Review: Champions Online

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I played the beta to this and i absolutly loved it i think i spent more time with the character creater/customization then i did in the game.

I've only played the beta on a Shader Model 2.0 card. But I thoroughly enjoyed the fuck out of the game. The music is pretty rockin', too.

Looks interesting. I want to check out this game just to see the character customization. I wonder if I could recreate my avatar in it.

Though I'll probably wait a few months to see how the game holds up. Besides, I still don't like the idea of paying a monthly fee to much.

For people sitting on the fence about getting the game, I thought I would comment on some of the nuts and bolts.

In General:

One of the best places to learn about an MMO is while playing other MMOs, since discussion of competing MMOs come up frequently. While playing WoW, there were of course the flame wars about WAR, plenty of people talking about how they used to play EQ2--now EVE hardly ever came up but let's face it there can't be much overlap--but City of Heroes (and Villians) did keep coming up and whenever it did, people would reflect on it positively. Although I'm more into fantasy than comic books (and more into Sci-fi than either), I've heard enough good things about CoH to capture my interest. Bottom line, Cryptic has good MMO experience under it's belt.

Character Creation:

I love creating characters. I've deleted level 20 WoW characters and started over just because their hair was slightly the wrong tint. When it comes to getting your vision of a character into a gaming universe, then Champions Online HAS to exceed its closest competition by at least the power of 2. Many, many times already I've laughed at the cleverness of some of designs people came up with. Many other times I've scratched my head wondering how did they ever do THAT?!?

On average I've spent probably a couple hours per character adjusting all the sliders to get the right look. For some I spammed the "Random" button until an interesting design came up, then an idea popped into my head about their superpower, and I went from there. For others I had a look I wanted from the start. After a couple characters you get the hang of it.

For anyone as finicky as me about character appearance, you'll be happy to know that if you play a couple levels and decide some things aren't quite right, gone are the days you need to delete and re-roll. There are "Costume" NPCs right outside the beginner area, who are always readily accessible, where you can adjust all aspects of your toon's appearance to your liking for a moderate fee.

Thankfully, I've filled all my eight character slots otherwise I'd still probably be there. With all the smart designs out there, I'm honored when people stop to check out my characters and occasionally compliment.

Open Worlds, or the Lack Thereoff:

There is one Champions server. But each quest area divides into many instances each with a pop cap of it looks like 100.

I suspect this is may be a necessity given all the character customization you have--this allows for pre-loading the skins etc. for the 20-80 or so people in your questing instance, rather than have to keep in memory ALL the cyber gloves, and mecha armor, and shoulder designs, and skin textures etc. etc.

But this fragments the community. So you put somebody on your friends list, unlike WoW servers where you probably keep running into them as you level up, in Champions they'll probably be in a different instance next time. Not that you can't see what instances your friends are in and not that it isn't easy to change instances, but staying in touch works better on paper than reality.

The good part of it is that quest areas are never dead--it is never like you are the only one there. When you need a couple others to defeat the end boss, it never takes long to get a group together. If the fragmenting of the community can be overcome by, I don't know, maybe a chat superchannel or guild recruiting superchannel that spans all instances in an area, that might correct the issue some.

One advantage of this system is, going back to character design, is that it isn't like you see the same people over and over again--with all the character designs people come up with, you can potentially see them all. It hasn't gotten monotonous yet.

Linearity:

Champions does feel more like an RPG than an MMO at times. In some ways that works since as you play through a questing instances it is almost like you are in a comic book. Going to the next questing instance is like the next comic book in the series. Still, I'm inclined to prefer the open free world of a typical MMO, but the linearity in Champions hasn't been a big stumbling block in the fun.

PvP:

Since I'm going broad with 8 different characters, rather than deep with one, I've only played the cage match, and I must say it is unique and chaotic, but by far the funnest MMO arena I've played in. It's a 5v5 deathmatch to 15 frags. Remember the cage match from the original Spiderman movie? It's a lot like that. You're transport powers--i.e. flying, superjumping, teleportation are all fully in play and quite effective. Sure, they are totally imbalanced when you see someone you are about to kill teleport away, but then you figure out you can do same...

The cage match is colorful, fast, action packed, and a lot of fun. If you jumble pro-wresting, superhero powers, and quake arena all together--that's the idea. I hope it is an indicator of the PvP experience to come. Unfortunately though, when it comes to PvP, Champions takes its cues more from the heavy defensiveness of WAR than the balance of WoW. I mean, I guess we are superheroes and all, but if you are a resilient class (i.e. heavy armor) who has buffed your defenses and liberally abuse your transport powers (i.e. teleport)--you are almost impossible to kill. If two teams of skilled players happen upon one another, the battle goes like this: each side finds the easiest member of the other team to kill, and focuses fire on that one person, over and over for 15 times until one side wins. Okay I've never seen one character killed 15 times but that is the idea. Champions PvP is unkind if you are that player.

Naturally, there is a lot of balance work that needs to be done. But so far there is a lot of potential.

Reduced Ability Set:

In that Champions is intended to be played on the XBox, you don't have a full keyboard of hotkeys to bind. So you have fewer abilities overall, a lot fewer. Moreso, your energy-gaining attack can be easily automated so you hardly have to bother with that except to occasionally turn it off. Many abilities are passive and automatic. Many abilities you can either tap OR channel by holding down the key to get different effects. If you fully charge an ability by holding it for a couple seconds, that's a lot of power ready to fire off, however if your opponent sees you doing that and blocks it, then it is all for naught. Plus you can get interrupted during a long casting time. You have to decide how much is the right amount. Plus, you have to pick and choose your abilities from a pool rather than being handed specific ones at a given level, and then you get a trickle of talent point to buff certain abilities over time. I've spent hours with character design. I've spent hours as well deciding which abilities and talents to choose. You can't have them all.

So, despite a more action-y feel than your typical MMO, Champions brings in no shortage of strategy.

The Background Mythology:

I'm almost happy Cryptic lost the Marvel license. They cheerfully revel in the B-grade-ness of Heroes Comics. The focus seems less on reverence to the source material and more on a good game.

In Summary:

Yeah, there's a lot of bugs. There is also a lot of fun to be had if you want to dive in now. Like any MMO, Champions is a big complex equation to wrap your had around--to even begin to comprehend, let alone master. It fits the MMO mold but has enough differences to be fresh and interesting.

Describe Champions in one Word: Fun.

This game seems like It would be awesome. But alas it's an MMO, not really my thing.

Internet Kraken:
Looks interesting. I want to check out this game just to see the character customization. I wonder if I could recreate my avatar in it.

Though I'll probably wait a few months to see how the game holds up. Besides, I still don't like the idea of paying a monthly fee to much.

I think the idea of a

doctor might be frowned upon.

Chipperz:
...It's worth pointing out that, seeing as the servers are stateside, us poor sods in Europe get shite connection and a bunch of people correcting you when you log on and say "Good afternnon" without adding "for those of us playing GMT!"

Well, they would correct you... it's spelt "afternoon".

This game has been a blast for me so far, my character is awesome and I love to play him. Electricity is so fun to shoot people with! You can't see his face that good in this picture, but yes he has a monocle.

image

Here's my review of the game.

It has some serious problems most people are overlooking.
I don't know if they're overlooking it because they're trying to justify their purchase or because they haven't spent much time with it or simply that they dont understand/dont have enough experience to recognize the probs.

- Teaming. Teaming is borderline non-functional. Sure you can invite people, but the XP is so miniscule for mobs that completing quests is the only functional way to level. And sharing quests is all but impossible unless you do exactly the same missions from exactly the same contacts at exactly the same time. The "share quest" feature almost never works unless it's a.) in the same level range & b.) the first quest from a contact which all the other people havent had yet.
Game Breaking

And even when you finally get a team going and are able to have the same quest, half of the quests still dont end for all members at the same time. All the ones which require gathering or clicking of anyone/anything especially. So your team either ends up having to wait for you to complete it or you end up having to wait for them. Booooooriiiing. Just plain bad game design.

- Zone populations are WAY too small. 100-150 people for Millennium City, are you kidding me? No they aren't kidding. It really is that small. Not very "massive". Most of the costs of a MMO go into maintaining the servers powerful enough to actually have "Massive" amounts of players all playing together. 100 people spread out over a huge zone, which is in itself localized makes the game a ghost town. It mind as well be a solo experince and not charge $15 a month.

- Zone caps prevent training, or doing anything else when teamed. Why? This has happened to me many times.
You go into populated zone. say 70 people.
you team up. you level up, so you go to power house, train.
you exit to go meet your team again.

BZZZZZZZZT, Nope! Sorry you cant get in that zone it's hit the cap.
Solution? either quit the team and try to find/start another, or else get your whole team to change to a different instance (which automatically teleports they away from where they were and makes them run all the way back).
That's not a solution. Game breaking.

- Search function. Useless. The very fact that it's so heavily instanced makes meeting up w/ people a nightmare. You want to invite some1. well they have to switch instances, for every single person. You cant even see what instance people are in w/ the search. they arent numbered. the LFT tag is so unintuitive it's almost like it's not even there. Considering how great the City of Heroes search function is, this is absolutely pathetic & demoralizing that they couldn't even get it remotely close to as good.

- Graphics. The graphics, yes i know they just launched a patch to try to optimize them. But they're still horribly optimized. Even on a GTX 260 they run like crap maxed @ 1080p.
Plus the colors start to get really irritating after a while. They look fun & different for about the first week; but start to look plain, ugly & an eye sore after the initial "new game" mindset wears off.

- Combat. Whoever came up w/ the whole power builder idea needs to be fired. It forces you to specialize in recovery & end; or else you end up having to stand around like a shmuck waiting for your end to build between every single power even when ur level 40. Which is retarded because they're whole spiel is 'you can choose whatever u want'. Which brings me to my next grievence

- Balance. This is one of the most unbalanced games I ever played, even for a launch MMO. I was also in the beta and they completely ignored everything people in the beta forums would say. Don't be fooled by the fact that the devs have twitter accounts. They dont give a sh*t about your opinion. The only time they'll start caring is when their player base starts dropping like an anvil.

- Microtransactions. Really? For a game that already costs $50 + $15 a month + they're gunna charge you for expansions. They want to charge MTs on top of all that? GTFO. Sets a very bad precedent.

- Perks. average perks require 1,000 - 5,000 mobs to be killed. And give ONE costume piece. Now lets say you kill these mobs when ur lv 40, (which also means you cant make your costume the way you want it until then, retarded considering customization is what they say their game is about). And you find a concentrated group of them. Lets average one kill every 1.5 minutes (includes finding, killing & running to next).
That's a minimum of 25 hours of hunting one mob.
A maximum of 125 HOURS of hunting a mob.
TO GET ONE COSTUME PIECE

Now they say most of what will be available through MTs will be able to be unlocked through the game. If this is any indication of how long it takes to unlock anything, it's proof that they designed it so it's all but impossible to get & created artificial incentive to pay them more $ for what should have been included in the game from the start.

Lastly, Cryptic is not the same Cryptic that made CoH.
Jack Emmet is the ONLY person from the original cryptic who is involved in Champions Online. The rest of the team that made City of Heroes became Paragon Studios & work for NCSoft.

Atari bought Cryptic & owns it now. Jack Emmet's sale price has almost half of it's price attached to a contingent on how profitable it is for Atari. So that's why he's doing a money grab w/ MTs, w/ trying to get people in w/ lifetime subs & 6 month packages before they realize they're playing a beta of a game which isn't very good to begin w/.

If you are considering this game. Please take my advice & this review into consideration. At minimum give it a year. I have a strong feeling this game will bomb faster than Tabula Rasa & Hellgate London.

Fearzone:
There is one Champions server. But each quest area divides into many instances each with a pop cap of it looks like 100.

I suspect this is may be a necessity given all the character customization you have--this allows for pre-loading the skins etc. for the 20-80 or so people in your questing instance, rather than have to keep in memory ALL the cyber gloves, and mecha armor, and shoulder designs, and skin textures etc. etc.

But this fragments the community. So you put somebody on your friends list, unlike WoW servers where you probably keep running into them as you level up, in Champions they'll probably be in a different instance next time. Not that you can't see what instances your friends are in and not that it isn't easy to change instances, but staying in touch works better on paper than reality.

No that's not the reason. The game loads geometry/textures in a streaming fashion. Players dont even exist on your end until you get w/in a certain radius of them. For example, city of heroes which has even more textures to choose from; it was common to have at leats 200 people all crammed together, shoulder to shoulder fighting the hamidon monster. Yet the game managed that w/o cracking and that's a game that came out years ago.

The reason i think they did it this way is because it's a lot less load on their servers. Which is cheaper for them. Sure they say it's because most of the quests are outdoors and too many people would make competition to complete the quests & causing waiting and frustration. But they were the ones who thought having most of the quests outdoors was a good idea to begin w/. If they a) had teaming which actually worked, b) had a search function which actually worked, & c) had a larger game world & more options for quests it wouldn't have been a problem. IMO they designed the game badly on purpose to save money.

Chipperz:
Wow, sounds like the connection issues didn't make your game unplayable at points (if it's as frequent as it is for me, you would have mentioned it, I'm certain...). You lucky American sod, you. It's worth pointing out that, seeing as the servers are stateside, us poor sods in Europe get shite connection and a bunch of people correcting you when you log on and say "Good afternnon" without adding "for those of us playing GMT!"

Actually that's untrue. I'm in London, England and I get a perfect connection. I've never had any lag at all. If you visit the forums, the vast majority of people experiencing a problem with connection come from a couple of ISPs, BT was the most prominent EU problem ISP iirc.

Although I disagree with Captain Caveman's assessment of ChampO in a number of places, he does reflect the view of a certain proportion of players, so is worth taking into account when considering if you'd like to play ChampO. The only two things I'll pick on are about perks (there are some perks for killing opponents and some for completing missions or discovering things, so it isn't like every perk is going to take an epic amount of time to achieve) and this statement:

Captain_Caveman:

Lastly, Cryptic is not the same Cryptic that made CoH.
Jack Emmet is the ONLY person from the original cryptic who is involved in Champions Online. The rest of the team that made City of Heroes became Paragon Studios & work for NCSoft.

The CoH/V dev team at the time of the sale plus one extra person from Cryptic made the move to Paragon Studios, but this still left a significant number of people at Cryptic. There were a number of developers who worked on CoH/V that had since moved on to other projects within Cryptic and some of them worked on ChampO. So, Jack Emmert isn't the ONLY person from Cryptic who worked on CoH/V to have been involved in ChampO - devs like Geko, Weirdbeard and Poz all worked on CoH/V and ChampO.

Thanks a bunch for that review, really sold me on the game and got rid of some of the doubts I was having.

I still find this game disappointing, because the improvements they were promising CoX players and the research they did into that game was used here.

I think it's a really kickass game and I have gotten a lifetime sub. However, that said, this is NOT a smooth, bug-free launch and if you come back in 3 months you'll have a less frustrating experience.

It's got the customization and fun of combat down, it's just badly balanced with a lot of UI bugs.

I agree Captain Caveman makes some good points, more as a problem list that needs to be addressed in patches than game breakers.

When an MMO comes out I usually don't hurry to the end game because that is the least polished part of it, but if you participate in PvP and Public Quests there seems to be experience aplenty--so far I have a lot of quests that have gone grey and I've thrown them away. And if they got rid of grinding with a high level toon as a viable method of leveling, that is fine with me.

Captain_Caveman:

- Combat. Whoever came up w/ the whole power builder idea needs to be fired. It forces you to specialize in recovery & end; or else you end up having to stand around like a shmuck waiting for your end to build between every single power even when ur level 40. Which is retarded because they're whole spiel is 'you can choose whatever u want'. Which brings me to my next grievence

- Balance. This is one of the most unbalanced games I ever played, even for a launch MMO. I was also in the beta and they completely ignored everything people in the beta forums would say. Don't be fooled by the fact that the devs have twitter accounts. They dont give a sh*t about your opinion. The only time they'll start caring is when their player base starts dropping like an anvil.

I find the combat system, power builder and all, fresh and interesting.

Melee has an advantage in the cage match because everyone focuses on the glass cannons, or worse, the telepaths which are glass but not cannons. I can understand balance complaints from them. But teams basically win or lose around the coordination of the members.

- Microtransactions. Really? For a game that already costs $50 + $15 a month + they're gunna charge you for expansions. They want to charge MTs on top of all that? GTFO. Sets a very bad precedent.

- Perks. average perks require 1,000 - 5,000 mobs to be killed. And give ONE costume piece. Now lets say you kill these mobs when ur lv 40, (which also means you cant make your costume the way you want it until then, retarded considering customization is what they say their game is about). And you find a concentrated group of them. Lets average one kill every 1.5 minutes (includes finding, killing & running to next).
That's a minimum of 25 hours of hunting one mob.
A maximum of 125 HOURS of hunting a mob.
TO GET ONE COSTUME PIECE

I agree with you there. Gearing up seems a little vague, and if getting good gear means microtransactions, well jury is out because if a few bucks saves me a couple hours of grinding or running the same instances over and over-- I don't know. Are they doing it yet? I'm inclined to agree with you about the microtransactions. The perk system I'm sure is broken and simply unfinished at this point.

Personally, I think the zone populations are fine and don't need to be large. Am I the only one who would be annoyed by the 100s of people standing around Ironforge spamming idiocy? I like being around people but there's a practical limit and why would you ever WANT more than say, 50?

Kstreitenfeld:
This game has been a blast for me so far, my character is awesome and I love to play him. Electricity is so fun to shoot people with! You can't see his face that good in this picture, but yes he has a monocle.

That's an awesome looking character. Is his upper body suppose to be like a robotic suit?

Monkey D. Luffy! LoL!

I've been playing it for the past couple days and I really love it. Playing it on a laptop so the graphics aren't nearly as awesome as the video but it runs beautifully. The one issue I have with it right now is that I picked the super speed travel power and there are some collision issues with any change in terrain that involves stepping up over short obstacles. I usually run headlong into them, and instead of tripping over them and being sent cartwheeling along the ground like a ragdoll I instead come to a bone-jarring and immersion-shattering halt.

It gets really frustrating since the terrain is usually war torn and thus has a lot of surfaces like that.

RougeWaveform:

Kstreitenfeld:
This game has been a blast for me so far, my character is awesome and I love to play him. Electricity is so fun to shoot people with! You can't see his face that good in this picture, but yes he has a monocle.

That's an awesome looking character. Is his upper body suppose to be like a robotic suit?

Yep, thats why his legs / head are so small compared to his upper body.

Kstreitenfeld:

RougeWaveform:

Kstreitenfeld:
This game has been a blast for me so far, my character is awesome and I love to play him. Electricity is so fun to shoot people with! You can't see his face that good in this picture, but yes he has a monocle.

That's an awesome looking character. Is his upper body suppose to be like a robotic suit?

Yep, thats why his legs / head are so small compared to his upper body.

That's a damn spiffy concept!

If choice is overwhelming then I'd hate to see you at a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express.

This reminds me, what ever happened to City of Heroes/villians?!?

-M

Okay these are my babies. These are my 8 characters. The first one attempts to model myself in RL... I need a hairstyle with bangs and parted to the right, and the build is better in the pic but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do =p. Hopefully this gives and idea of the range that you can do with the character designer, although designs get much wilder.

Is that a pay to play game?

Captain_Caveman:
Here's my review of the game.

there is a forum section designed exactly for this if you did not know.

Fearzone:

The Maxx!! awesomeness.

Is there an option to join the evil patriotic Canadians? That's something I could sink my teeth into.

great review i completely agree with everything u said but u missed one thing you get to create ur own arch nemisis i so wanna get this game

Fearzone:
Okay these are my babies. These are my 8 characters. The first one attempts to model myself in RL... I need a hairstyle with bangs and parted to the right, and the build is better in the pic but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do =p. Hopefully this gives and idea of the range that you can do with the character designer, although designs get much wilder.

You made a giant green Zoidberg! I'm sold.

I'd like to follow-up my initial comments (post #39), after having played a month and reached the mid-30's with my main character. Most of my initial impressions still hold by months end.

I've read a number of player reviews of the game, and find I agree with players or rate it an 8 or 9, and I agree too with those players who rate it a 4 or 5.

A 10 for Champs would be gratuitiously high, and below a 4 is unfair. Averaging the 8's and the 4's for a 6 or 7 is also wrong. Champions Online is an 8 rated game if you look at its strengths (or a 9-rated game if you look at its potential) *AND* it is a 4-rated game if you look at its weaknesses.

What makes it an 8-rated game is: character customization, power customization, fast-paced action, and excellent animations (the best I've seen in an MMO with only WoW coming close). Quests, though standard and repetitive at times, capture the superhero vibe and are very tongue-in-cheek comical. While I might have occasionally giggled at quests in other MMO's, there was one in CO where I guffawed so loud the neighbors might have heard. All of Snake Gulch is joyfully brilliant and sometimes I still go back just to hear the musical score. Both of the 30+ zones are immersive and beautiful. Performance on my machine has been mostly excellent but I have a pretty high end system.

Now, here's why it rates a 4: I'm going to forgive the general bugginess of PvE content because they are fixing it at a brisk pace--but I have lost hours to various broken quests. PvP above level 10 is unplayable against groups that stack certain defensive powers which make them invulnerable. When the action heats up the controls get sluggish--offensive, defensive, and crowd control all. When I raise my shield, it needs to go up *now* and not two seconds later after being hit with a fully powered ability. If it isn't going up because crippling challenge is on me, I need feedback so I can play accordingly. But mostly I think controls are just slow because it is that way with all powers. Content is thin and by the late 20's and 30's you will run out of missions from time to time, with no good alternatives for experience. Sometimes the leveling up just feels too slow. Eventually I stumble into more missions, but it is not uncommon to have to play missions 3 levels higher than your character because that is all there is.

I could go on but it is easy to dwell on frustrations.

At the end of the day, I've found Champions just pain fun. It also has one broken keyboard to its credit and two other close calls which for one month is not a good record. But overall it has easily been my best gaming purchase this year, and probably the best one since World of Warcraft. It has given me a new appreciation for comic book games. Still, I will be letting my 30-day intro subscription expire without renewal. I'll gladly renew if they balance the abilities and clean up PvP, or with a substantial addition of new content--so maybe as early as this month I'll be back on. And if it does ever come out for the PS3 I'll buy a new copy just for that.

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