Champions Online
Reviewed: 11/05/2009

Champions Online is the newest in an ever-growing, MMO subgenre of super hero settings, created by Cryptic Studios, for the PC. Probably the most notable games in this relatively new genre are City of Heroes and City of Villains, by he same studio. Underlying systems in this game are based upon the smaller pen and paper RPG, Champions. Character creation is very customizable with nearly ever aspect of a character’s appearance micro-adjustable to the player’s desire. Character classes are mostly down away with for a more flexible template style system, where players can take on any skill from any power set, as long as prerequisites for the more advanced techniques are met. This allows for interesting combinations and an ability to create a truly custom character. However, this also presents itself as one of its possible flaws. By giving such freedom, many players will be quick to find “optimum” builds and it makes exploiting the system a much more readily available option, this inevitably leads to the dreaded nerf bats.

The gameplay in Champions does not differ that much from Cryptic’s previous games. It can still be classified as a more casual environment, almost an “MMO Lite” with regards to battle and items.  With the ability to attack and block in real time makes the battles much more action-oriented than those of many MMORPGs . Successful attacks and blocks increase a power meter, which can be used to unleash more powerful actions. Death is handled casually as well. A player may choose to be revived by a teammate or respawn at a neutral site, except respawning does not accrue experience debt. Instead, upon death players lose a one of their five possibly accrued Hero Stars. These stars are earned for staying alive while defeating NPCs. Characters gain bonuses to stat-based actions for every star currently earned, making death a relatively minor inconvenience with respawns generally close to where one died.

Screen Shot
What did you say about mah momma?

The game also includes a few non-combat skills, such as a variety of crafting schools in science, arms, and magic. These each have three additional specializations that players can choose. There are also a variety of travel powers, including swinging using webs or grappling hooks, flying, fire flying, jet-boot flying, rocket boot jumping, hover disks, super
jump, super speed, teleportation, acrobatics (fast running, leaps and flips), ice sliding, earth flying and tunneling. Each of which have various speeds, maneuverability and other stats to consider, characters may choose their first travel skill at level 5. One downside, or plus side depending on one’s school of thought, is that do to the many flying travel skills that are gained at a relatively low level it makes it very possible to avoid nearly all risk and head directly to whatever destination you choose. Most characters being unable to match the range or height at which another can fly. This is not without any risk however, as there are some land based anti-air turret NPC enemies that will shoot upon site; these, however, are fairly sporadic and fairly easily avoided.

One interesting, almost personal story addition is the Nemesis creation system. At level 25, players are allowed to create their own custom nemesis, including the minions at their disposal. Players do this using the same in-depth character creation system used to make their own hero, with some added options specifically designed for the nemesis. The nemesis’ minions can then ambush the player’s hero, providing clues and information leading to nemesis-centric missions eventually leading to a showdown with the player’s nemesis.

Screen Shot
With the cadre of super heroes there was never a problem again…

The graphics in Champions are much what one would expect: big, exaggerated comic book-esque forms or lithe frames in a menagerie of costumes and accessories. However it does ork, and it rarely feels cluttered or as though the heroes players see created don’t belong to this world. That said, there is nothing to spectacular about them, only that the style is well thought out and well implemented. The same goes for the sounds. There is quite a bit of voiceover work in game, and while they are often hit-or-miss, with more missing the mark, it is rarely an annoyance. Sound in Champions is just middle of the road — good but not great.

So what does all these mean to the intrepid young wannabe superhero? Not much. Those intrigued by this setting or genre, or longtime fans of the pen and paper for of Champions are certainly to find much to like. As for the neophyte MMO players, it could be a very easy introduction to the genre — sort of a kiddie pool version before trying out one’s waders in the deeper games offered. Champions Online comes out a fairly solid game, it makes no great gameplay or MMO sins, and Cryptic’s launch was one of the smoothest this reviewer has ever seen. However, at the time of this writing, there just doesn’t seem to be enough meat in the game to keep players satiated for long, good as the current stuff may be.

-Michael Wayland

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Very Good
Story Average
Graphics Good
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Good
The Verdict: Six