Champions Online - Free for all - Thoughts and opinions

Nathaniel Tolbert's picture

Champions OnlineChampions OnlineHello everyone! Long time no post. First thing's first I can happily say, that I have completed my degree and graduated as of March 1st, 2011. It's just my first computer science degree and there are two more I am after so I will start on them soon.

So as many people know about a month or so ago, Atari and Cryptic games announced that they were turning Champions Online in to a free to play game. After my final ended last Wednesday and I actually had time to sit down and check it out, I thought I might share my thoughts and opinions on my playtime so far.

The game is based on the a tabletop role playing game of the same name, Champions. It uses the same attributes in game as in the table top game but it doesn't seem to influence characters as much as it does in the tabletop game. It takes place in a fictional city, I believe in Canada called Millennium City. You play the typical role of super hero extraordinaire. Your mission? To defeat all the bad guys that are running amok in Millennium City. Now I cannot say much about plot line as I have only played about 10 hours worth of game time, making it to the paltry level of 11. But I shall start with the graphics set of this review first.

In any super hero game you can really only choose two ways to go with the graphics - gritty realism like Batman: Arkham Asylum or cel-shaded ala Viewtiful Joe. (for those who remember that crazy game!) Champions online ffa chose the later, adopting a cel-shaded graphics mode that is not too terrible stressful on the machine playing it. Granted, if you crank up the details to 11 they will shine quite nicely, DC Universe Online it is not. Due to the cel-shaded graphics there is one niggling feature that really just drives me bonkers and that is the god awful thick black line around every object! I understand it's supposed to look like a cartoon or comic book, but the lines!!!! They are too thick! Why couldn't they go for a thinner line structure? Second, for some reason the engine doesn't really have a super long draw range. When you get your travel power and you will choose flying as it is the fastest way to get around the city, you will immediately notice the haze of distance. Now this isn't as bad as say City of Heroes was, but it's still much worse than any of the games I have recently played online. This can make it difficult to see something in the distance that you might want, like an ammo cache for you to raise your crafting skill with. Character graphics, aside from the bold black outline are actually not bad. When you go to make your first character you will invariably make the mistake of not noticing all the different choices you have for the various parts of your costume. But once you figure it out and look at the amount of customizable detail, it's not hard to be impressed. There are easily a dozen choices for each section, including the head, arms, torso, legs and boots. Each one of these has subtypes that you can customize as well, be it the clothing material, the color, or the type. You can also add all sorts of interesting bits like horns, of many many types, tails, wings, or even capes starting off (thank you so much!). Overall I would give the graphics a good score 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Next up is the Audio category. I don't know what to say about this. After they obviously spent a bit of effort on the graphics the sound effects and music are a serious letdown. Sound effects just don't seem to have the Oomph! that they should, coming off as flat and generic. There aren't a lot of speech overlays but when you encounter them the voice actors (so far) sound stale and tepid. There is no speech from the bad guys except for named villains and then their catchphrases are very cliched even for a super hero game! And the music.. Where the hell is it? Music is so infrequent that you are startled by it when it pops up. And it's very generic super hero music, all synthesizer and nothing else. There is a reason why they have an app built into the game that ties into winamp or iTunes. You'll need it. What is incredibly ironic then, is that the ambient sounds for the environment are incredibly well done. You sit in a park looking for bad guys and you can hear distinctly 3 different birds in three different areas doing bird calls. Each distinct and different. What happened? Did they waste their entire budget for sound on the ambiance? Not telling but at least that part of the audio is good. Overall I would rate the audio poor giving a score of 1 1/2 stars out of 5. Be sure to load up your favorite playlist into either WinAmp or iTunes before starting this game. You'll need it.

Now on to the gameplay section. This is kind of a mixed bag. The game starts off very easy, with all missions being capable of completion by you alone without the need of additional party members. Things get a little more complicated once you reach the city proper. When you run your first real encounter with henchman in an instanced environment you will probably die a couple times before you get the formula down right. If you run an instance with a party, be prepared to die a lot. The number of villains increases disproportionately to the number of heroes you have. For instance when playing a mission by myself I encountered in one combat situation 1 Villain (slightly harder than average bad guy) and 2 henchman. It was a tough fight but I could squeak by with enemy management. Now the same mission with one other person the same area same combat encounter - 4 Villain, and 10 henchmen! Needless to say we died, several times before wiping that group out. And this is your first introductory instance mission to help you get the feel of the game! I'm certain they are working on it but be prepared to die a lot. On the upside there aren't any penalties for dying constantly. PvE seems to the mode of the day for this game, with only one area that I have seen so far for doing PvP. This area is called I think the Champion Arena. Being that I have no interest in PvP (sorry not super competitive..) I didn't investigate this too closely. But PvP is there, even if it's in a limited fashion. Gameplay would rate a solid 3 stars out of 5.

Playability - There so far seems to be an amazing amount of quests for your hero to partake in. As of writing at lvl 11 I have approximately 14 quests in my log to complete with additional ones that I didn't pick up as I traveled around. The UI overlay is pretty much standard and is easy to navigate for anyone who has play City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, and so on. It is fairly customizable as are the controls. There are control maps for FPS style controls, Champions centric controls, and 'Generic Fantasy MMO' controls. Hmm, I wonder what those would be like? Any way you slice it, controlling your character should not be a difficult affair. Grouping with people that you can see is quite easy, but the tell system can take some getting used to. For some reason it could never find my friend by his character name so it would make you type something like this for a tell - /tell AssassinDuArcane@nathanieltolber331 "message" to be able to talk to a friend (and yes that is the name of my character. A Grimoire) This can be a little confusing and from what I understand that isn't how it is supposed to work. Also, a small nitpick, you will have to remap the auto run button. For some reason the numlock button doesn't function. Just move it to the / key and you will be fine. Finding groups isn't hard and apparently setting up guilds (I don't know the name they use in game for them) is a fairly painless process. Crafting is interesting as well. When you create your character there will be two or three stats that are important to your archetype. These will be identified in game when you receive boost items as the important attributes will be bold and in yellow versus white normal sized text. Dependant upon which attributes are important really reflects which crafting skill you want, as each one influences specific attributes more than others, with one attribute not being influenced by the crafts at all. There are three primary schools - Arms, Mysticism, and Science. Each primary school has three secondary schools that emphasize a specific aspect of your buffs, which are offense, defense, and utility. Your goal is to find an item that matches your primary school, and take it to a workbench and research it to break it down into it's constituent ingredients to increase your skill. Now you will also find crates on the map that indicate a cache for your specific school. you investigate these to get the basic resources you need to craft items. You get blueprints from trainers. As far as I know, there are dropped blueprints but I haven't seen them. Overall on Playability I would give it a strong 4 stars out of 5.

The difference between Free and Pay to play - Okay there are some serious serious differences between the Free accounts and Pay accounts for this game. First and foremost is that Free is missing three classes that you have to pay for at 920 points a piece. I don't know how much that is, but I would hazard a guess at about 10 USD a piece. Second and, in my opinion very importantly free accounts are missing free-form character creation. What this means is that you are stuck to specific character types, and that's it. Free-form allows you to assign what role you want, what powers you would like to use as well some other customizations. This is, and for the time being will only be available to those who pay a monthly fee, or have a lifetime account. Next up is that there are a lot of costume effects and pieces that you have to purchase so you don't have the customization of a pay to play user. The average cost is about 80 to 120 points per piece so that's not too terrible. Unlike in Lord of the Rings where there are vast areas where there are no adventures or deed available to you until you purchase an adventure pack this isn't the case in Champions Online. Pretty much all of the adventure content and areas are completely available to you as a free player. There are no restrictions on auctioning goods, or your bank, or sending and receiving mail in game with a free account. Aside from the serious lack of free-form character creation I would say you get a lot for free. Overall for this field of what you get for free - 5 stars out of 5. Atari and Cryptic really have done a good job on giving you a lot to play with for free, which will give you incentive to purchase items.

Overall - There is a lot here that is similar in vein to City of Heroes. If you have played City of Heroes you will be quite comfortable with Champions Online. The world is unique and has some interesting background stories if you dig, and the graphics are a step up over City of Heroes or Villains. You may be limited to specifically a hero, with no option to play as a villain, but I understand that there are talks about maybe adding this in the future. Aside from some glaring serious deficiencies in some areas (hazy view distance, very bland sound and almost no music) the game is quite fun to play. Just be sure to take as many of your friends along with you to play as these types of games are always much more entertaining that way. Overall score would be a good 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

Thanks to everyone that reads this at all and I hope to hear from people that have gotten a lot deeper into the game than I have to hear your thoughts and opinions on the game.

Comments

clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
As an avid MMORPG player (who

As an avid MMORPG player (who is actually on a break form them at the moment) I Was a alpha/beta and pre-order player of Champions. I really enjoyed the fast action combat (I think COH/Champions has better combat then DC Online) its a great action fix to the old grinding RPG formula NOBODY will chnage after WoW became so big. But while its fast action it is still a grind.. and starts to feel very much the same after several days. I look at it like a FINAL FIGHT type MMORPG.. while other MMORPG's send you from city to city and all over map to quest, learn the lore, Champions has you go kick but, no real good reasons other then they are bad guys (thats enouhg for me).
I installed it (err updated) it the day it went F2P.. I had canceled it.. actualy the day it went from beta to LIVE.. yes preordered it, played 2 days and canceled and never played it again till the F2P.

The game was amazingly fun in beta and the head start, but they decieded hero's where to strong (I still died plenty) so they gimped them a HUGE amount, healing was cut to 40%, and the cool down was tripled (I like support characters as nobody plays them, so you alwasy get a group).. DPS characters DPS was cut to 50%, tank characters had defence cut in half also... the game wnet form making you feel like a superhero... take on 5-6 thugs (wimps) and maybe 1 henchman (notch up from common thug), villians couldnt be beat solo unless you had a perfect build and lots of luck.
with the gimp you couldnt beat 3-4 wimps... no more hero feel..

I wouldnt have had a problem with that gimp.. but a headstart (to me) means the game is finished and this is what I will be PAYING for.. they did the power set gimp between the headstart and going live.. I got into the game i played/understond was ready to go live, with a hero who couldnt punch his way out of a papersack.

Some bitterness.. now the "NEW" F2P game they have the hero's back up to about 3/4 of what they where in headstart (much much better) and it playes pretty good now. I would say its worht a check if you have the HD space and want a fun instant action, hectic fight game.. (but to be honest I would point you to Vindictus (F2P also) first, its a better game for hectic action, but your not a superhero in it). Champions is a pretty good game, and Nathaniel assesment is spot on.

err except the draw distances.. waht kind of video card do you have? I cranked all graphics (outside, for some strange reason inside with it all cranked I chug?) I can see 100% across any city zone.. now I'm not sure the crafting items are showing, but the large buildings, and such do... err maybe I'm not understanding. I know the thugs, trashcans and litter (and I would guess crafting Items) dont show at distance of maybe 2 blocks, but all buildings, cars etc..

Nathaniel Tolbert
Nathaniel Tolbert's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/06/2010
You can see across the zone

You can see across the zone but everything is under a crappy haze this doesn't denote that everything is being drawn. If you want to see a game that has a good draw distance put the draw distance up on Everquest 2, fly up high and look across the entire zone. There is no haze, you can make out monsters moving around from across the zone as well as buildings, trees, and other small items. That is not present in Champions Online. By the way I have a Radeon HD 6870 so I know it's not a video card deficiency. To verify that it's in the game, my friend with a GTX 570 tested it and he got the same results on the draw distance. Just murky when you get far out.

-Edit- Let me revise this a little. You can see basic shapes across the zone, but there is not definitive textures or items (I think that big box is a building, what else could it be?). I have the draw distance maxed out at 300% In an effort to reduce pop up they put a haze across the distance so you don't see it. Still the draw distance leaves a lot for a spoiled player like me to desire. But overall it doesn't horribly detract from the game. Just a nitpick. The reason I gave it 3 1/2 stars out of 5 is simply because there are older games out there that look better and the occasional graphics glitch, and crash

n/a
clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
ya i think you are correct,

ya i think you are correct, (been a few weeks since i was on the game). You did a good job describing the game. I think like COH, it would be alot more fun with freinds (but most MMORPG are). I do like the hold button to power up option on powers its kinda different and lets you 'one shot" the trash.

If you like the action of it i would say try out Vindictus..

Nathaniel Tolbert
Nathaniel Tolbert's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/06/2010
The action is fine, and the

The action is fine, and the game is quite fun, but it is definitely better with friends, just bring a bunch along. I also noticed that it doesn't appear to have voice integrated into the system so you can voice chat with your team mates? I'm curious about this game the Rift. They talk about it not being Azeroth, but the dragon in the preview looks just like WoW dragons! Lol!

n/a
clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
MMORPGS are fun
Nathaniel Tolbert wrote:

The action is fine, and the game is quite fun, but it is definitely better with friends, just bring a bunch along. I also noticed that it doesn't appear to have voice integrated into the system so you can voice chat with your team mates? I'm curious about this game the Rift. They talk about it not being Azeroth, but the dragon in the preview looks just like WoW dragons! Lol!

Rift is one of the better "new" MMORPG's much like WoW, its stole *should I say copied, tone it down a bit?) some of the good ideas from those who come before it and combined them. As for dragons.. hehe the WoW ones look just like Elmore (ad&d artists) depictations... which of course come from people before him Im sure.. pretty standard fantasy fair.

The excellent asian artwork (but none of the asian grindfest) and character design.
Warhammers Public Quest system (now called RIFTS!) which dynamicly move.
Basic playstyle is WoWish (kinda the gold standard, now, fast leveling, solo friendly,quests galore)

Some of the newer (or not as bliant looking copied stuff)

Very deep class system.. necro, wizard,healer if you want. It take as bit of the skill tree system, but varies it to the classes, .. hence yu can only be GREAT at one and so-so at the others.. or a jack of all, master of none type character. Really makes character devolpment an intersting thing. But opens up the chance to really mess a character up with useless skills.

Oveall after playing so many of the "wanna be'sRift is one of the first that I think has that "extra" edge that may push it to 2nd or 3rd behind WoW..

With that said, beta playtesting I wante dot play just an hour or two more all the time.. but now that I have to buy it.. I was so close.. but just didnt do it... no more impulse buys to play a week or two and get bored.. a year of UO, 7 years Of EQ, 2 years of EQ2, and 5 years of WoW... im jaded, burned out a bit maybe.. Still love to play um.. but they are all starting to blend toghter... I will never have that rush of running into a spider the size of the house in the dark in teh Commons in 3D!.. one of those "never forget" gameing moments... and will foerver make EQ my "most loved" MMORPG... but saldy the game has lost pretty much all its luster after all the games that came after it and copied and made eaiser, quicker and just plain more of it to the gamestyle...

But with so many really good looking new ones (terra, etc...) comming and the Free2 Play games are pretty top nothc nowdays.. LOTR, AD&D, Champions... and my favorites Allods, Runes of Magic and Vindictus... its hard to pay to play anything anymore unless you are really attached to your playtime (no doubt 200 runs throuh IC to get that item can be a bit hard to let go, not to count out hundred of hundreds of hours).

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
Vindictus
clok1966 wrote:

But with so many really good looking new ones (terra, etc...) comming and the Free2 Play games are pretty top nothc nowdays.. LOTR, AD&D, Champions... and my favorites Allods, Runes of Magic and Vindictus... its hard to pay to play anything anymore unless you are really attached to your playtime (no doubt 200 runs throuh IC to get that item can be a bit hard to let go, not to count out hundred of hundreds of hours).

I hadn't heard of Vindictus before, so thanks for bringing that one to my attention, Clok! I haven't downloaded it (yet), but it looks very cool! It's definitely not a WoW-style RPG, with action/beat-em-up/arcade-style gameplay! Heck, it's an RPG for an action junkie! I need to check it out!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I got back into WoW briefly

I got back into WoW briefly and was active for a couple weeks. Then my account got hacked AGAIN, and even though my stuff has apparently been restored, I'm chary. To be honest, I don't really want to get back into it. It's kinda like Angel with Buffy--you want it, but you realize that if you get too close, you'll turn into a bad vampire. Or something like that.

I think I'll put my creative side to use playing with Gamemaker! And hopefully getting some articles and maybe books in the works!

n/a
Nathaniel Tolbert
Nathaniel Tolbert's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/06/2010
Gamemaker!
Matt Barton wrote:

I got back into WoW briefly and was active for a couple weeks. Then my account got hacked AGAIN, and even though my stuff has apparently been restored, I'm chary. To be honest, I don't really want to get back into it. It's kinda like Angel with Buffy--you want it, but you realize that if you get too close, you'll turn into a bad vampire. Or something like that.

I think I'll put my creative side to use playing with Gamemaker! And hopefully getting some articles and maybe books in the works!

I have Gamemaker 8 as well! I'm not certain what to do with it, but I am interested in learning. Where did you find the books for it? There aren't any here at the tech shops. Were they on Amazon?

Also, I'm trying to learn Blitz Basic and Storm C. I'm trying to learn to program Amiga style, in hopes that Natami will come out before I die. :) By the way if you like amiga stuff and haven't seen it, check out www.natami.net They have completed the second prototype board and are in the bring up phase on it to implement any design changes (64bit memory bus vs. 32, and 512MB of RAM) and finish the core design. Looks interesting at the very least to me.

n/a
clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
hacks!
Matt Barton wrote:

I got back into WoW briefly and was active for a couple weeks. Then my account got hacked AGAIN, and even though my stuff has apparently been restored, I'm chary. To be honest, I don't really want to get back into it. It's kinda like Angel with Buffy--you want it, but you realize that if you get too close, you'll turn into a bad vampire. Or something like that.

I think I'll put my creative side to use playing with Gamemaker! And hopefully getting some articles and maybe books in the works!

i know its $6 but a authnticator (blizzard store, free shipping) will solve your hack problems.. and get you a COREHOUND vanity pet!!!!! (eheh ok big deal).

i really like gamemaker, i have spent hours on it.. and with all your game talk and Unity i fired it up again. made all my tile sets... and.. errr.. started playing just Cuase 2...

maybe you need to start a "devoelop a simple game in gameMaker in 2 months or something thread..

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I got the authenticator. It's

I got the authenticator. It's free if I'm not mistaken? At least, I didn't pay for it.

I'm not so much upset over the stolen account, which is irritating but wouldn't put me off. I am mainly just disillusioned with it. It's a cycle for me once I get into it, and not unusual for me to play all day and late into the night. That was fun when the game and realms were new to me, but now it's just repetitive now that I've gotten two toons from 1-60 (thus seeing most of the new areas). I may at some point pick up one of my 80s and get him to 85 just to see that part of it, but I'm wary of hitting the level ceiling. Mindless runs through instances or (worse) raids..ugh, I don't even WANT to WANT that.

Re: Gamemaker 8, I just downloaded the tutorials and look at the code. I'm not trying to do anything huge at this point--just working through simple concepts. I have a game in mind and fighting (with myself) to keep it simple and not get carried away with features.

n/a

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.