hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Champions Online

2:00 PM on 10.02.2009 // Ashley Davis

Ah, the MMO. It's a tricky beast, alright. Making one seems to be such a delicate process. As developers and publishers try to replicate the immense success of World of Warcraft, we've seen few succeed and many fail. City of Heroes, an MMO by Cryptic Studios, could probably considered one of those small victories. It helped the genre to toss aside its identity as being nothing but swords and sorcery, and was a really great game too.

Now Cryptic has taken the CoH formula and attempted to improve on it in their newest game, Champions Online. Is it a worthy successor? Hit the jump for my impressions.

NOTE: As of this date, I have not reached the level cap (40), so I have not been able to test the endgame content. For this reason, I have not included a numerical score.

Champions Online (PC)
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: Atari
Released: September 1, 2009
MSRP: $49.99 + $14.99 monthly, $59.99 bi-annually, $199.99 lifetime

Champions Online is a lot like its predecessor, City of Heroes, sans the City of Villians side. In it, players assume the role of a superhero of their own creation and do their part to protect the world.  It's not a completely new setting, as the superhero MMO has been done a few times before, but one can't help but feel a little excited to spent time outside of the typical swords-n'-sorcery backdrop that so many MMOs take place in.

Cryptic has done a wonderful job of taking the superhero mythos and making a believable world out of it. The areas to play in are huge, and once you have a travel power (such as flight, super-powered jumping or tunneling), you can rise up above it all and take it all in. The sounds are also pretty great, with music and sound effects that resemble the sort of things you'd hear in a 90s-era comic book cartoon. Most of the MMO staples present are molded to fit the superhero universe; guilds are supergroups, parties are teams, equips take the form of DNA mutations, and so on. And then there are all the heroes that constantly zip and zoom around it all.

The players of Champions are one of the most important aspects of the game's atmosphere, and that's an awesome thing for an MMO to accomplish.

There is an insane amount of customization to do before entering the world. No one need worry about being stuck in an avatar that resembles everyone else's; with all the avatar options, you can make literally anything you want. In my case, I made a gunslinging, seven-foot-tall reptilian pirate. I've also seen elaborate mechas, flying monkeys, and even a superhero version of Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell. The only limit, besides the fact that you can't make your hero fat, is your imagination. A bit of your character's detail is lost once you enter the game world, but it doesn't take much away from the fact that you still feel like something of your own creation among thousands of other works of imagination (or clever rip offs of pre-existing creations).

There are also many power frameworks to choose from for your crime fighter, including staples like ice, fire, force, and lightning, and more interesting choices like munitions, telekinesis, and supernatural powers. In all, there are 18 different specialties to choose from. You can either choose one of these to focus on or you can mix and match for your own custom build; if you want, you can make your guy shoot fire from his hands AND have the ability to create weapons with his mind powers. Custom builds can make for some very mixed-up superheroes, but the system is interesting in its own right. It further adds to the amount of possibilities you have when making a character all your own, and Champions is all about providing a personalized MMO experience.

All players start out in the same tutorial area, a city that is endlessly fighting off an invasion of intergalactic insects called the Qualaar. Things quickly pick up here as you learn the ropes and branch out into several other areas of the world, including a desert full of ghost cowboys and the snowy fields of Canada. You travel around doing quests for equips and resources (Champions' form of currency). Unfortunately, even though the gameplay starts out strong enough to match the versatility of the character creator, it fizzles out the further you go.

Initially, the combat system feels markedly more action-y than most MMOs. Instead of just running up to an enemy and using your various attacks, you'll find yourself strafing, jumping, blocking and wriggling out of holds. In a particularly nice design move, blocking is controlled by a button press rather than pure probability, as is so often the case in MMOs. You can also earn power-increasing Hero Stars (up to five) for each enemy you kill without dying, though you lose one each time you are killed. Defeated enemies drop items that, when picked up, immediately heal your power, life or energy for a certain amount.

The action isn't near the level of any action-adventure title, but it's a lot more dynamic than your typical MMO fare. Grinding, however, can wear down the most fun combat system in the world, and Champions' is sadly no exception. Initially satisfying as the combat may be, the sheer amount of grinding necessitated by the game's structure turns it into a chore after a few hours of sustained play.

While they last, quests are the usual fare: an NPC tells you to kill X amount of monsters or rescue his or her buddies. There are also open quests, which anyone can hop into and complete at any time, and story quests that round out the exploration of each area. These different quest types break up the monotony, but not by much. All of them are there mainly to help you avoid the grind, but don't do a very good job of compensating you for your time. The money earned is fairly useless, as there are no items to buy other than crafting materials and costume changes, and the equipment you get is soon replaced with more equipment from the next quest.

Nothing is really done to ensure that people pay attention to the stories attached to any of the quests or the NPCs that give them, either. You'll hear some really funny soundbytes when fighting alongside NPCs in open and story quests, but none of the written dialogue is particularly attention-grabbing. You may find yourself just going through the motions, so to speak, without really knowing or caring why you're doing what you're doing outside of the general "they're bad and you're good" vibe that wears thin within a few hours. The aforementioned story quests are much better storytellers and great fun to boot, but are few and far between.

Then there are the problems attached to the lack of a structured class system. On one hand, it can help players create characters more unique to them. On the other hand, it can make things very confusing when you are trying to figure out the best stats and equips to give your character, especially if it has a customized build. It's all very trial-and-error, and it will have you wanting to go back and use your eight character slots to try and perfect the one hero you want to play as your main. Some resources can buy you a respec, but you can only undo the last five changes you made to your build.

Crafting is another weak point of the game. There are three proficiencies to choose from: science, arms, and magic. Deciding whichever one is best for your character is somewhat confusing, however. Despite continually crafting arms upgrades for my munitions-based character, I never really saw any improvements; either the craft upgrades just weren't at all useful, or the game was doing an awful job of explaining what I was doing wrong. As a result, crafting doesn't feel worth the time it takes to scour the world for the ingredients, and I was left more than a little bewildered at the entire system in general.

PvP is pretty standard. You fight with and against other players in teams for experience points and acclaim (another form of currency that can only be used in special shops). You can enter the queue from anywhere via your menu, which is nice. But for now, it seems that the things that acclaim can buy are priced much too high, forcing players who want them to spend an inordinate amount of time fighting in arena battles. Just as with the grinding and craft systems, the game just doesn't seem to pay players back for the work they put into it.

The game's nemesis system is admittedly pretty interesting. At level 25, the player can go back into the character creator and make a personalized nemesis for themselves. From that point forward, they will send their lackeys after you time and time again until you eventually have a showdown with them. This sounds really cool, even if you don't get to control your nemesis, have to reach level 25 first. And it's really hard to get that far.

Quests don't immerse or reward you enough, and exploration often just gets you killed, causing you to lose your Hero Stars and become less powerful. You have to stick to certain areas, do all the quests mainly for experience, and then grind on the enemies there before venturing off somewhere else. You can also level by participating in PvP, but not everyone likes that sort of thing, and those who do may find that, again, the payout just isn't worth it.

If personality is something that is very important to you, Champions may very well be the MMO of your dreams. There is no danger of wading around in a sea of similar looking characters, or even similar functioning ones, for better or for worse. But there is too much about the game that is unbalanced and confusing at the moment. Those who currently play other MMOs may find very little incentive to switch. Hopefully, as the game grows and changes, the actual gameplay will match the grand, enjoyable world it occupies. Right now, however, the confusing upgrade system and unsatisfying grindfest structure prevent me from fully recommending Champions Online.

Score: N/A

Ashley Davis,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] [img][/img] [img][/img]
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Anyone else getting massive lag in between games of the Battlefront Beta? I'm running an AMD rig so it might be that but just want to know it's not just me.
Shinta avatarShinta
1 hour stream of Dragon Quest Heroes.
MeanderBot avatarMeanderBot
Plague Knight is pretty rad, even when represented by mediocre artists [img][/img]
Shinta avatarShinta
Initial impressions: Chibi-Robo Zip lash is pretty damn fun so far. It's like Mr. Mosquito + Castlevania + Umihara. Controls are spot on, platforming is actually very solid so far, and the characters are about as charming as they can get. +amiibo.
nanashi avatarnanashi
Question: Is resident evil nemesis supposed to start off with a toolbox that has (unlimited) ink ribbon, 250 handgun ammo, magnum (w/ammo), shotgun (w/ammo) and two assault clips, in the first room of the game?????
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] Much want. Such need. Ow.
Shinta avatarShinta
[img][/img] Can you imagine if greedy aliens stole all YOUR snacks? I don't even know how I'd handle it honestly. I don't even want to think about it.
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Great. YouTube took down my nude re - enactment of She-Wolf. Again. Fuck you Shakira. Let my art shine.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
BREAKING: Inner city man and "Pokemon Go" enthusiast found dead after entering rival gang's territory. "All he wanted was a Shiny Charizard!" according to an interview with a close friend. "We found him on the street, limp as a Magikarp stuck on a beach."
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I completely forgot that Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow had an animated opening. Other than the compression, it actually looks really good today, and makes me wonder why Konami didn't commission some sort of Castlevania anime. That would have been sweet.
Cosmonstropolis avatarCosmonstropolis
Gamestop has Splatoon amiibo up, if that's your thing. Totally didn't order and just cancel mine.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Anyone else having issues with italics in blogs? I went to save a draft, and when it loaded the post-saving creature I was working on, the entire text had been italicized and I now am unable to change it back. I've been possessed!
So that's $50 for the season pass on top of the game already costing sixty at launch, plus the monthly subscription fee for playing online on consoles. All in the name of getting the full experience! VYDEO_GEAMEZ!!
BroskiTheChocobo avatarBroskiTheChocobo
Why hello there. My name is Broski and I am new here so be nice. I'll be posting some content over the next few days so have a read and I hope you enjoy it. Broski out.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
tired but I gotta work. Would rather play more MGS5.
Batthink avatarBatthink
Races have been pretty intense, and the last Moto3 race in MotoGP 14 should have been too. Emphasis on the word [i]should[/i]. The AI riders ignored infringements in the last race, meaning everyone was disqualified except me. Derp.
Batthink avatarBatthink
Been playing MotoGP 14 on my Vita. A bit buggy (some menus you need to press circle to go back, then cross to select to proceed, otherwise nothing happens. And motorcycling helmets riding motorcycles in-race), but I've got the sweet spot in difficulty.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Daily VGM #21 (Witcher 1) - Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher 3) [youtube][/youtube] I think this theme does a fantastic job capturing the feel of The Witcher 3. Epic, but also somber at times.
wutangclam avatarwutangclam
Sorry to shamelessly self-promote, but I wanted to share a piece that went up over the weekend with ya'll Hopefully it's an enjoyable read! [url][/url]
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -