certain values of original).

The last screens in character creation let you choose a stance ("normal", heroic (out-thrust jaw and chest), beast-like crouch, etc.) and demeanour (stern, angry, etc.), choose your avatar's name, and write a character background, if you so wish. Names needn't be unique, which is just as well, seeing as Champions is a single-server game. This is possible as your full character name, as far as the game is concerned, is actually made up of two parts: the avatar name and your account name. So Manbat@accountname can happily run into and even team up with Manbat@differentaccount. The character background is optional, but being a roleplayer, I had to complete mine. Unfortunately, it appears that returning background information is given a low server-side priority. clicking on another character and selecting 'Info' is as likely to return a popup with a picture of the hero and a 'Please wait' message under character background as it is to actually tell you about the terrible accident that resulted in them being able to shoot ice from their palms.

Character creation done, you click on 'Play' - and are given a nice touch. A popup asks what type of GUI you'd prefer. Options are 'default Champions', 'Superhero MMO' (which presumably puts everything where a City of Heroes/Villains player would expect it), or 'fantasy MMO' (which in my case put everything where a Warcraft player would expect to see it, and, I believe, mapped some of the keys to their WoW equivalents).

That's it for now. Part II, coming soon, will cover the general Champions background and initial play.

Posted by Drew Shiel at January 5, 2010 4:03 PM

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