Champions of the World? - A Look at Champs Free to Play Side
By Stephen Boyd, OnRPG Journalist
It was a dark and stormy night when the call came in from LA.
"Hey kid. The suits upstairs have been impressed by your work in Metropolis and Gotham. They want you to look into the goings on down in Millennium City now."
Last thing I wanted was to be up my neck in caped freaks again, but hey, a job's a job right?
"OK, Boss." I said. "What's the skinny on the situation down there? I heard the last guy you sent down there went native."
The line went quiet and I could almost hear him shudder. "Yeah, I won't lie to you. We lost a lot of good guys down there. Maybe you should wear some kind of disguise. Ya know.....try to blend in."
And now, here I am. Slap bang in the middle of Champions Online. Having never tried the game before, and with covering DC Universe Online for the last month or so, I figured it would be a good idea to try Champs for comparison. And since Cryptic and Atari went Free to Play with it last month, I figured now was as good a time as any.
Champions Online: Free For All went into beta in November of last year and was released in its current iteration on January 25th of this year.
In his press release in January, CEO of Cryptic Studios, John Needham said
"We are thrilled to be able to launch Champions Online: Free For All. The Champions team has put an incredible amount of effort into making Free For All an amazing free-to-play MMO every gamer can enjoy at no cost."
Coming so hot on the heels of the release of DCUO, many saw this jump to F2P as a panicked move from Atari and Cryptic. It was time to give it a run and see how it measures up against its competition.
One quick registration later and the F2P client was downloading. The client took around 24 hours to pull down from the official download site. The installation was smooth and a quick patch later it was time to craft a hero.
Since I started covering DCUO, I've heard a lot about the character creator in Champions Online and how it was much more option filled than its new rival. And this is certainly the case. The volume of creation options is immense; however a lot of the options are disabled in Champs FFA and available as paid content.
You start off by choosing your Archetype.
These run the standards of Tank in the form of the Behemoth and Glacier, through Melee and Ranged to Healers, here psychic and sorcerous The Mind and The Grimoire, respectively. There are three locked Archetypes, available as Micro Transaction upgrades.
Your Archetype also sets your Power Choices. I would have liked to see a little more variety in the power mixes myself, the Archetypes (and I do know what that word means, before the flaming begins!) felt a little generic to me. In the ‘Gold Member' version of the game you can customise your powers.
And then the costume design. There is a staggering amount of looks to try in this game.
You can randomly select a look or build yourself from the ground up. Each element of your costumes has dozens of variants. Although, each new menu I pulled up showed a lot of Locked creation items that can, you guessed it, be bought or are included in the P2P version.
Even with these locked items, the variety offered in Champions Online: Free For All is amazing. Even the randoms above here all have a great individual look and, once you enter the game world, this becomes even more apparent.
The controls are as expected. WASD for movement, mouse for selecting and aiming. Tab to target. It felt familiar to my fingers as soon as I got into the action. And there is s a lot to do in the starting zone of Millennium City. Quests pop constantly, but you never become swamped and readily level up.
New gear and Resources, the currency of the game, drop freely from mobs and the combat, although a little repetitive at this early level, is satisfying.
The starting zone was swamped with players and gave a nice populated fell to the city.
The only drawback to this was the fact that it took me ages to finish missions as other players killed *ahem* ‘MY' mobs. Even with this impediment of other players in my new MMO ?, I struggled on.
The first major instanced battle came when I entered the Champions headquarters in an attempt to defeat the Qularr invasion. Luckily, Defender, leader of the Champions is on hand to dispense advice. If not really assist in the battle at all. One Boss fight later and a little clean up and you are taken to meet the Champions through an Honour Guard of Millennium City's finest.
Once this first instance has finished, you are introduced to vendors and the Powerhouse. Here you will train your hero in new skills, techniques or spells. Alongside these are your R&D options. Each role can choose an R&D path to follow and can research items from their inventory to split into components that can then be used to craft new items.
Champions Online: Free For All is a fine game. There are no major flaws to complain of barring a few scenery bugs where I got caught on nothing. The combat is enjoyable and I could see the crafting elements of R&D being a major time sink. The Movement abilities, of which I tried both Flight and Acrobatics, did not feel right. Flight was slow and so very ungraceful. Acrobatics left me stuck on plants and rubble scattered around the zone.
My major gripe with this game, and I can understand entirely why this feature is in game, is the constant feeling that you are missing out on something. Every vendor you visit you will see wares that you cannot buy. Every loading screen carries ads for Golden Membership and Micro Payment items.
Playing this game as a Free to Play or Silver member kinda leaves you feeling like a second class citizen.
If you can get past this, are unwilling or unable to purchase a subscription and can deal with the last generation visuals on display then Champions Online: Free For All should make you feel like a hero. For Free.