By Alec Meer on August 20th, 2009 at 7:33 pm.
From the very first moment I heard about superheroic MMORPG Champions Online, I had one question – could I recreate my beloved City of Heroes character The Entomologist in it? With the open beta now live (rather unhelpfully, only so long as you’re a Fileplanet subscriber or have preordered), I finally got to find out. Live, little man, live!
This is The Entomologist, City of Heroes-style: Ento to his friends, and Enty if you’re trying to annoy me.
Less than 5 foot of big stompy superpower, and gloriously ridiculous in everything he does.
Champions’ character creator is much more flexible and powerful than COH’s, but I’m not convinced it’s quite as intuitive. A lot of major stuff is presented fairly obtusely – for instance, over-the-head masks are turned on by setting Hair to ‘none.’ Too much stuff hidden in sub-menus that only unlock once you stumble across the right option in the previous menu, essentially. But it is all there, and the degree of tweakery is impressive – a raft of accessories for every body part, every major muscle group granted its own size slider, and far more options for chin-shaping than anyone realistically needs.
The first thing that hit me, though, was the sad loss of the Huge gender. I guess it’d be too similar to COH if it was kept, but the Male, Female, Huge gag never stops being funny. Miss ya, big guy.
Next: lummee. I’ll be buggered if I know what Ento’s face is shaped like. Erm. Pea-like?
Still, the option to dick around with ear-pointiness, jutting jaws and creepily close-together eyes means it’s a going to be a fine game for genuinely distinctive player characters.
The body scale stuff I was particularly fond of. Loping, simian arms, beanpole legs beneath a hulking torso, strangely tiny hands, massive feet… This is a game in which everyone will almost inevitably look at least a little ridiculous. Good thing too.
So I’ve made myself a midget muscle-man, but he still ain’t dear Ento. Costume away!
The outfit designer is fascinatingly modular – you don’t simply pick a mask style and a mask colour, but rather you assemble it from various components.
As I mentioned, haircut was part of that, as were the eyes and eyebrows. To get simply that all-over red mask took a lot of fiddling. While I remain concerned that a lot of important stuff seems shunted off into less-than-logical sub-menus, there’s a fantastic degree of flexibility there.
The trouble with remaking Ento in it is that, in his original form, his design was very simple – so I ended up ignoring a lot of the fancier options simply to stick to that. Though I did enjoy adding eyebrows underneath his mask, still visible as two sardonically-raised lumps underneath the red cloth. Also neat is that the creator remembers all the colours you’ve used thus far, saving them to a swatch you can pick from when you’re recolouring some other costume element, rather than having to best-guess fromthe entire colour pallette.
Ah, now we’re getting there. Pure black skin, antennae, glowing yellow eyes, cheerily ostentatious giant E on the chest (though annoyingly stuck in italics)… Need to do something about those clown trousers, though…
And there he is at last: undeniably the Entomologist. Welcome to the future, sir.
Sure, the cape brooches are a little different, the antennae more overtly insectoid and the robotic left arm tragically less hulking, but that’s him alright. So proud. It’s fantastic to get the cape right off the bat, too – the idea that a superhero had to perform a series of quests for a tailor (as was the case in COH) before being allowed to wear a cloak was always openly ludicrous. Now you’re the picture of the hero you want to be right from the very start.
Don’t ask me to name a favourite between Ento and Ento 2.0. I’ve stared at the two of them for hours and change my mind constantly. All I know is that when I’m playing Champions, I’m still playing as The Entomologist. I can’t think of any other game where I’ve been able to create a near-exact replica of a former avatar, and I do find this oddly exciting. Perhaps it means Champions is too close to CoH (though, so far, they seem to play definably differently), perhaps it means I have no imagination. But it means Ento still lives, and that makes me a very happy little nerd indeed.