Home > Bronte, Champions Online, Immersion, Opinion, Review > “Se7en Reasons to Play Champions Online” or “Balancing the Bitching”

“Se7en Reasons to Play Champions Online” or “Balancing the Bitching”

Disclaimer: It has been brought to my attention that I have bitched too much about Champions Online as of late because of a few things that have really annoyed me. So to balance out all the bitching, and in the interest of fairness, I am putting together a partial review. I am choosing seven things that stand out to me. I am also trying to be as positive as possible, and not commenting on the flaws in the game design. There are, however, sections below which mention some of the drawbacks, as they go hand-in-hand with the qualities that stand out. Enjoy.

One: “Fresh Foray” or “Moar Supaheros Plz!”

It’s a fresh setting. Sure the superhero sandbox has been tackled years prior by City of Heroes and City of Villains, and the upcoming DC Universe will be worthy contender in the arena. But Champions Online is a breath of fresh air in a largely neglected genre of MMO gaming. You get to be a superhero. What more do you need?

Two: “Where is the Damn Half-mask?” or “I’m Batman!”

se7en-reasons-to-play-champions-online-or-balancing-the-bitchingNot enough has been said about the character creator in Champions Online. It is smart, sophisticated and provides the user with literally millions of visuals iterations for what their character can look like. I have been playing the game for over a month now, and every day I come across a costume that I have to stop and admire. The level of creative freedom the character creator allows is unprecedented.

The system is not without flaws. For instance, it is not very intuitive, you have to dig in menus and sub-menus to find a look that you feel is just right. But that being said, overall, I have never had so much fun with a character creator. I have found myself spending hours upon hours obsessing over small details of my characters, trying to get my champions to look precisely as I envisioned him.

Naming is another aspect of character creation. Unlike most MMOs which check your character’s name against the existing names on the server to ensure no two players have the same name, you have the liberty of picking any name you want. This is because in Champions Online, it is your account name that is unique, not your character. So I could make a character “Bronte”@theelementals, and a friend could make another character “Bronte”@friendsaccount, and we’d both be Bronte. Another added advantage of this system is that once you befriend someone through the in-game interface, you will always know when they are on, regardless of which character they are playing. The friend system saves information through the account name as well, so instead of being friends with “Battleship” or “Black Arrow”, you will be friends with @accountname1 and @accountname2.

The system does impose some minor restrictions. You can’t for instance name yourself Spiderman, or any other major superhero in pop culture. Not that it stops anyone from the bajillion Iron Man (Iron Hand, Steel Man, Iron Colossus, Iron Armor) and Batman (Dark Knight, The Dark Knight, TheDarkKnight, The_Dark_Knight) clones.

Three: “Warrior Mage” or “Warlock Paladin”

The game, technically, has no class system. You don’t have to get boxed into a pre-determined set of abilities or roles for your champion. The game offers you basic “classes” to choose from if you are feeling lazy or uninspired, but you are at complete liberty to pick and choose powers from literally every pool of power frameworks available. The only drawback is that the game, understandably, rewards you if invest in powers from the same power-set. However, if you mix and match powers from different sets, it will take you longer to unlock higher tiers of power. So if I have a champion with Power Armor abilities, I will need two powers from the Power Armor set to unlock the third tier of Power Armor abilities. However, if I want the third tier of powers from another set (say Dual Blades), the game will require that I have three powers (as opposed to two in the same power tree) from another power-set (in this case Power Armor) in order to unlock that tier. It’s simple, its effective, and it allows for countably infinite combinations of unique champions each with their own powers and abilities.

Champions Online also has a plethora of power-sets to choose from. Martial arts, fire, telekinesis, gadgeteering, bow & arrow, the game has it all. This gives the player a large pool of abilities to experiment with. Want to be a gunslinger who can freeze his enemies with frost spells, throw around goons with his thoughts and pick up vehicles to toss at mobs? Sure, the game will let you do that!

Perhaps the most striking thing is how soon the game allows you to gain your travel powers. At level 5, you can pick one. Swinging, flying in a blaze of fire, flying on a hover disc, flying with jet boots, tunneling, super jumping, super speed and so on. There are no restrictions as to what travel power you can have. What’s more, in the 30’s, the game also allows you to pick a second travel power. I dream of the day when I will fly into a pack of mobs, kick the shit out of the one I am after, and then simply teleport out. Unlike my plans involving Megan Fox and two large cans of whipped cream, this one is much more realistic.

Four: “Shade Those Cells” or “I, Candy”

The graphics are gorgeous. Cell-shaded game worlds are not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. But believe me when I tell you this, if you have a decent PC that allows you to maximize all your settings, the game world is a sight to behold. Teeming with life, stretching out as far as the eye (or I suppose in this case your graphics card) can see, all brought to life in vibrant colors and sharp outlines. City of Heroes was good in its own respects, but one of the (many) things that led me to eventually quit the game was the cookie-cutter graphics in every part of the world.

Gone are the days of endless slabs of concrete, the bland building designs, and the ever-repeating texture patterns. The environments in Champions Online are exquisitely detailed, littered with objects you can pick up and throw at your enemies, and non-repetitive texture mapping.

Five: “Kaplow!” or “How to Survive Getting hit in the Face With a Pickup Truck”

se7en-reasons-to-play-champions-online-or-balancing-the-bitching2The combat in Champions Online is explosive. I am playing with three characters right now, Bronte the Archer, Power Armor-based Prometheus and Martial Artist Obsidian. Regardless of which power set combinations I use, every fight is filled with sounds of fists smashing into exposed teeth with a satisfying thwack!, arrows piercing enemy defenses with a powerful thup! and energy bolts slamming into goons with ceremonious fwoom! With every character, I am literally throwing myself into packs of mobs, hitting punching, kicking, firing in rapid succession till they fall defeated at my feet. Most of the fights in Champions are designed to be group fights. You are almost always fighting 3 or more enemies simultaneously. Do you take your time and deal with each one on a personal level? Do you root one while you dispatch the other two? Do you force them to crowd so you can use your area effect abilities? Combat in Champions Online is a visceral, perhaps at times over-simplified, but thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Don’t for a moment allow this description of a highly satisfying combat experience misguide you to believe that the combat is easy. Mobs aren’t pushovers, especially if they are even a single level above yours. And they can get tough in bigger numbers or with tougher variations.

Six: “Face Melting 101” or “I Hate Root Abilities!”

Say what you want about the PvP system, and the balancing issues, but I have found the PvP to be a heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping, face-melting experience that is unrivaled. Unlike the predictable AI controlled mobs, PvP is unpredictable, fast-paced and dynamic. The Hero Games I have participated in so far involve 5on5 matches, with 15 kills of the opposing team the victory condition. Tight quarters and winding hallways further ramp up the difficulty as range classes maintain their advantage over melee for only so long. All-in-all, it is a bone crunchingly fun experience that entertains tremendously.

However, like all other systems in the game, this system too is inherently flawed due to the incredible freedom awarded to the player in choosing their powers. Because of the sheer number of powers and associated combinations, there are certain abilities in the spectrum that give a significant advantage in PvP. And because of this simple reason, I don’t think there is a permanent way to balance the large amount of power combinations that can enter any given arena. The retroactive drawback is that experienced and smart PvP players always choose powers that will benefit them tremendously in PvP, thereby heavily tilting the balance of the match in their team’s favor. Couple this with the fact that retcons (the game’s version of a respec), cost an ungodly amount of money, and it completely defeats the objective of encouraging players to try out both PvE and PvP. The cost of retcons is literally that restrictive.

Seven: “Anti-champion” or “Bestest Enemies”

se7en-reasons-to-play-champions-online-or-balancing-the-bitching3At level 25, you get to create your own Nemesis. That’s right. You use the same editor you used at the beginning of your career to craft a being that is the very essence of your antithesis. You get to pick precisely what they look like, and what base power-set they will have. (The restriction is that you cannot pick individual powers, just a power framework.) You even get to select what sort of minions they will have.

This effectively starts a brand new chapter of interaction in Champions Online. Occasionally, the game will randomly ambush you during a routine mission with minions of your Nemesis. Sometimes they will drop items that will lead to clues about your Nemesis’ latest location and nefarious activities. Throughout the later levels, you face off against your archenemy and try to capture him for the authorities.

This is one of the coolest features I have seen in an MMO yet. Instead of fighting pre-designed mobs with pre-designed abilities, you get to pick your greatest enemy and give him your own personal flavor. Not only does this allow you to play the game with content that, in effect, you have had an active and guiding hand in designing, it also builds an unprecedented level of interactivity and reciprocity with the game.

  1. October 20, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Good job pulling the exact reasons I keep playing right out of my head. I’ll have to hide the key better, I guess.

    I think number seven is the most unique on the list and it’s a shame you have to wait until level 25 to see it. Can you image what it was like before when they held nemeses until level 30?

    Anyway, the Nemesis does one thing that other games could learn from: it forces the player to buy into creating their own experience. That’s why I want to see more of this kind of thing added to the game. Tailoring your play experience beyond just your character is pretty powerful. I just hope more people get to see it.

  1. October 25, 2009 at 1:06 pm
  2. November 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm
  3. April 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm
  4. August 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm

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