I haven’t been able to play Champions Online much lately. Having already bitched about how complex and involved my life is, I won’t go into why I can’t find to play it. I am beginning to get to that inevitable stage of guilt over the monthly subscriptions, because I am not getting enough bang out of my buck.
This morning I finally managed to log in for a few hours, partly because of the guilt, partly because Super Teammates were asking about where I had been, and partly because I really wanted to check out all the zombie-smashing goodness of the Halloween-themed Blood Moon event. I patched, loaded in my primary character and sat back to enjoy the ride.
If you are short on time, the following sentence summarizes this post. Had it not been for the saving grace that is the Nemesis system, I would have quit Champions Online today.
This latest venture from the makers of the superhero simulator epitomizes all that is wrong with the MMO genre today. It is boring, it is tedious, it is designed to be a massive time sink, and it only serves to degrade the game further. The Blood Moon event’s central premise revolves around the Undying Lord Takophanes trapping the souls of 13 of Millennium’s City’s most revered heroes. The corrupted versions of these heroes are then turned loose on the city in 13 locations that look like demonic portals.
The first hero I fought was just a few blocks from the Rennaissace Center and the Super Jet. Her name is Amazing Grace. The event is set up as a public mission and it is fairly straight-forward. At the start of the event, the gate from the reset disappears and a crater appears. Zombies start crawling out of this crater. You have to kill 50 zombies (there is that arbitrary number again) and Amazing Grace’s protective shield drops. You then fight her and waves upon waves of zombies hell-bent on destruction. Once you kill Amazing Grace’s corrupted self, the portal reappears, and you can pick up a mission to go through it into Takophanes’ crypts to free her entrapped soul.
You then enter the portal, and fight through a series of crypt hallways and chambers. I spotted two bugs during this process that I thought might be worth illustraring with the help of screenshots.
First, see the screenshot to the right? The door shatters and a few zombies pour into the room to fight you. Whichever lazy programmer desgined this mini-event, forgot to hide the door mesh when the door breaks. The result is that you hear the door breaking, you find its splinters littering the floor, and zombies come out of the solid door that still stands before you.
Second, the instanced crypt is divided into three sections. You get to each subsequent section by interacting with a door that awards you with a loading screen followed by the next identical room. But once you port in, more often than not, you see a dark void having consumed the world. Only movement negates the effect.
You could argue that I am nitpicking, but the fact of the matter is that this shows a lack of commitment and polish. Polish that we have an indisputable right to as paying consumers of the game. Coupled with some of the bugs I have detailed before, and the game’s Executive Producer’s statements of late, it goes on to show how Cryptic cares more about making quick bucks and pushing out content on strict deadlines than the quality of their products or the sentiments of their customers.
The crypt finally ends in a desecrated alter. The soul of the hero you just fought on the streets above hovers in limbo, and a Harbinger of Woe, a powerful Super Villain, controls their fate. You then have to defeat this Harbinger in order to free the hero’s soul.
Sounds good on paper right? It is, and it is fun the first time around. Here is the catch: this process is repeated, without a single detail altered, for each of the 13 heroes.
Let’s use a bulle point list to illustrate the monotony. Anjin would be proud. For each hero:
- There is a portal location in the city.
- Each portal resets in the same amount of time.
- Each portal is a public mission, divided into two stages.
- The first part of each of these 13 missions is killing 50 zombies to spawn the boss (corrupted hero).
- The second part of each of these 13 missions is to kill the boss.
- In each case, when the boss is defeated, you pick up the mission to enter the crypt that conveniently opens right next to you.
- Each crypt is exactly the same. There is zero difference between the crypts. They follow the same path, the same turns and throw the same tricks at you for each iteration.
- Each crypt ends in a room with the hero’s trapped soul and a Harbinger of Woe.
- Each end objective is to kill the Harbinger of Woe to save the hero.
Someone at Cryptic came up with a neat idea. Someone else decided it was so cool, it had to be endlessly replicated. Sound familiar? That is because I have commented on this trend before. The end result of this needless cloning is content that is frustrating, boring, repetitive, unimaginative and a major let down.
And don’t get me started on Takophanes himself. He respawns every six hours. He spawns in a random location. And his better drops are rare.
In short, Blood Moon, so far, is full of fail. It only serves to discredit the studio as a legitimate, respectable contender in the MMO arena.
Courtesy of I’m Talkin’ Games, I just came across this in the game myself. And cried tears of blood. Getting a little tired of defending this game, when Cryptic can’t be bothered to show any consistent level of polish before releasing content.
Earth & Beyond remains to this day one of my favorite MMOs. I fell in love with the setup and the alternate reality Westwood Studios had constructed, and I wish they had never cancelled it. (If that studio sounds familiar, they were responsible for the Command and Conquer franchise starting in the ’90s. Westwood Studios went defunct in 2003.) Part of the reason I still play EvE Online is because it reminds me on some levels of Earth & Beyond.
The game was live for nearly two years, between September 2002 and September 2004. It was then shut down by EA.
The ENB Emulator Portal is a project dedicated to revive this aging series. Their quest to breathe new life into the game has reached a new juncture as a stress test of the alpha build was announced over the weekend. Despite the fact that I am neck deep in a launch at work, all the games listed in the sidebar, and have an unusually active social life these days, I will be signing up to see if the game can be revived. If you have ever heard of the game, or have a mediocre interest in the space genre, it might be worth checking it out.