When Heroes Clash - DC Universe Online versus Champions Online
By Stephen Boyd, OnRPG Journalist
In comic books, there is a long history of misunderstandings between heroes which then lead to fights, which then lead to eventual team-ups to defeat the villain of the peace. The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner had the first of these ‘incidents' way back in 1941.
Arguments about who would win in a fight, Superman or The Hulk have raged since the introduction of the latter back in the Sixties. These disagreements never come to a head, as the different universes they inhabit (generally) leave their paths uncrossed.
Without a shared villain to team up against (except maybe City of Heroes) these two may have to go in a fight to the finish. But this battle could have looked very different if things had gone as planned.
Cryptic originally held the license for Marvel Universe Online.
Look up in the sky! It's..............um?
IN DC Universe Online, you fight alongside and are mentored by the biggest of the big guns. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are three of the largest figures in not only comic books but in merchandising and the worlds of television and film. The Defender, Doctor Silverback and Ironclad? Not so much. While these guys are recognisable to those that played the pen and paper role playing game, their mainstream profile is practically zero. But this could have been a very different situation indeed.
When Cryptic started work on the first iteration of this project they were handling an arguably bigger license than DC Comics in the form of Marvel. Marvel Universe Online was cancelled due to license arrangements. After long legal wrangling Marvel eventually took their license back and Cryptic instead bought the IP for the popular pen and paper role-playing game.
License: DC Universe Online. DCUO 1 - CO:FFA 0
You pays your Money, you takes your chance!!
Subscriptions for MMOs are a tricky topic to handle. For every reason that can be given for subs being applied to MMOs, there is one argument that is used to counter it. PEOPLE LIKE FREE STUFF! As more and more MMOs switch to the free to play model (The Lord of the Rings Online being one of the most recent examples) more and more players are taking the micro transaction route.
DC Universe's subscription plan has already taken a cut in the Legends pricing program to €27.99 for 3 months as opposed to €15.99 a month. One would have to imagine that Cryptic's decision to go free to play on Champs was a direct result of the imminent release of DCUO. While I have absolutely no problem in paying a subscription for a well-run MMO, I have an innate distrust of the MT method of gathering payments. It is always seems that the amount of money spent buying items or features for your game piecemeal is more expensive in the long run.
Payment: Champions Online: Free For All. DCUO 1 -CC:FFA 1
Graphics in computer games are important. Shocking I know, but it's a fact. DC Universe looks spectacular. From the moment you leave your base and take start to navigate the game world, the vistas are spectacular and the graphical detail is impressive.
This is only enhanced when your character is a flyer and can take advantage of the huge draw distance allowed by the Unreal engine. Champions Online looks like a Playstation 2 game. While this in itself is not a terrible thing, remember Shadow of the Colossus and God of War were on PS2, compared to DCUO Champs looks like the hot girl's plain friend at the dance.
Graphical Quality: DC Universe Online. DCUO 2 - CC:FFA 1
Time to build us a Hero!
Character creation is one of the elements that makes players invest in an MMO. If you are going to be spending hundreds of hours watching the back of your toon, you want them to at least look cool. When I first started playing DCUO, I heard a lot from fellow players bemoaning the fact that the character creator was extremely limited. The options that are there for your general look are varied, but do not compare to those offered in CO:FFA.
The costume creator in Champs is one of the best I have seen in any game and almost matches up to my favourite Character Creation engine of all time in Smackdown vs Raw. Each costume element in Champs has dozens of variations and the colours can be selected over a five-colour palette.
I have complained about the colour options in my previous DCUO articles, so I won't go into it in depth here. Another feature which both games are crying out for is available in the pay to play version of Champions Online, and that is power customization. In the full version of Champs, players have the option to both move their power effects, say for energy blasts to emit from your eyes rather than hands, and to change the colour of the power effect. In DCUO all mental powers are purple, for instance. Having the ability to change these power effects would add another level of individuality to your character. If CO:FFA had the power customisation its paid brother had, the point would have gone to it.
Customisation: Tie. DCUO 3 - CC:FFA 2
As a superhero, just walking along is not an option. Both Champs and DCUO have multiple movement types to select. In DCUO, your movement type is unlocked after two or three levels. In Champs, you must reach level six before accessing your special moves.
One of the plus points of DCUO is that you feel like a super powered being as soon as your flight, super speed or Acrobatics kick in. In Champs you must wade through the entire starting zone and defeat your first boss before the powers are unlocked.
On the plus side of Champs though, you can combine different movement types to give an individual set to your hero (or villain!)
Movement: Champions Online. DCUO 3 - CC:FFA 3
The Big Picture
Both games have their merits. Both have their drawbacks. The F2P model of Champs is a great option for players that want to try a super hero MMO for no financial commitments. Graphically and storywise, DC outweighs its competitor by a substantial amount. But, as the scoreline above shows, the final tally is a tie. As Sony and Cryptic look at the competition, they must be thinking about what their next move is. At the end of the day, any cross-pollination between the two, and their other rival in City of Heroes, can only benefit us, the players.
I would have liked to have a winner in this contest, but as the scorecard shows, a tie is a tie. Maybe I'll come back and do the same in a few months and a victor can then be crowned.