I'll be the first to admit: The idea of being a superhero has been a stupid little fantasy of mine many times in my life. Who doesn't want to be able to have amazing powers and do awesome things, preferably with a theme song? Spiderman, The Hulk, Batman, Wolverine, and Storm, all stand up as the ideals for many generations of people. They are our heroes.
So let's be real -- anyone who doesn't want to fly or shoot lasers from their eyes or summon the bestial strength of a gorilla has serious problems, and probably should not be your friend.
Hit the jump for my impressions.
Champions Online (PC, Xbox 360)
The Champions IP -- or those not nearly "nerdy" enough -- is a dice, pen, and paper-based role-playing game from the 1980s. The game gives players deep customization options, and Cryptic is really aiming to recreate those same options, but in a visual and action-oriented manner. The team wants you to be able to create any character you want, with any awesome superhero name you want (no more "Superdude1987"), and to have your hero look just as he or she should.
Even the powers can be deeply personalized. Emanation points (where powers shoot out from) can be changed to different parts of the body, and the colors of those abilities can be changed as well. Most everything is completely customizable, and while Cryptic offers 18 basic power sets (i.e. fire, ice, supernatural, gadgeteering, martial arts, super defense, etc.), any power can be placed on the character. Do you want a dude named Freezerburn with fire/ice skills, an ice slide that's yellow, and green fire that shoots from his eyes? It's all possible in Champions.
I spent about 20 minutes with this mode, playing around to create (of course) Mr. Destructoid. In my moment of creativity, he was a gadgeteer/gun class, as only Mr. D could be so badass. Unfortunately, since I couldn't find the clothing options for anything other than “skintight,” and there isn't exactly a smoking robot head (although Hamza will be excited to know shark-men are very easy to make), the creation I came up with looked more like a Tony Stark/mecha love child. Oops.
PvP is an interesting affair. Players can have “duels” at any time, any place. Once a fight has been agreed upon, a rocket will drop down to the ground, either creating a battle dome for ground battles, of a sphere for aerial battles, and players can duke it out for funsies. Experience can be earned in PvP, and certain drops can only be gained in this mode. It's an “unsanctioned” battle that's compared to a sumo match, as once one player leaves the arena, the other wins.
Even more interesting than the "Hero Games" are the "Apocalypse" maps. This PvP game mode is not typical for MMOs. Rather than just duking it out, players of 5v5 have goals to win a battle. For example, the "Apocalype" map they had on display, "Stronghold Prison," was a 5-on-5 battle between villainous prisoners trying to escape and defensive heroes. Each side is charged with killing NPC heroes on either end of the prison. Complicating things are long corridors filled with turrets that shoot stuff to slows you down and limit your traveling skill. It's a very chaotic mode that relys on a lot of teamwork. Without it, you'll be like me, and die a lot.
Champions Online impressed me. Graphically, it's a super colorful cel-shaded world that looks to offer a whole lot of action with a different change of pace, compared to many other MMOs. It seems that Cryptic reviewed their experience with making superhero MMOs, decided what needs to be improved, and went about improving it. With a solid action style, a desire to let you create any superdude you want, and the hush-hush 360 version (very exciting!), Champions Online might be the MMO to check out this September.