Champions Online Review: Total Customization
By Gabriele Giorgi (Darak), OnRPG Journalist
The first thing that meets your eye in Champions Online is the complete customisation of your character. There are so many options that the image of your in-game avatar in your mind’s eye will surely become a reality, and even more items can be unlocked while playing the game. At first it might be overwhelming (providing you do not jump into the game with a “random” character, you will likely be spending at least an hour in the creation screen), but it’s undoubtedly one of the best editors in the present MMOs world. It’s not only about appearance either, even powers can be modified, both their hue and emanation point.
The skill choice is completely up to the player, of course you will find some predefined templates, but nothing prevents you from creating your own, mixing sorcery and martial arts, super-strength and electricity, etc.: as they say, the only limit is your imagination (but no stretching like Mr. Fantastic, they did not get that far yet). The powers can be tested inside the Powerhouse, a training facility, before you confirm them, but they can be changed later for a price, although it is quite expensive, therefore wise planning is advisable.
There are no classes in CO, you will have different builds instead, and you can assign to them different equipment and modify some powers in order to assume the usual roles (tank, healer, DPS) with but a click of the mouse.
Another interesting innovation is that you can get the travel power at level 6 as soon as you are out of the tutorial zone, so you can begin to fly around, run at hypersonic speed or burrow your way beneath the soil very quickly.
Fast and furious
Like City of Heroes, Champions Online features fast-paced combat, where it’s better to act than to think. Of course, there are all the usual special effects (stun, root, damage over time, etc.), but the fights are solved in a few seconds, apart from bosses, well, super-villains, that is. There are two innovations compared to the “classic” fighting model, first, your primary method to recharge your energy bar is a power called “energy builder,” a fast attack that deals little damage, but it is necessary to give you that boost to continue, the second innovation involves powers that have a continuous effect if you keep the key pressed, the most important of these is, no doubt, the block skill, which is given to every character by default. This is essential since the bosses will often “call out” some powers, i.e. an icon will appear over their head to show that they are charging a particularly powerful blow (direct, area of effect, cone, etc.)… So you’d better brace yourself!
Overall, fighting requires just a few keys, this has been obviously influenced by the fact that this won’t only be a PC-title, but it’s also been developed for the Xbox 360. For stats lovers, in the description of every power there is a dedicated section with all the figures, pure damage, DPS, cooldown, assorted percentages and much more.
The character progression is divided in 40 levels and it’s accomplished mainly through missions. When completing them you are awarded many experience points (not to mention some useful stuff). While these are quite standard, there are also so-called “open missions” (much like the “public quests” in WAR); composed by various steps which can be performed by all the characters present in the area and upon completion (if successful) a point chart will appear, measuring the contribution of everyone to assign the rewards.
Another new interesting feature of CO consists of the Nemesis system, starting from level 25, you will have the opportunity to create the appearance, powers and behaviour of a recurring archenemy who will pop up every now and then to threaten you with his umpteenth devilish master plan.
So far so good… but the real problem is the challenge level of the missions, definitely inadequate. The on-level missions marked for a group of 2 or 3 people are often easy to solve even solo (with a bit of caution, of course) and in a few cases this will apply to “open missions” too. Also add the fact that there is no penalty for defeat, save for the occasional loss of one of the “stars” that grant you a bonus to your fighting abilities for a maximum of 5% (do you remember the XP debt of CoH, instead?).
The other notable flaw is in the level progression for each level it takes 2 or 3 hours at most. Surely this quickness doesn’t bode well for the longevity of the game, especially because PvP, which is limited to mini-arenas, practically does not exist (maybe a specific future expansion?).
By the way, in CoH you can migrate to another server and “roll” another character to test new powers and combinations; Champions, on the other hand, uses so-called “instance channels” instead of separate servers; the instance channels are macro-instances that can host up to 100 players, but this means that the character slots will always be 6, with no opportunity to experiment on other servers.
Other Merits and Flaws
The graphics and sound of Champions is quite good, even if they do not reach peaks, there is something they manage to accomplish really well and that is a comic’s atmosphere, thanks to little details like the boss powers’ icons, a black and white hue when you reach the border of a map and fun cinematics. Also the different zones are few but very well realised, as well as the various enemies.
CO does not spur the players to group, and not even the sidekick system, obtains the desired effect. We all know that superheroes are solitary people, but this is a MMO, after all. Even the features for super groups are limited to the basics.
Another area that would benefit from a complete revamp is crafting: all the loot can be destroyed to be analysed and obtain the components; problem is you can do the same with crafted items. This allows you to advance quite easily, but it determines a new and more severe flaw, to get to the next tier, you need not only to gather the necessary points, but also to reach a certain experience level. As a result you will have to postpone all your crafting for at least 3 or 4 levels, putting it off until you have gained enough levels.
Champions Online is a game with merits and flaws in the same measure. Maybe it was due to a hasty launch, even considering that it was a title that had created much hype. In this period, however, the developers have released frequent (almost daily) patches and updates in order to correct and balance various elements of the game. CO has got potential, but only time will tell if it will manifest it to its fullest, much like its older brother City of Heroes.
– Total customisation of every aspect of the character
– Fast-paced and dynamic combat
– Comic’s atmosphere
– Potentially short longevity
– PvP practically non-existent
– Disappointing crafting system.