Champions Online Impressions

Posted by Stropp on October 1, 2009 I have to admit. I've been putting off writing this post for a couple of weeks. Firstly, because I really haven't spent terribly much time playing Champions Online over the last two weeks. I got into it for about ten days, made a few heroes, and then bought Fallen Earth. Now every time I sit down to play something, Fallen Earth is what I end up selecting. So my impressions of Champions is effectively limited to four characters, of which the highest level is thirteen. And second, because Champions Online hasn't grabbed me. I'm not really sure why. And I've been pondering that for the last couple of weeks.  Here's what I've come up with.
  • The game seems thoroughly inconsistent. I can fight one boss with both hands tied behind my back, and then come up against another and be creamed before I can blink.
  • The quests need a ton of work. Some of them can be extremely frustrating. For instance there was a quest in the desert area that had me using devices to catch a zombie. Only it didn't work. Reading the quest text wasn't clear either. I had to ask my guildmates what to do. Turns out I had to burn him down until he said a phrase, then I had to use the device.
  • Speaking of quests. There's no other way to advance. Simply grinding bad guys isn't going to earn enough XP to level up before your champion is sitting on the porch of the Old Heroes Home. And you really have to do both areas, the Desert and the Canadian Wilderness, in order to reach a high enough level to start in Millenium City. That in itself will make alts an exercise in repetition.
  • Because Quests are the only way to go, Champions really comes across at this stage as a theme park. While there's nothing wrong with theme park games, I think at this stage in my MMORPG career I've had enough of them and would like a more free-form gaming experience. Fallen Earth seems to be very good at scratching this itch at the moment.
  • I don't really feel like a hero. Let's face it, in most other games you know you're a Paladin in training, or you're on a heroes journey. But in Champions, you're a superhero... with powers. And if you face off against more than two or three baddies you've had it. In City of Heroes, you can bound into a entire gaggle of thugs accosting the local citizens, and can spank them thoroughly.
  • The User Interface isn't that easy to use. It took me a while to find some features, and even then I had to search the web. It's certainly not the worst I've seen, but it could use quite some improvement.
Now it can't be all bad, can it? There are some good points.
  • Up, Up, and Away. Flying is very cool. There's nothing like scoping out the situation from altitude and coming swooping in to deal out some sweet, sweet justice. And what's better is that there is no clock on it like CoH. At first I was a bit hesitant to fly too high as I was wondering if I was going to run out of flying juice. Once I became used to it, the sky's the limit, baby! In fact, all of the travel skills are pretty cool, there's even a Spiderman web swinging skill.
  • The costume designer. It's a little more complex, and perhaps a little more difficult to use than the CoH version, but there's a lot you can do with it. People have come up with some amazing designs. What's better is that your costume is not fixed. It costs a bit, but you can go back in and alter aspects of your appearance. This is necessary because certain achievements unlock new costume parts.
  • The graphics are very nice. When I turned off the outlining, that feature really did make the characters ugly (and apparently hit performance too) the character graphics improved out of sight. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the game really does look excellent. The artists did a brilliant job considering how hard it must have been to get all those costume pieces to fit together cleanly.
  • Aside from costume design, Champions Online offers a wonderfully expansive range of powersets. In fact there are more powersets than there are character slots, so I won't be able to try every powerset without some character deletion. And the powersets, for the most part,  have a unique feel to them. My fire guy felt different to my powerarmor guy.
  • Did I mention flying?
Now to put all this into context. One of the things that I have repeatedly heard is that the early game and levels are not as good as the later levels. If that's the case, I suspect I am just a level or two away from a much more enjoyable game. Since I have the six month preorder, I'll be able to give Champions a little breather before I head back in (probably December when I finally finish the work contract I'm on and take a much needed break.) Hopefully at that time, Cryptic will have gotten over the launch blues and will have fixed, balanced, and added content to the game. If that doesn't grab me, well, at least my preorder bought a ticket to the Star Trek Online beta.
  1. Hudson Said,

    Ok, lifetime sub or no? Also did you play the beta? Why drop the cash on it? This trend amazes me in a way. People tend to just buy whatever comes out and then if it sucks they throw it away and let it sit.

  2. Stropp Said,

    No, it wasn’t the lifetime, just the six months for $60 deal. I wasn’t prepared to drop the amount required for the lifetime sub since I was already a little dubious about the game. Having said that I had been reading comments from people saying how much the game had improved from beta, so I felt a little more confident.

    In the end, I felt it was a reasonable compromise between the lifetime and the six months and it had the advantage of getting into the STO beta.

    I’d also been given an extension on my contract and had more than enough discretionary income to cover it. (I don’t really have any income sucking vices like smoking and drinking.)

  3. Oakstout Said,

    I bought a game card which is up in Dec., So I’m hoping the content patch they provide in Oct. will alleviate some of the problems with content and leveling. Still, I am having fun being a super hero and flying around or teleporting. I like a lot of the fighting animation and spell powers along with the ability to kick the arse of just about anyone i come up against. Still, it is a bit concerning that I’m doing content that is 3 or 4 levels above me right now and knowing I’ll hit a brick wall when i reach the mid to upper 20′s is disheartening.

    But, I do like flying.

  4. Pitrelli Said,

    I was sucked in with the hype and thought it would be the first superhero MMO done ‘properly’, whilst I had a heap of fun in beta I just couldnt click with some of the stuff and decided not to drop the money on it. Im not ruling out buying and subscribing to it in the future after it has matured for a good few months because at the heart of it its a fun game with a nice core.

  5. Stropp Said,

    It looks like the sales figures are reflecting some of the general misgivings and frustrations of the game. The current D2D figures have Aion CE, Aion, and Fallen Earth first, second, and third placed, while Champions is coming in at number eight.

    @Oakstout — yes, At the moment I think lack of content is their biggest problem. Making it hard to find quests to level up in the early levels is a sure way to encourage players to cancel their subs. Or wait until the big content updates come in.

    @Pitrelli — Spot on. The game itself isn’t bad as such. Just incomplete enough to add frustration. If Cryptic get some more quest content in soon, enough to alleviate the gaps that Oakstout mentioned above, sales and retention should improve.

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