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Review: Champions Online 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-you-a-hero dept.

Champions Online is Cryptic Studios' latest entry into the Superhero MMORPG genre, representing several years of advancement in game design both for Cryptic and for MMOs as a whole. It's no longer a new field, and there are now certain expectations about what an MMO should contain, and how it should play. Two major factors to a new game's success or failure are the standards they embrace and do well, and the ones they reject and do differently. Champions Online succeeds at adapting many established concepts, while still setting themselves apart from the typical swords & sorcery backdrop. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.

  • Title: Champions Online
  • Developer: Cryptic Studios
  • Publisher: Atari
  • System: PC
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 8/10

First, a disclaimer — MMOs are unlike ordinary games because active development never really stops. Bugs and gameplay issues, once identified, are almost always fixed — indeed, one of the traits that distinguishes a good MMO from a bad one is how well and how quickly the development team solves such problems. Thus, this review will not focus on the minor, easily fixable problems other than to identify them and perhaps point out what Cryptic has said about fixing them, where applicable. On to the game itself.

Champions gets off on the right foot with an excellent character creator. The depth and level of detail for all of the customization options exceeds any game I've played, and it's pretty simple to find and select the look that you want. If you're the type who enjoys making your character picture-perfect, you'll love it; matching a costume to whatever vision you have for a character is surprisingly easy. There are enough options that I really don't see any player characters who look alike — or few enough that I don't notice. It also allows the irrepressible creation of characters from other intellectual properties. It's something I've seen less and less as time passes, so I assume Cryptic is clamping down on it (as they should; Marvel already sued them for the same thing in City of Heroes), but it's occasionally hilarious to see Duke Nukem, Dr. McCoy, or a WoW Paladin out killing bad guys.

The customization continues beyond the character creator, too. Throughout the game, you accumulate various powers — these are your skills/spells/abilities, everything from laser beams to giant fiery swords to huge explosions. There are a ton of powers to choose from, and each has its own graphical effect. The nice thing is that you can modify the colors of the effect and the location from which they originate. My character's first ability had him shooting red laser pulses from his fists, which I changed to be blue lasers shooting from his eyes. It's a nice touch that allows even characters with the exact same powers to look different. Beyond that, as you go through the game you can get items that unlock more costume options.

There's a tremendous variety to the powers you can use, to the point where it's almost better to figure out what you want your character to do — drop bombs, sling ice shards, Force-choke — than to look at the abilities and figure out which are the "best." They're divided up amongst 18 different "frameworks," which are collections of similarly-themed powers. For example, the Munitions framework contains powers that involve shooting various guns, dropping mines, throwing grenades, and shooting rockets. The "Unarmed" framework holds different punch and kick attacks, and the "Fire" framework has — you guessed it — fire spells. You're not restricted to a particular framework, which is nice. You can grab all your powers from a single one, or go into a different framework for each power.

It's fun to have so many options, but almost overwhelming if you're trying to min/max your character. My recommendation would be to not worry overmuch about picking the absolute best power. With a few exceptions, they're pretty well balanced — as well as can be expected for a new MMO — and Cryptic is already making refinements. More important is to select powers that have different effects. They're divided up and labeled such that you know which are for close/ranged attacks, area effect attacks, crowd control, healing, summoning, or buffs. In many cases, it's pointless to get two of a particular effect, so you want to diversify. You get a new power every few levels, and they really add to the depth of the combat.

Your character gets stronger in other ways, as well. You get "advantages," which increase the effectiveness of your powers, but you're limited into how much you can strengthen any one ability. It's another level of customization and utility, and they make interesting changes to your powers. You're also heavily dependent on stats. They're somewhat arcane and unintuitive (Strength is obvious enough, but what would you think "Presence" does?), but you'll do fine with the understanding that you should pick two and focus on them almost exclusively, as they'll determine your damage output.

The fighting is done against individual enemies or, more often, small groups. The non-player opponents you typically fight are classified as one of the following, from easiest to hardest: Henchman, Villain, Master Villain, and Super Villain. There are also Cosmic and Legendary Villains, but those are rare, and usually require a team to defeat. A more typical group will have a cluster of Henchmen, or a couple Henchmen and a Villain. The Henchmen die in a matter of seconds, but the Villains take a bit more work. As they get more powerful, you'll have to put some thought into how you want to handle them; there's a lot of content you can solo with some strategy and perseverance. Many of the powers you use complement each other in fun and interesting ways. A lot of them have short recharge periods (cooldowns), which you can fill by using a hold (crowd control) or knocking your opponent back, which delays them for several seconds.

Combat is fairly fast-paced, and it can involve a lot of movement. It feels like a hybrid between an MMO and an action RPG. Most powers can be used while on the move, giving you the opportunity to close with your attacker or maintain range, or perhaps duck out of line-of-sight just after your ability fires. You can also Block attacks. In fact, it's crucial to block some of them. Enemies will sometimes charge up big attacks, advertised by a growing symbol over their heads. When you see this happening, stop what you're doing and block it, or expect to take some serious damage. Blocking adds more depth to the combat, but is slightly hampered by the controls.

Cryptic clearly put a lot of effort into building a good system for game controls and the UI. There are a ton of different options for movement, targeting, and camera styles; you can play it like a typical MMO, or a first-person shooter, or Cryptic's own superhero MMO concoction, and it's well implemented. Unfortunately, there's a fair bit of UI lag. Server lag has been almost non-existent — amazing as that is to say during the launch period of an MMO — but the responsiveness of the controls is probably the game's biggest technical fault right now. It can be frustrating at times to have your abilities not work as you expect because of this. There's enough of a delay after hitting the button that you won't be sure if it actually triggered the ability. Many abilities require a button to be held down, so if you press it again and then the original trigger goes through, you've wasted a cooldown. Pressing Block right after charging up a power will also sometimes clip the end of it, and cause it not to fire. I would attribute the majority of my deaths so far to the UI lag. That said, it's not game-breaking.

Quests in Champions Online are called missions. A lot of it is typical MMO fare, but not all, and the mission system is streamlined and unobtrusive. The game world has several large zones, with quest hubs scattered about them. You'll get your standard "Kill N of X" and "Collect Y of Z" missions. You'll also get quest lines that tell cool stories, if you care to read them. Cryptic has stepped up the convenience factor in a few ways. First, your map is always marked with the area you need to visit to finish the missions. In other words, no more "Head past the Valley of Ambivalence and to the northeast corner of the Forest of Mild Discomfort to slay Ted the Impaler." It's simply displayed on your map (and minimap). Finding new missions is easier, too. You can open the "Crime Computer," which will tell you where various emergencies (i.e. missions) are located, and mark those for you on the map as well.

City of Heroes veterans can rest easy; the missions are a lot better in Champions. Most of them are out in the world. Some are instanced, but there are varying objectives, and I've never been sent into the same building twice, except when it makes sense for the story. Another nice feature is that you'll occasionally stumble across a civilian being accosted by villains out in the street. If you save them, they sometimes give you a mission. You can also find missions just by moving around — as you pass by a bank that's being robbed, you'll be given a quest to stop it, without having to even talk to an NPC. There are several Open Missions in each zone, too. These are missions everybody nearby can participate in, and you get rewarded based on your level of contribution. Cryptic is still working the bugs out in a few of these, but they're fun, and they have an epic feel. You'll see even more impressive missions in dungeons and "crisis zones" — one multi-part mission has you join a team of prison guards attempting to lock down a jailbreak led by a boss with paranormal powers. You fight through levels of the dungeon, struggling to reach him, and it almost feels like playing through a section of F.E.A.R.

The open world zones are few, but large, and they contain content for multiple ranges of levels. They're divided loosely into neighborhoods, which you'll typically explore until you've exhausted all the missions (gaining a couple levels in the process), and move on to a neighborhood in a different zone. The neighborhoods all tend to tell a story, or a few related stories, which tie in to the overarching plot of the game. There are a couple smallish content gaps — early into level 31, I exhausted all available quests and had to grind out the rest of the level — but Cryptic has already acknowledged that they're pinpointing those gaps and working to fill them. My advice would be to take any mission given to you by a random citizen or object; the experience from these adds up quickly, and I probably wouldn't have been stuck if I'd spent a bit more time doing those.

The zones would take a long time to traverse on foot, but early on you're given your choice of travel powers, which make getting from one place to another much faster. The travel powers are actually a lot of fun, in and of themselves. You can get your standard flying power, or ride a sheet of ice, or use rocket boots, but there are more entertaining options as well. You can get Superjump, which lets you literally leap tall buildings in a single bound, or Swing, which lets you shoot a grapple upwards and swing as if from vine to vine. Oftentimes you're just shooting it into the open air, so it doesn't make much sense, but that's more than made up by how fun it is.

One of the really good innovations in Champions is what they call the Powerhouse. This is where you go to buy new powers, increase your stats, and upgrade existing powers — the equivalent of a class trainer in other games. However, the Powerhouse is instanced, and it has a large testing area at the back. You can pick up your new powers, test them, and get rid of them if you don't like them. Changes aren't finalized until you leave the Powerhouse. It's great for trying out new things without worrying that they'll work poorly with your character. The game does have a re-specialization system, appropriately called "retcon," but at current it's ridiculously expensive. Recent power purchases aren't bad to change, but if you want to fix a mistake from early on (when you weren't that familiar with the game), it will likely cost you several times the wealth you've managed to accumulate.

Now, that's definitely a poor decision on Cryptic's part, but it's not as bad as it sounds. First, they've already held a post-launch dev chat, in which they said they're going to revise upward the amount of money you receive from monsters and quests. They also indicated that retcon costs would probably be lowered. What's more, they've already issued one free retcon to all characters, and said they'll likely do that whenever they make significant changes to powers in a patch. One phrase they used was "targeted retcon," which would let players freely change a power that has been modified. While I was initially displeased that I couldn't fix mistakes I made when I didn't know how the game worked, it's good to see that Cryptic is already addressing it, and on multiple fronts. That speaks well toward the long-term health of the game.

An important aspect of the game starts at level 25 when you get to create your Nemesis. This is a super villain whose plans you constantly try to thwart, and who routinely sends his minions to destroy you. It's basically an epic series of missions that happens gradually as you level up. After you tangle with him for the first time, you'll occasionally be ambushed by his henchmen when you're off doing normal missions. Sometimes when you kill the henchmen, they'll drop notes that contain information about your Nemesis' plans, which you go on a mission to disrupt. Other times, the police or NPC superheroes will call on you to stop his latest scheme. It's nicely done, and it really adds to the feel that you're doing heroic deeds and fighting complex battles.

There is less focus on gear in Champions than in most other MMOs. You have nine gear slots, and your typical item will increase your stats and and your defenses. You generally want to focus on the two "Super Stats" you select early in the leveling process, since raising those increases your damage output. There are also items with other effects; some will replace or modify your powers, adding an ancillary effect and perhaps a new graphic. Equip-able items are categorized as Arms, Mysticism, and Science — these are the three professions. Each of them has crafting and gathering aspects. Unlike most MMOs, your profession skill doesn't increase much by making things or harvesting nodes out in the wilderness. Instead, you take items you find and "research" them, breaking them down into their components. This is cool because it gives you a ton of materials to work with, and makes it easy to catch up to where your skill level is supposed to be. You don't have to make two dozen Shoulderpads of the Useless that you immediately vendor. There is virtually no "grind" to the process, which is quite nice, and you can build yourself some basic gear and useful consumables.

There's still work to be done on the game, as with any MMO launch. Pet AI isn't working right, so summoned creatures will frequently run off and attack whatever the heck they want. Several buggy missions have already been fixed, but others are still broken. PvP is dominated by a few annoying abilities; nothing you can't work around with a semi-coordinated team, but a lot of people can't rely on that. There are a few places in the game that look like they're just waiting to be populated with villains and quests; hopefully that'll happen soon to fill out the leveling process. The downside right now is that you'll frequently end up doing quests a couple levels higher than you, which give you rewards you can't use yet. Endgame doesn't have a ton of variety; that's something they'll have to address fairly soon, once a significant number of players reach the level cap.

As it stands, I think Champions Online's success will be determined by where Cryptic takes it from here. The launch is solid, there's a reasonable amount of content, and the combat is a fun break from typical MMOs. When Cryptic actively developed for City of Heroes, they released 10 expansions and City of Villains in a three-and-a-half year period. If they can roll out content on a similar scale for Champions, while staying on top of balance issues and bug fixes, it will certainly find success. As it is, it's piqued my interest. It's no WoW-killer, but it's a fun, distinct game that will carve out a niche for itself.

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Review: Champions Online

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  • There's a tremendous variety to the powers you can use, to the point where it's almost better to figure out what you want your character to do -- drop bombs, sling ice shards, Force-choke -- than to look at the abilities and figure out which are the "best."

    With the exception of the RP servers it is always about the best - even on the RP servers. At least with this (according to the article) the best can be remade to look like something else? So far the read sounds good - if they have a demo I will try it (my fiancee will kill me)

    ------
    Scuba Diving [youtube.com]

    • Its a single global server (with multiple instances of each zone), which works a lot better than I would have expected. But that means there are no RP servers.
      • by Canazza (1428553)

        The RPers hang around in Club Caprice, so stay outa there lest ye wish to be virtually bummed by some spandex clad nonce.

    • Re:Quality vs Appeal (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thesandtiger (819476) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @12:48PM (#29428055)

      The thing about "best" in this game is that it's incredibly subjective and depends so much on playstyle.

      For instance, with a melee character, how "active" do you want to have to be in combat? Do you want to move around a lot to line up cone attacks? Do you like sitting in one spot and just AOEing people to death? Do you like to take out foes 1 at a time or all at once? With a ranged character it's similar - are you "ranged, but up close and personal" (meaning: fly in, throw down a minefield, have people die that way, or fight with an up-close gun-kata taken almost directly from Equilibrium?) or do you like to snipe?

      I suppose there are some min/max builds out there that let you kill things most effectively, but the thing is that they really require one particular specific playstyle when using them to make them better; if you aren't into that playstyle, the build will be unfun to play, but effective, or not as effective but played the way you like to play.

      On the flip-side, it is possible to completely screw yourself over if you pick powers that don't synergize well. If, for example, you are a primarily ranged character (force bolts or something) but you take a melee energy builder attack (the basic attack that powers up your other attacks) you will probably not have much fun because you have to zoom in to build energy, then run away to fight at range. Or, you might make a "glass cannon" build - all offense with no defense. In the first 10 levels or so, you probably won't notice a lack of a passive defensive power, but very quickly after that you'll slam into a brick wall where you are repeatedly killed because mobs scale up under the impression that you will be a bit more well rounded.

      The retcon system fixes that, though it is rather expensive. Then again, given you can respec all the way back to level 0, it has to be expensive, because people would just get 1 character to maximum level and then respec to try out everything else easily, which may not be so good for the game's longevity. Personally, I think you should be able to respec your last 5 levels cheaply, but after that it should become incredibly expensive, and that's more or less how they have it now.

  • My own review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @12:39PM (#29427951) Journal

    Well, as a long COH fan myself, my own impression is more like "meh" somehow.

    The good is that there are a lot more costume pieces, and, face it, if you were into COH, you like to dress up dolls. Welcome to the club, and remember that there's nothing wrong with that. Now let's sit our dolls together and have a tea party ;) More seriously, I wish more game had this much freedom in coming up with a costume. You can be anything from werewolf to elf to dwarf to orc to Superman to... well, almost anything you can imagine.

    Also good is that you no longer have the horrendous waiting for endurance to refill that plagued the teen levels of COH.

    The bad is... well, subjective. I can understand why they deviated from COH in some aspects, but I don't have to like it. YMMV.

    For a start, yes, combat is fast paced, but it's also actually a lobotomized button masher designed for a gamepad. You only need an attack button and a block button.

    Combat is simply an affair of starting your weak-and-often auto-attack, at which point your character will start madly pummelling on the enemy on his/her/its own, albeit not necessarily doing much damage. This however also regenerates your energy, so whenever you have enough of it, you hit your more powerful attack. When you run out of energy again, you let it on auto-attack again. It's really that brain damaged... err... I mean "casual gamer friendly" ;)

    Yes, there is a block button too, and, guess what? You _only_ need to use it when you see that charging-up-a-power-attack icon above the enemy's head. It's not even the kind of block and counterattack combos in most action-adventures, it's really like one of those events like in console games where an icon appears on the screen and you have to push a button on the controller quickly. Until you see that icon, you can safely ignore the block button entirely.

    What disappoints me more seriously is the reduced customization in the actual powers. It's like the new costume pieces came at the expense of the customization of the actual powers.

    E.g., in Champions Online you will never ever have more than one passive power. So you slot a regeneration or dodge buff in it, and that was it. There is no minmaxing, no "do I get Fast Healing too, or stick to Integration", none of the other things that actually made builds unique in COH. In the defense aspect, the characters aren't even uni-dimensional -- which would imply a continuum of possible values, even if in just one variable -- they're zero-dimensional.

    Attack too, has been turned from something where I actually had to manage chains of attacks and mixes of cooldowns, to a 1-button masher, essentially.

    Yes, it has stats, but not only they're unintuitive in what they do, they're unintuitive even after you figured out what they do. E.g., Strength affects your melee damage, yes, as you'd expect, but actually the effect is capped so brutally and early, that you can pretty much ignore that stat entirely. Counter-intuitively, as a melee character you actually benefit more from dexterity. And even in the "Strength == more melee damage" aspect, it's not as simple as you'd assume. E.g., the ego blades are based on another stat, not on Strength.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "it's crap" or anything of the kind. It just feels... "meh". Believe me, as a bored COH player I was waiting for CO like the fundies await the second cumming of Christ. Maybe that was my mistake.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TikiTDO (759782)
      I think a lot of your issues are a matter of how you build your characters. As a crazy weak glass cannon I find myself blocking more often than not, especially since it also happens to be a good way for me to build up energy. Also, even at level 20, my rotation involves at least 3 abilities, and up to 5 depending on the situation. This is only likely to grow as I get new skills.

      Perhaps you should try tweaking your build, or even doing a full retcon if you still have it available. From what I read, you might
      • by Moraelin (679338)

        Hmm... 5 attacks by level 20 seems a bit... sub-optimal, compared to just increasing the strength of the existing ones. I can't really imagine that all 5 have been brought to level 3.

        Then again, since you're having fun with your build and I don't with mine, I guess that's all that matters.

        Still, I dunno, somehow I just don't feel the love, so to speak. It's not just the build.

        For example turning from COH's being heavily-based on instanced mission to cramped outdoors zones where 50 players pummel on 30 NPCs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)

        The posters problem is that it's not like WoW.
        Clearly he is trying to play it like it is.

        • The posters problem is that it's not like WoW.
          Clearly he is trying to play it like it is.

          Heh. So, I'm complaining about the difference to _COH_, and your conclusion is that it's about it not being like _WOW_? Well, that's certainly a new kind of troll. The kind who can't even read.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vjmurphy (190266)

      To me, the game feels like City of Heroes 1.5: not a big change, really.

      The costume choices for male characters seems much more expansive than those for female characters, unlike City of Heroes, which seems to have similar numbers of costumes for both sexes.

      In City of Heroes, ranged attackers were usually balanced by having less defense/hitpoints. They could hit from afar, but depended on others for protection. In Champions Online, I've got a ranged character who is much better in a fight than an unarmed Ma

      • Melee characters are trickier to build "right" but when you do, they're virtually unstoppable. They're also annoying to play with m/kb, but I use a 360 controller and that makes melee a LOT more fun for me, and easier to play optimally.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)
          Hmm, a controller being easier than a keyboard and mouse. I'm struggling to get my head around that :-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Darinbob (1142669)
        I never got past level 20 in City of Heroes (and that was on the villain side). Already I see things in Champions Online that fix the problems I saw in CoH, without getting rid of most of the good stuff. Ie, none of those stupid randomized missions that all turn out to be exactly the same. I can go back and do old quests that are below my level (so far) without having the game force me to the next harder zone. The quests feel much more story based, rather than running back to some newspaper reporter to
    • by rotide (1015173) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @01:25PM (#29428531)

      It just feels... "meh". Believe me, as a bored COH player I was waiting for CO like the fundies await the second cumming of Christ.

      The mental image of this is just ohh so utterly wrong.

      • by Whorhay (1319089)
        Haha you should give the song Rev 22:20 by Puscifer featuring Maynard James Keenan and Danny Lohner a listen, I definitely wouldn't play it around any religous friends though.
    • Re:My own review (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thesandtiger (819476) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @01:31PM (#29428615)

      I think you're really overestimating the idea of "unique" builds in CoH. Seriously, because of the Archetype system, the builds are pretty cookie cutter.

      If you're regen, yes, you get fast healing and integration and health. Everyone does this because everyone will, by the time they're level 50, have at last 2 power choices where there's really no better option. But, if you're regeneration, you will *never* be able to pick any of the abilities from invulnerability, or darkness, or any other defensive set. And if your offensive set is martial arts, then you will never be able to pick up a sword or a gun or anything else - nope, it's pretty much all kicks, forever and ever, amen.

      One of my characters is a battle-crazed cyber-valkyrie kind of character: She swoops into battle with sword attacks and an energy shield & her fists and feet at times (using power armor powers, dual blade powers, single blade powers, and martial arts attacks), and beats the crap out of her foes. When she's hurt, she'll heal either through her passive (regeneration from the supernatural set) or she'll call out some cyber-drones (gadgets) to fly around and heal her if it gets REALLY bad. Would not be possible to make anything that eclectic in CoH.

      Oh, and she can change her build depending on the situation. If lots of pure, brutal damage is needed, she can go into Avenger build and do more damage (but take more). If a balanced mix is needed, Guardian stance, and then Sentinel if she needs to be a tank. Can't change roles like that in CoH.

      I'd say that the Advantages in CO and the power enhancers in CoH are about the same kind of thing.

      Initial attacks are actually rather different, too. It's not always "start with your energy builder" - because you can change your stats around, they can have a profound effect on the way you attack. For example, another of my characters is a pure munitions character for offense with a little bit of martial arts for defense. Initially she had to run into combat with her energy builder running and then use her other abilities, but I figured out how to make her have more energy right from the start, and can use the tactic of "going into sneak mode, getting into the middle of enemies, and planting a bomb, then mopping up the survivors with a gun-kata" or, if I wouldn't survive the alpha strike, I can snipe people from range, maybe whittle down the crowd and when people run at me hose them down with a machine gun.

      With the active block thing - CoH doesn't even have anything like it, and all powers activate the same way: you click and there it is. In CO, active blocks are VERY useful (not just to defend against big charge-ups, ESPECIALLY if you look at the "advantages" you can buy for block replacement powers). And, powers activate differently. Some of them, for example, are "click and then they run for some amount of time" (so, with Power Armor you can have multiple systems firing simultaneously). Others are tap it for one effect, hold it down for a bigger effect that is delayed. Others are hold it down to just keep blazing away, etc. Nothing like that in CoH.

      Nothing like stats in CoH - you are what you are. In CO, depending on how you pick your stats, you can have very different experiences with otherwise identical builds, necessitating different ways of playing.

      I guess I'm saying that I cannot believe anyone would actually point to the fixed archetype CoH and think it allows more customization than COs system. I'm guessing you might not have played it very far?

      • by Moraelin (679338)

        I'm not saying that the Archetypes are the apex of free-form character development, but merely that it feels like the CO system is even less.

        And no, not everyone in COH took the same powers. I know Regens who skipped the Fitness pool entirely, for example, since you mention that one. Yes, it's not the best min-maxed way to build a character, but it's an option. Even myself I was one of the people who never took the 6-slotted Hasten before ED, because I didn't feel like being a cookie-cutter clone. I had ton

        • You do realize that the uniqueness of the build isn't from my picking regen, right? It's not from the 1 power I picked from a framework, it from the combination of a dozen or so powers I picked from multiple frameworks. Whatever your opinion of the logic of my choices, the fact is that there are more frameworks to draw from in CO than in COH, and with stats more room for customization.

          And, I also want to give you back a bit of your smugness: Wow! Gosh! Golly-gee! You made a melee character that's designed t

          • by Moraelin (679338)

            I gather that must have been in the early days, before Regen was nerfed repeatedly. Mine was after the ED. Yes, it changed a bit in the meantime.

            Also, "a melee character that's supposed to take a beating" is only a very approximate description of a scrapper. Yes, you could dump both scrapper and tanker under that vague description, but only in as much as you could lump the WoW Paladin and Rogue under it too. It's not a very useful description at that point.

            And the point wasn't to get you impressed (I'm sure

            • Back in the day, we had 2 guilds with nothing but rad/rad defenders or kinetics types. We would take down AVs in a heartbeat, but it required a substantial amount of coordination.

              And yes, I played both before and after the regen nerfs and ED - I think I played for a month or so last year just to see if things had gotten more interesting. Generally, even though I hadn't respeced, my DM/REGEN scrapper was doing crazy stuff - no temp powers, but I did duo an AV with a friend (also a scrapper) and we just used

              • by Moraelin (679338)

                Well, as I was saying, I'm not claiming that COH is some golden standard of flexibility. Far from it.

                I'm just left with the impression that in CO there's actually even less. Sure, you can mix and match the attacks better, and you can even get a heal. Ok, it gets bonus points for that. But basically gone is any thought of what secondaries (or primaries for a tank) I take, and what balance do I strike between offense and defense. In CO I'll take one defense and one block power, like everyone else, because the

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      You took the words right out of my mouth. Its like CoH, but worse, and in the form of a mindless arcade masher thats kinda sorta like an MMO.

      I really think the idea to have it both on the console and on the PC only ends up hurting the PC version. The graphics are worse than CoH, with a cheesy cell shader, and it plays like a mediocre xbox game. In the future I will not be buying games that exist on both the console and the PC. The PC version always suffers from the console limitations.

      • by Moraelin (679338)

        Hmm... Well, I certainly see your point. Just maybe I wouldn't go as far as to damn _all_ games released for both platforms. Some games are really made to be mindless button mashers, and there's not much anyone can do about it. IMHO. And personally I'm even ok with a button-masher, provided that it's a 10 hour single-player game. I can use a couple of mindless evenings now and then.

        It's just that in a MMO I've come to expect a bit more complexity. If something is supposed to keep my interest long enough to

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh, this poster has a lot of information wrong:

      STR does not mean more melee damage. In fact there is no distinction between melee damage and ranged damage. It's just power/ability damage.

      Here's the summary:
      STR: Lifting (for throwing cars if you have a lot, park benches if not so much), Knockback resist, Physical root resitss (snare gernates, example). Some defenses scale with it.

      DEX: Crit chance. Some defenses scale with it.

      CON: Hitpoints. Defenses scale (invuln)

      INT: Adjusts power costs of abilities, steat

  • Last I read is that is was not based on the HERO system so where is the appeal other than making the characters look different?

    Also, considering their first week live saw massive exploits of stupid features, think entire groups stun killing everything which conveniently rewarded full experience regardless of player level because of an update not made properly. Throw in that many groups used this to max level nearly instantly before Cryptic shut it off but left all the exploiters with their gains. Apparent

  • A lot of MMOs don't allow you to have travel "abilities" until you get up there in levels. Champions Online lets you have them at level 5. Basically, once you are done the tutorial, you go and "level up", and bamf, you're flying/skating/hoverboarding/webslinging/etc anywhere you want.

    Also, their pre-order offered discounted 6-month subscriptions, and a lifetime (200 bucks) subscription. If Champions lasts more than a year, you've saved yourself a decent pile of money if you're a regular player.

    There'
  • Unfortunately, there's a fair bit of UI lag. Server lag has been almost non-existent â" amazing as that is to say during the launch period of an MMO â" but the responsiveness of the controls is probably the game's biggest technical fault right now. It can be frustrating at times to have your abilities not work as you expect because of this. There's enough of a delay after hitting the button that you won't be sure if it actually triggered the ability. Many abilities require a button to be held down, so if you press it again and then the original trigger goes through, you've wasted a cooldown. Pressing Block right after charging up a power will also sometimes clip the end of it, and cause it not to fire. I would attribute the majority of my deaths so far to the UI lag.

    Uhh, sounds like it's server lag where the server authenticates the buttons you press... (It is checking if your cooldown is off before allowing you to do it client side) I've seen this in plenty of MMOs.

    Trying to say there is no "server lag", but there is "alternative" lag is a bit misleading to those who don't understand it.

  • One of the really good innovations in Champions is what they call the Powerhouse. This is where you go to buy new powers, increase your stats, and upgrade existing powers -- the equivalent of a class trainer in other games. However, the Powerhouse is instanced, and it has a large testing area at the back. You can pick up your new powers, test them, and get rid of them if you don't like them. Changes aren't finalized until you leave the Powerhouse. It's great for trying out new things without worrying that they'll work poorly with your character. The game does have a re-specialization system, appropriately called "retcon," but at current it's ridiculously expensive. Recent power purchases aren't bad to change, but if you want to fix a mistake from early on (when you weren't that familiar with the game), it will likely cost you several times the wealth you've managed to accumulate.

    This is huge. I remember playing Diablo 2 early on, and everyone was making a sorceress and loading her up with Blizzard, a level 24 spell. It was ridiculously powerful, and poorly balanced, and the first patch which came out a month later nerfed this skill into the stone age. In other words, not only was it less powerful, it was now less useful, because the skill above it, Ice Sphere, became the more powerful and useful spell. So now everyone with Blizzard was not the best Sorceress. this pissed off thousands of players who spent their time building a character they liked. Blizzard called this skill "broken" and passing it off as a a bug fix, trying to contain the outcry, but that of course didn't help. Gamers see thru BS like this, a nerf is a nerf.

    Now, You can actually test and work with a power and get to know it and understand it before you commit it to your character. And they are owning up to the fine tradition of nerfing by admitting that they might nerf something, but offering some alternatives so that you don't have to start over from the very beginning. I expect every MMO will be watching this piece of code very closely and will probably immitate it in every MMO from here on out.

    • Actually, COH already had that, sorta. You could copy a character to the test server any time you wished and any number of times you wished. So if you wanted to test your next choice of power or your respec, you already could do just that.

    • by murdocj (543661)

      They certainly aren't the first nor will they be the last MMO maker to say that rebalancing (which is what nerfing / augmenting is) is going to occur during the lifetime of a game. And they also aren't the first to allow people to change their skills when rebalancing occurs. WoW routinely refunds all of your talent points and gives you a free respec when they do a major change to a character class.

    • Gamers see thru BS like this, a nerf is a nerf.

      No, gamers call anything they perceive as a nerf a nerf. Even if the nerfed thing was obviously spectacularly broken.

      I remember back when I played UO, the devs released a tame that a) anyone could control, and b) was equivalent in combat power to tames that normally required a fair amount of taming skills (I.E. would normally pretty much require a dedicated tamer). Within hours of the release the devs stated that it was broken and would be fixed - yet

    • You know, the whole "nerf" thing isn't just used to piss off gamers, sometimes it is really used to fix broken things. Everything you described about the Blizzard spell sounds like it was broken. Not "broken".

    • And they are owning up to the fine tradition of nerfing by admitting that they might nerf something, but offering some alternatives so that you don't have to start over from the very beginning. I expect every MMO will be watching this piece of code very closely and will probably immitate it in every MMO from here on out.

      There have been similar solutions in other MMOs where characters affected by a nerf were offered a limited time opportunity to re-assign skills, powers, etc...Although, in a game like COH, where so many items and enhancements are geared towards certain skills and powers and can only be acquired through play, this remains an imperfect solution. However, those who are affected by a nerf should ask themselves, "Do I really want to play in an unbalanced game where everyone eventually chooses 'the combination' b

  • BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by oGMo (379) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @12:55PM (#29428135)

    there's a reasonable amount of content

    There's not even enough content to cover leveling, as you pointed out earlier in the review. Want to make a new character? Forget a different starting area... you're going to be doing all the exact same quests over again just to make your levels. This is not even mentioning the fact the quests are nothing but "go X kill Y collect Z", where the only variation is whether the "kill" or "collect" steps are included. There is no other gameplay. There's nothing else to do. Even the "large" areas are deceptive... maps appear huge, but you quickly find the screen going black and white long before you reach the edges, leaving only about 2/3 of the actual visible area open. Crafting is a joke, PvP is pointless, and the writing is bland. I don't think I'd qualify this as "reasonable" in the content department.

    • Read it carefully, remembering things that were said in previous paragraphs and it quickly becomes clear that the reviewer WANTS to be positive. A deadly sin, a reviewer should always be neutral.

      Easily fixable bugs are okay? If they are easy to fix, then why haven't they been fixed?

      He has to grind between content and as you say, there is a reasonable amount of content? Didn't the reviewer say at the beginning that this ain't the dark ages anymore, MMO's have been around for a long time and dev's should kn

      • I'm digressing a bit, but surprisingly, class-based multi-player FPS games work fairly well.

        Team Fortress 2 being my main example here... it's one of the most popular FPS games on Steam, where it fights Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source for most played multiplayer game.*

        Team Fortress 2 doesn't try to balance each class against every other class. Instead, with 9 classes, each class is good at killing 4 classes, and not-so-good at killing 4. Against the same class is an even match. Medic is somewhat

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      I have found a mild hole around 13-14. For me this is no big deal now that they have the Prison Breakout quest public quest fixed. I'm quite happy to make up the level or so doing the public quest over a few times. You could instead go back and to the latter quests in the alternate starter area until you hit 15. That's what I did when the PQ was broken. For the most part, I have more trouble getting my quest log full (20ish quests I think) and not being able to take the spontanious missions.

      As for craftin

  • Is the UI customizable (like WOW) or fixed (like COH)? Wow spoiled me for MMOs - I want to be able to customize it as I want it.

    Does it follow the Champions ruleset or completey dumbed down (like COH which was also supposedly based on Champions)?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I wouldn't say dumb down. I wuld say different, and in logical ways.
      The game isn't turn based, so some rules and mechanics need to change to reflect that.
      You have some control over your stats, but in increments.

      I would see if you can find someone that has it to check it out before plopping down 50 bucks for 30 days.

      On the plus side, they went to a lot of effort to make you feel like your a hero, and have an effect on the world. The non-heor graphics drive me up the wall, so I stopped playing.

  • More like a strong 6.

    I wanted to like the game, I really enjoy the Champions role playing game.

    While there is some nive costume making, and some of the visually effects of the powers are extremely cool.
    The game becomes boring pretty fast, and the 'comic book' effect on the art is just plain irritating.

    I could play it for longer then two weeks. I was just bored.

  • I would never hire this guy. The industry is barely a decade old and according to this guy there are paradigms that have been established that hold forever. Apparently, this guy has not heard of creativity and innovation. Why is there something rather than nothing? Those that know the answer are the ones that will create new paradigms. Too bad some people can't see farther than their nose and make so bold and naive claims.
  • If anything wanted me to quit the game it would be the way they handle retcon simply because you can hose a character fairly easy when choosing skills.

    They give you out a testing room (which is nice) but its just a bunch of high level dummies which in no way show how the skills will turn out in real game play.

    So now you need 20 gp to revoke all the skills you took after that and thats usually way more than you will ever see in 6 months of game play and now you have to redesign your gameplay around the mecha

  • Does anyone know how closely this MMO corresponds to the book based RPGs by the same name? I seem to recall that the character power creation scheme was interesting.

  • Does it seem to anyone else that the graphics engine in this game already seems extremely aged?

    I understand that MMOs have a longer development lifespan than most other kinds of games, but it seems like they started off with a crappy engine, threw some cell shading onto it, and then said "Ok, that looks decent enough, on to the rest!" It may also be an issue of not seeing the graphics in motion or something, but by and large, from the screenshots I've seen, it just seems like some crappy texture work with
    • by pdboddy (620164)
      Eeh, you can only get so realistic before you start to choke the average computer. MMOs appeal to a wider crowd than just the "hard core" gamers. And this came up recently in an article somewhere, can't find the link currently, about how fun or a good story beat graphics.

      And as mentioned, the outlining can be turned off. I left it on for a reason... it gives a comic book feel to the game.
    • Actually, it's good to see I'm not the only one.

      And I don't think it's just the engine.

      When I put the biker vest (as a random example) on a character in the old COH, I can really see the wrinkles and whatnot on it. In CO it just looks a lot more bland and smoothed out, in between those cel shading lines.

    • First of all, the cell shading can be turned off, but I do have to agree that they could have quite easily put better quality textures in it.
    • The game is actually remarkably attractive, and the cel shading makes faraway objects very recognizable. Screenshots never do justice to games these days - you need to see it in action.

  • How many different characters can you create? Where do you get the lifetime subscription? (I don't see it on the website.) Is this a game even an 8-year old can enjoy? And most importantly, how large can you make the female Champion's breasts?
    • by pdboddy (620164)
      There are sixteen slots for characters.

      The lifetime subscription was for pre-orders only, and ended around Sept. 1st.

      The 8-yo could enjoy the game, yes, if they like MMOs.

      About this [googlepages.com] big.
  • Contradictions and free passes galore. I've worked as a game reviewer and this has all the hallmarks of a rookie trying to cover a massive title like an MMO. Major UI lag, poor quest structuring, lack of starting areas, etc. yet all is forgiven each time and the game still pulls away an 8/10? 7/10 maybe would be a truer reflection based on the text given here, max. Some of the issues raised can be fixed fairly easily via patches, some may be more laborious, but once they have been addressed then maybe an 8/

  • The whole look and feel of CO makes it seem like a title designed to be played on a console, not a PC. I was severely disappointed in this title, despite being a big fan of COH/V, because it felt like nothing more than a simplistic console product, aimed at the ADHD crowd. You never seem to stop fighting, everything is a distaster happening now, the whole world is full of a new criminal every 20 feet etc. The simple UI for attacks and blocks was also unimpressive.
    I am not a console player, I like complex ga

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      Hear, hear! Everyone should know by now that requiring every key on the keyboard to have unique bindings for every permutation of shift, ctrl, and alt is the pinnacle of UI design. Only a simpleton could get any enjoyment out of a game where the developer put even the smallest amount of thought into how a player would want to interact with their game.

      We, the elite, proudly suffer the indignities of clumsy and awkward UI just so we can say we're better than everyone else! Can I get a Harumph? Harumph! Harump

  • I'm enjoying the game immensely, but I've seen no mention of the game's most glaring ommision, if not what might actually kill it: Total lack of LFG support.

    Getting out and meeting other players is what MMORPGs are all about. To support this, modern games all come with some kind of built in interface to help players looking for groups and groups looking for more players meet up. Champions has...nothing.

    In a way, it is actually worse than you might imagine. At least in most games you can fall back to spa

    • I have to agree. The developers really do not understand how big a problem this really is. Unless they fix this, the game will die a slow death, or at least sputter along until they do add it. I figure i'll play it now for a couple months. Then give up if they don't fix LFG. Maybe in a year I'll check back if its still around.
    • by vertinox (846076)

      I belong to a supergroup who we do vent, but even then its rare we group up because we can't share missions because they are chained or have level requirements despite the side kick feature.

      • by T.E.D. (34228)

        I want to build on this, because it leads to an important implication of the total lack of grouping: no specialization.

        You see, since there is almost no grouping, every toon has to be capable of soloing. By mid levels this means no glass-cannons, no pure DPSers, no support characters or healers. You could try to play a low-DPS tank, but you'd get tired of the slow leveling farily quickly.

        There are all sorts of nifty offensive or support stance-like passive skills that it would be cool to build characters

    • by Synn (6288)

      Wow, no grouping tools? Yeah, that's death. It's also pretty surprising because in CoH grouping is so easy to do and common place. It was the number 1 reason why I'd resub every now and then, the social aspect.

      Actually, I take that back, it's not surprising. MMO's are 100% a social game yet the grouping in them almost always seems like an after thought. When really, it should be the core the game is built on. Grouping, guilds, auctioning, crafting for other players, PvP interaction... all are pretty core.

      • by T.E.D. (34228)
        Well, I was around at release on CoH too, and it also came out w/ no grouping tools. They added the LFG tool soon after release, and improved it with filters and whatnot periodicaly afterwards. I'm assumeing the Champions devs will do the same, because this is such an obvious problem. But for now it is a serious issue.
  • C'mon. I'm sure the MMO is nice and all, but give credit where credit's due. Champions and the HERO system games are very good RPGs. I still have a huge collection of d6's from that... Who doesn't love the uber-villain with a 300-point VPP who puts it all into 8d6K+AP+IKB, ... am I wrong?

    Actually, from what I can tell, they mostly borrowed the name and a concept or two from Champions and that's about it. Not much of the ACTUAL Champions game is found in the MMOG

  • I'd be curious to hear what players of the old pen and paper RPG version of Champions think. The best part of the game was the separation of game mechanics from character type. It sounds like CO got that part right. The differences between normal, killing, no normal defense, and ego/psi attacks also made for interesting character variety. Combat in the original RPG was somewhat tedious and arithmetic-intensive. The review mentions "killing" henchmen. One of the hallmarks of the RPG were characters wit

  • The writeup reads like ad copy. I've been reading about CO -- I haven't played it, mostly because of what I've been reading -- and from all reports it's nowhere near as appealing as Soulskill makes it sound.

    The UI is generally described as 'horrible' and 'clunky'. The launch was moderately poor, with a variety of huge early nerfs that caused a minor player revolt. The central mechanism of combat -- attacks that build endurance, so that you can power up to larger attacks -- appears to have basic flaws, in

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pdboddy (620164)
      Ah, so if I were to type that it was a fantastic, spectacular game and that you need no other game after this, you'd believe me because of what I've said, instead of trying it out yourself? :P

      It's UI isn't "horrible and clunky", it is no worse or better than any other MMO out there (which in my experience tend to be rather cluttered at times). I will agree that it's launch could have gone more smoothly, however, a number of games lately have had less than spectacular launches, and still have done well.
  • Cell-shading... No thanks.
  • by Chas (5144) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @11:33PM (#29435709) Homepage Journal

    1: Fugly. However, I'm prepared to put up with fugly if the gameplay is there.
    1.1: Fugly in a way that interferes with gameplay. This I'm NOT of a mind to ignore. Ever.

    Essentially, two of the major graphical advances being touted with CO (over CoH) were:

    A: Cell Shading
    B: Depth of Field

    Guess what two of the most frequently turned off effects are.

    A: The Cell Shading outline (makes the game somewhat less fugly).
    B: Depth of Field (it interferes with targeting almost anything beyond melee range).

    Pardon me but WHOOPS! The two "big" features (graphically) and people are turning them OFF to play in an acceptable manner?

    2: Teaming is pointless to the extent that you could say it's discouraged.

    Basically, unless you gimp yourself in-game, EVERYONE is a "tankmage". The game doesn't really scale the difficulty of missions to properly account for a team. There's no real in-game benefit to it. You don't make more "money" and don't get more XP than running the same thing solo (due to having larger pools of enemies).

    3: It's a console button-masher. Sure, their XBox port got delayed more or less indefinitely, but the console fingerprints are all over this. Sorry, but I haven't been into button mashers for years (due to CTS). Even though you can auto your endurance-builder attack, it's still annoying.

    4: Wow, eight whole alt slots (16 if you bought the lifetime sub). Sure, to someone fresh from another MMO where you get ONE character per account, this may seem generous. But, even Cryptic admits that, having studied CoH extensively, most players there had an average of SIXTEEN alts. Comparatively, CoH gives you a starting allotment of 12 characters PER SERVER. There are 11 US servers (plus the Test machine).

    11x12=132

    Moreover, you gain character slots as veteran rewards (keeping a continuous subscription), and can purchase more as well. This gives you up to 36 alts per server.

    11x36=396

    This essentially allows you to try any and all crazy builds in the game. Without risk of having to bump a well built character elsewhere to make room for it.

    Moreover, for several issues now, CoH has had dual-builds. In other words, your toon can have a build designed for one thing, then swap out to another build with a different set of power choices and enhancement slotting.

    5: Play is completely repetitive. You run through it once and you're pretty much done with the game. Yes, it's going to take time to fill more content, but even CoH had pathing for various origins so that it was nearly impossible to have a single character who had run EVERY mission/mission arc in the game.

    6: Deceptive recruiting and marketing.
    Needless to say, a certain company tried to utilize a former partner's/competitor's community forums to recruit people for their games. This left something of a bad taste in the mouth of some.

    Also, less than a week (one day) post launch, there was a massive nerf of powers, XP earnings, etc. Now it's possible to RUN OUT OF NEW CONTENT IN YOUR RANGE to level on. This means you have to repeat things and grind to make up the deficit.

    There was another row over their offering of lifetime and six-month deals to bring people in the door. They said nothing about limited quantities, and only placed a time limit on when these packages would cease being offered. Then, almost two weeks to the deadline, they announced that they were "out of lifetime subscriptions".

    ???

    I can see the marketing angle of this. They want to make sure they don't sell too many of them and hurt future profitability. However, they should have been up-front about the fact that they were offering limited quantities.

    7: Not-so-micro transactions. This, in and of itself isn't inherently evil. CoH does it for boosters and expansions. My gripe is simply how miserly the initial offering of CO was compared to what you're going to be expected to buy later on.

    8: Customer-hostile support. Started way back i

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