Wot I Think: Champions Online

By Kieron Gillen on September 16th, 2009 at 1:47 pm.

In daylight especially, the city is actually really quite pretty. Oh my. Factual caption. Who'd have thunk it?

The Maker Of Supermen Returns! Cryptic have had their Champions Online out in the wild for a couple of weeks now. It’s time to pull on the Spandex and see Wot I Think…

I actually like Champions. It’s a lot like City of Heroes.

Yeah, I’m damning with faint praise already, because I want you to be used to the tone. Yes, it feels like a totally justified sequel to Cryptic’s previous game… but it also very much feels like City of Heroes. Its strengths are primarily CoH’s strengths. Its weaknesses… well, some are CoH’s too, and others are entirely its own.

Like City of Heroes, this is a superhero Persistent World Online RPG. You design your own hero, and head forth to pummel bad guys and earn experience points until your character makes a DING! noise. At which point you’ve “leveled” and people will say “gratz” to you. No, really. Like City of Heroes, there’s more of a heavy leaning towards instanced missions, where you disappear into a dungeon to biff someone on the kisser for being mean to Mrs Justice. The instancing has also spread wider. Like Guild Wars, rather than individual servers each of the game’s maps has many shards you can bounce between. At the cost of the sense of a world of regularly re-appearing strangers – which was never exactly City of Heroes’ strongest point anyway – you gain the ability to go play with any of your friends in the world.

This sort of friendliness was always key to the design, and it generally remains here. Take side-kicking, always one of City of Heroes’ best features, which returns. In short, when two people of wildly differing levels play together they raise the effective fighting ability of the lower to the higher. Between side-kicking and the server system, this makes playing with your friends easier than ever. Which, is a good thing, assuming you’ve got friends you like.

I wish I had friends I liked. Sadface.

The Westworld-esque robot wild-west town is actually pretty cute.

The odd thing is how its accessibility has disappeared in other ways. The character creation, inspired by the original pen & paper system, is powerful and really quite novel, but can trip up a player in various ways which are difficult to recover from. Rather than having set classes,the system works by getting you to fundamentally /build your own/ class. Frameworks exist, but really you get to choose whatever powers you wish, with some higher-level abilities requiring earlier ones. So my character Warwych only opened up her heftier energy-area-effect blasts by having multiple abilities in the track. This part of the system is actually pretty intuitive – if you stay within a power set you’ll end up with a reasonably effective hero, and if you wander beyond it you’re aware you’re walking off the tracks.

The problem comes more with the other ways you can tweak your character. Advantages which allow you to customize individual abilities – for example having Warwych’s force-field turning some of the incoming energy into power to fire right back at her FOUL PERSECUTORS – are reasonable, but something as simple as a stat-boost can trip you up enormously. You see, you get to choose two super-stats as you progress. These two abilities will give you a damage bonus, proportional to how high they are. It’s their way to make sure your damage-output is linked to stats which are useful to your profession, rather than primarily linking them to a stat your – say – empathy wouldn’t have boosted (e.g. Strength). Which is all very well, but the game’s not very good at explaining how fundamentally important this choice is. Other elements – your ability to swap builds, giving a bonus – is equally mysterious. There’s screens of text at every point, but there’s bits where you wish they’d just boil it down to a simple message to make sure even the idiots (i.e. most of us) don’t mess up something as fundamental as a 30%+ damage boost. That’s the difference between walking missions and missions walking you.

From the opening weekend event. Aliens invaded. They were punched. Poor aliens.

And we link back to accessibility. This wouldn’t be as big a problem in City of Heroes where you gained regular respecs (the ability to reassign your powers), but respecing has been dialed back enormously. (Respecing is described as “retcon” in one of Champions’ many cute nods – as an aside, this is one of the most impressively wordplay-based games I can remember playing). Presumably, since the ability to completely redefine yourself from scratch means a different thing in a system where you can pick pretty much any powers, they wanted to keep a firmer hand on it. However, the costs are prohibitive. If you’ve realised you’ve made a mistake even a few levels later, you’re looking at losing hefty chunks your accumulated wealth to fix it. Cryptic have backed away from the full strength of this policy – they gave a free full retcon with the last patch – but for a game which is all about a degree of experimentation, making bad experiments such a punitive experience strikes me as ill-advised.

Generally speaking, in terms of the amount of systems available, it’s a more complicated game than City of Heroes was, at least at launch. There’s a small crafting system, for example. The complications do cause a few problems – the tutorial section suffers worst. It’s a small-area invasion, leading through what’s meant to be an exciting semi-scripted mission of alien conflict. Which is fine. However, it also, at every step, introduces you screenfuls of text, some entirely minor details which don’t really matter and others absolutely key mechanics you have to grasp or you’ll get hammered. It’s pulling both ways at once, and while I breezed through it, it was enough to turn comrade John Walker off the game entirely.

He didn’t even get a chance to be a terrible healer. Sad face again.

And then they do something entirely lovely, like give you your first travel power at level 5. And that’s just great: you will believe a low level character can fly. It’s a fine example of Cryptic following some of CoH’s best directions. There’s an absolute minimum of down-time between combat, while not allowing you to have a sneaky recharge while a battle’s ongoing. It is one of the most atmospheric MMOs in existence. Enemies don’t simply stand in the killing fields waiting to be culled for experience, but at least give the impression of being up to some wrongdoing, threatening the innocents and similar. Citizens run up to you to hail you for your majesty or even give you new tasks. They’ve nabbed the open mission idea from Warhammer, encouraging people to fight enemies together without teaming up. And most central, there’s the character design tool itself, which turns the world into a glorious kaleidoscopic fashion-parade of the far reaches of the human imagination. Also, people dressed up as Deadpool. While you can unlock other pieces by finding bits of equipment, I’d argue the ability to play with an iconic, personally designed figure remains one of Cryptic’s strongest cards. I like Warwych in a way which I like few game characters. She wasn’t designed by an idiot, for one. Well, she was, but it’s an idiot I generally get on with.

This is me being a total hypocrite having made - ahem - a Powerful Lady.

And it’s odd playing her again after all these years. I made a few other alts, but in terms of the majority of my play – about twenty hours with her, if you were wondering, so this is a first-type MMO review – it felt a lot like coming home. Even with the cartoon filters it looks a lot like City of Heroes, with some of the mission locales looking worryingly similar. But – fundamentally – in a second by second way, it’s a better game. I’m still sitting back and blasting, but rather than looping pressing 1-2-1-2-3-1-2-1-2-4 or whatever on the keyboard, I’m using a smaller set of analogue powers. In other words, I’m choosing exactly how much of a blast I want to perform by holding down the key. Elements like active blocks, allowing you to choose to go defensive and minimize an enemy’s ultra-blast, give it another slight action twist.

It’s more fun to be Warwych in Champions. I like that. Happy face.

The problem is, whether it’s enough. I like this, but I don’t love this. I was never the sort to go out with the same sort of girl twice, and there’s not enough to demand months of my time here. If there’s a main fault with the game, I’d question the amount of content. When Champions was announced I talked with Jack Emmert about the problems of making an MMO for consoles. It’s generally accepted an MMO takes 4 years to make. He disagreed, believing if you’re working off a strong tech base, you can do it two. I’m not sure Cryptic have proved him right.

There’s a limited amount of actual content – a fork in the opening between going to Canada or the desert is the only division of missions, so there’s nothing like World of Warcraft’s unique starting areas for each race. In other words, on the way up, you’ll be replaying a lot of content. My friends who’ve breached level 30 are filling my chat window with talk of a mission gap. Especially then you need to find and play every bit of mission-content in the game to progress without simple grinding. While they have free content expansions announced – one thing Cryptic have always been good at – the game desperately needs more stuff. Hell, one feature that the game could really do with nabbing from City of Heroes – the player generated missions, added after Cryptic sold the game to NCSoft outright – would have done a lot to help. You also question the wisdom of keeping the Nemesis system – one absolutely unique system to Champions where you create an arch-foe to harry you – until level 25. That’s a long time for veterans of City of Heroes to wait for the single main stand-out new thing. I didn’t even get to it.

A little team-up with Schzio. At least he's not a bad healer like John. Did I mention John's a bad healer? He is. I probably should have.

As I said, I like Champions, but it’s telling that I’m the only RPSer who played even that long. We were looking forward to Champions, planning to get the band back together. City of Heroes was, after all, the only social game the four of us played together for an extended period of time. As it was, John pretty much bounced off the tutorial, Jim was always the one least interested in this sort of trad action-RPG approach and Alec felt burned out on this approach to the MMO by the early-teens, playing the game and wondering why is he meant to care about these numbers again? It happened so quickly we didn’t even get a chance to have Andov, Nitefall, the Entomolygist and Warwych get together for a screenshot. Which makes me a little sad.

I think it’s worth playing, especially if you haven’t played City of Heroes, and especially if you approach it as a shorter-term game. For the amount of time and adventure I had, I basically treated it like a Diablo-esque action RPG. If I bought it and cancelled it after a month, I’d have probably have played it as much as I’d play a trad-RPG… and still be able to rejoin if the game blossoms into more of a MMO ongoing experience.

It’s well worth playing. But, unlike City of Heroes back in 2004, I don’t feel the need to say you have to.

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65 Comments »

  1. Myros says:

    Pretty much sums up my feelings. Ive played 5 toons to level 20ish and had a good amount of fun trying different play styles and seeing what works well for me. But about that level 20 mark it always started getting slow/dull and it made me want to go try out a new toon, but as you mentioned there are only 2 areas to play from so being forced down one of those same paths over and over lost its appeal quickly.

    I’ve enjoyed the experience, but can’t really see paying anything beyond that ‘free’ month, at least for now. It is something I would consider returning to but with new MMO games on the horizon it will be hard fitting it in again I think.

  2. Spoon says:

    Pretty much echos my own thoughts on the game. Aside from the glaring lack of content, the one thing that bothers me about the game is that there will always be that one power that outshines all your others, and the game turns into a spam one power fest. I am enjoying myself but I have yet to decide if they get my money after the free month.

  3. LewieP says:

    Pretty much pretty much

  4. Clovis says:

    Is there an internal debate amongst the RPS members on whether or not to use captions/tooltips on images? Sometimes they are there, sometimes not. I particularly enjoyed the captions on this page. Happy face.

    I basically treated it like a Diablo-esque action RPG. If I bought it and canceled it after a month

    That sounds great, but I’m too cheap to actually buy the game and pay the first month’s fee. That’s a pretty expensive game for that experience. In the (ancient?) past you could get away with paying $10, getting your Diablo-like experience from an MMO, and quitting. Sweet.

  5. Sparvy says:

    I have been starting to feel the MMO itch again, and this is definitely a contender (though most likely I will just slide back into WoW for a few months, Im weak).

    On an unrelated note, I seem to be unable to log into the forums. Assuming I have not been banned for some nefarious deed it is probably just one of those glitches with the forum software again, any idea if it can be fixed?

  6. Mike says:

    The early-mistake punishment is really making me not want to play; that, and the lack of good team-based shenanigans which partly comes from the role-less system they’ve implemented. It’s okay, but I don’t think I’ll play for much longer until it’s become something more.

  7. Clovis says:

    I have that problem in the forum too, but only from work. I’m stuck using IE 6 there, so that could be an understandable problem. At home I log on fine with firefox.

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Clovis: It’s just personal style and/or whether someone can be bothered. I think I do it most often, because this sort of thing amuses me most.

    And doesn’t the first month normally come free with games?

    Sparvy: Delete your cookies and try again. Also, wait a bit. Something’s happening.

    KG

  9. Andy says:

    I’m with spoon. I have a feeling that when it comes to actually sending away my monthly sub fees I’ll have just about stopped playing it.
    It’s fun. Actually quite a lot of fun. But something makes me waver each time I go to double click that icon.

  10. LewieP says:

    @KG
    Well, with normal games, forever comes for free, it’s just MMOs that charge you forever and ever.

  11. Ian says:

    I’ll probably give this a go once there’s a free trial and try to hook up with some RPSers as I doubt any of my other gaming chums will be interested.

  12. Sunjammer says:

    “Toons”? Where does this word come from, and since when did it become okay to call characters this. I am filled with etymological disgust.

  13. Jim Rossignol says:

    I think Toons is from Second Life?

  14. Dave says:

    In the case of a comic-book game, I don’t see how “toons” is a bad term. At any other time though…

  15. Psychopomp says:

    I think I’ll add my voice to the Rock Pretty Much Shotgun choir.

  16. Frye says:

    Hmm why is it so hard to get a proper business model for less-than-triple-A MMO’s? They all seem to either lack content, disappointing the guys who pay a monthly fee or are just plain not worth it. 10$ / month is a LOT of money for something less grand than the WoW’s / Warhammers of this world. And the micro-transaction thing, well, not in MY house! Even DDO (which i totally like so far) is just screaming at me: we’ll screw you over somewhere down the line. They will never ever me level to maximum for free, which is cool, but they make it unclear how much the game is going to cost me if i would be willing. Not that i’d ever pay for a game with a business model very much like goldfarmers. Just charge me 5$ a month for your mediocre MMO’s, is that really so hard?

  17. Tei says:

    The snake gulch is my favorite area :-)

  18. Arathain says:

    How’s the teaming? I always felt CoHs best strength, outside of its customisation, was to make teaming easy and fun. So, missions auto-scale to your team, ally buffs are very powerful and the pyrotechnics are very lovely, that sort of thing.

    A similar or better teaming experience would make me tempted to try this.

  19. Clovis says:

    @KG: Ya, I forgot that, but LewieP said what I meant, I guess. So, now it cost as much as a regular game, but I feel rushed to get in as much as I can before I have to pay more. Also, I do consider myself cheap. I totally understand the current pricing structure of MMOs, I just don’t like it.

  20. FunkyB says:

    @Kieron: You need to use TITLE rather than ALT in order for them to appear in tooltips. I know IE shows ALTs as tooltips but Firefox doesn’t (as it shouldn’t) and I’m genuinely surprised that this isn’t enough to push the entire web towards using TITLE, as the standards say we should. ALT should be a last-resort for accessibility, TITLE is for witty wordythings about the picture.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      FunkyB: WordPress in the picture-insert puts in alt tags. Given a choice of writing TEXT any time we do a grab and not doing any gags, we’ll choose the latter. If WordPress ever changes, we will too. Until then, there’s totally Firefox plugins for anyone who wants the full in-gaggy experience. Yes.

  21. Citizen Parker says:

    This review sums up my feelings perfectly. It’s a game I like, but there area plenty of games that I like without forking over a subscription fee. (Well, in my case, a lifetime subscription that I just sold).

    Besides, I still think back to Kieron’s write-ups of DCUO and tingle in anticipation. I don’t really give two hoots about the DC Universe, but then that’s been true of Champions and City of Heroes too.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I skipped this one all together after playing beta. It really does not hold water.

      Others in my guild purchased it. Or should i say bought lifetime subscription.

      But none plays it any more…

  22. jalf says:

    the alt text is meant for accessibility purposes, as a description if you’re unable to see the image. It’s meant as an alternative to the image.

    The title may be used to supplement the image with witty comments.

  23. Dubbill says:

    If you want to see alt text in Firefox, try Altpopup: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1933

  24. Pags says:

    I imagine it’d be easier to fork over a subscription if John wasn’t such a bad healer.

  25. Spoon says:

    @Arathain: In all honesty, I don’t think Cryptic knows what they want to do with teaming. 99% of the game is solo-able, even after the patch that nerfed everyone’s powers day one. There is no random team quest generator, and most of the quests in the game are chains, making it hard to share them. As of yesterdays state of the game address, they claim to be working hard on improving teaming viability / rewards / accessability, but as it stands if you want a team focused mmo look elsewhere. The 5 man super villain lairs don’t even show up in the game until lvl 28.

  26. chris says:

    Good review, it sums up my feelings on the game pretty much on the nose and addresses what I think it the biggest tragedy of this game:

    With a character creation system that is so luxurious and so wide open, that begs players to create alts, it’s a damn shame that all of those unique heroes are literally living out identical story lines in the game.

    While CoH is showing it’s age, there are some fundamental aspects of the game that aren’t tech related that any MMO should learn from: It’s not enough for a character to simply look different. That character’s game life has to feel different too. In CoH, the opening missions are based on 5 origins and two starting zones for a possible 10 different opening mission chains. When it launched, WoW had 6 different starting zones for 8 different races and some 8(?) classes to choose from that provided roughly 8 different opening mission chains. Both WoW and CoH provide different paths through the game depending on what contacts you speak to in one of the many zones provided. You’ll probably end up doing many of the same quests on your way to the top level of either game but there is enough variation that a character can feel distinct. CO doesn’t provide anything approaching that at the moment and I think that it’s in trouble over the long haul if that situation isn’t rectified pretty quick.

    In yesterday’s State of the Game, Bill Roper mentions that they’re looking for a way to allow players to skip the tutorial if they’ve already done it once. While the tutorial is boring after repeated plays, skipping it won’t help the situation any. The crisis zones will simply become the new tutorials and get really old really fast too. They made a big mistake only creating a few zones but making them really really large. This is going to make it tough to role out new zones with new content in the future due to the amount of work that will need to be put into creating a new zone. Unless they abandon that strategy, the game is in danger of getting dull really fast.

  27. Flappybat says:

    Toons is from WoW.

    I tried the beta and whilst I liked a lot about the game it really bugged me how dense the numbers were. It floods you with the little enhancement items and I had absolutely no idea what made me better. Did I want +3.2 regen or 12 endurance? Do I care about Presence? I had almost no idea what made my character better in the way I wanted.

    The other problem was that the combat felt way too simple, charge your energy with auto attack then unleash a stronger power, rinse repeat. I suspect the limitations of console controllers has pushed them towards making a system where you use very few abilities.

    • Latro says:

      And yes, one of the big defects is that the system is not explained in clear detail.

      It is explained,yes, but as it happens in plenty of MMO, at the end you get a report for a power up that is kind of difficult to translate to what it is going to do to your char. To this day I still not sure what Presence does, even if I have read it, and it is possible to ignore something for a long time and not realize you are shooting yourself – Recovery, Endurance and Ego being as important as Strength and Dexterity, or even more depending of your char.

      Combat can have a bit more, not much more but just a bit, of subtlety. But that also depend on your power set – Archery has lot of different options, but others are yes, just charge Energy and unleash the big one.

  28. Latro says:

    Playing it till I get bored (my curse with MMO is that I stay 1-2 months top). Its CoH++ with some nice touches, but yep, is CoH.

    Still not seeing the “lack of content” but thats because I have severe altitis syndrome and I’m leveling my 5th character to ~ 15 again

    (Nice touch to separate the character from the account. All your toons have a name but on chat they appear as “ToonName@Account”, which helps finding people and not chars)

    If you see a @Klauplacius superhero around its me and I’d like to stop soloing :-P

  29. schizoslayer says:

    Toon significantly predates WoW. I think it goes as far back as EQ and possibly further.

    Anyway I’m enjoying it but until they add at least twice as much content it’s not going to hold me for long. I’ll get to 40 and bimble about a bit but alts aren’t really going to happen without an immense injection of content.

    This is also why the Door missions in CoH worked so well. Every zone contained effectively an infinite amount of missions and content behind those doors. Here they are locked into an idea of needing a large zone populated with quest givers and associated spawns and mission areas which only increases the amount of content they need to generate. In a CoH model you can plug more missions maps in very quickly thanks to the magic of doors.

  30. Latro says:

    And come on, Super Hero game with a visual look that gives the impression you are playing with a drawn character out of a comic book make “Toon” a valid Avatar substitute for me.

  31. schizoslayer says:

    Also @Flappybat the smaller number of powers is actually a good thing in my opinion. It lets me concentrate on playing the game and learning my powers and developing tactics with them much more than CoH or WoW ever did.

    I have pretty much run out of Powers I want to take at level 30 though.

  32. DK says:

    Everything they left out that City of Heroes has is sorely missing, everything they took from City of Heroes is inferior to the CoH implementation.
    Champions is simply uninspiried and thinks it’s far too witty and epic than it actually is.

  33. chris says:

    @Spoon

    I couldn’t agree more. There’s an interesting dynamic at work in the game regarding teaming and some of it is directly attributable to some design choices that Cryptic made.

    - Players are used to dealing in roles so CO’s open ended power choice scheme is a new dynamic that players are adjusting to. In the absence of more clearly defined structures, players are leaning towards solo friendly builds.

    - the game is tilted to favor offense. There are only 5 passive defense powers and a handful of buffs and heals. All of the content that I’ve come across so far can be overcome with one thing: superior firepower. Tough tank and healer type heroes aren’t required because things fall over pretty easily if you bring enough guns.

    - no LFG tool. I’m stunned that Cryptic, the people responsible for CoH’s looking for group tool, released a game without one. CoH’s tool is the best out there IMO. What happens when you don’t release a game with a good LFG too? Ask WOW. Their sucked and they waited so long to improve on it that players had already developed work arounds to compensate for its absence. Bad work arounds in my opinion. If WOW had an LFG tool like COH’s at launch, I’d be willing to bet that WOW would be a more group friendly game today.

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      Ah. See, this isn’t good. And CoH just released Issue 16, which seems to be a great issue with a lot of good stuff in it. I think I shall resub to that for my superhero fix.

  34. Dante says:

    I actually managed to get bored with Champions in the beta, which was a shame as all I was hoping for was City of Heroes but newer, shinier and with more people.

    I think it was the instancing thing that did it actually, instanced missions I loved, but instancing the whole area just meant that all the enemies were out in the open, constantly respawning, making everything seem like a WoW style grindfest, only with less people.

  35. vasagi says:

    toons i belive comes from your charecter screen in early mmo’s being called a paper dol(your charcters depiction) which got turned in to cartoon then toon.

    i think

  36. mujadaddy says:

    The problem is, whether it’s enough.

    That. As a $30 one-time purchase, I’d probably have gone for it, just for tooling around in whatever skin I liked at the moment. As a one-time purchase+monthly fee…? Not so much.

    Sorry, Cryptic.

  37. Drakkheim says:

    Everyone I know is suffering from MMO fatigue.

    We played WoW obsessively for a couple years, then finally quit. Leaving us wondering why it was worth it.

    Now we try every MMO that comes along, but no one has the energy to fully commit to becoming fully engaged in a game world again. Maybe it’s cuz we’re getting older or simply just that we know that eventually we’re just going to log off and all that time, energy and effort will be erased and we will have nothing to show for it.

    And seeing how the last few major releases have gone, I’d have to say it’s pretty widespread. I wonder if the WoW model of an MMO is now as outdated as the EQ & UO’s hardcore worlds were made obsolete when WoW came out, and no one has made the next version. Diablo 3 looks like it could be close.

    Tangentially, Facebook is essentially WoW without the pointless grinding and chasing better loot, leaving a distilled experience of the only think you walk away from any MMO with, memories, and with fewer ***holes and gold sellers.

    I’ll probably pick up Champions at some point and have a great month or maybe even two and then move on, if it’s still around.

    • WantOn says:

      I have also seen a lot of the WoW burnout and am probably suffering from it myself, still. This is despite numerous breaks since I started playing it back in 2003? I have Aion on pre-order and hope that quitting WoW at the start of summer will be enough of a break to get into something new (and good). As for CO, I never really felt the need to play CoH and hence will not be picking this up either.

  38. Zyrxil says:

    Put on some shoes, you hippie!

    Drakkheim says:
    Tangentially, Facebook is essentially WoW without the pointless grinding and chasing better loot, leaving a distilled experience of the only think you walk away from any MMO with, memories, and with fewer ***holes and gold sellers.

    Maybe the social aspect, but for most people MMOs are about the challenge of late game PvE or PvP in large group settings.

  39. Wulf says:

    I’m loving it because I can build whatever kind of character I like and romp around in an utterly cornball World. I have to say, cornball (60′s Batman) is a massive draw for me, and will probably keep me around and roleplaying long, long after I’ve completed all the content.

    Two things I find interesting though…

    1. The provided content is not enough.

    It wasn’t in City of Heroes either, that’s what people tend to forget. Yet Cryptic’s commitment to added content can’t be questioned, as was shown over the course of City of Heroes/Villains. I may be wrong, that might not be true of Champions Online, but if it is… I have a lifetime subscription, so I can leap back in whenever there’s a burst of content. And I’ll likely keep popping in for a bit of roleplaying or flying here and there anyway, simply because it’s so fun.

    And speaking of fun, the combat is too, it’s a bit shallow, sure, but in so many other MMOs it’s a total bloody drag, some MMOs heap on the quests to try to make up for the gruelling, dull, work-like combat, and I really hate that. If I had to choose between less content and a game that’s really fun, where I can just leap into a bunch of villains and BIFF and BOF my way through them, enjoying every moment of it, or if I could choose a game with loads of content but painful combat, I know which I’d choose.

    Very often, heaping on the content is a great way to disguise an entirely dull and work-like game. Can anyone say that’s not true of, oh… say, World of Warcraft?

    2. I don’t know what stats do, the game doesn’t tell me.

    Wat.

    If you go into your character screen and highlight a stat, it tells you what it does. Whenever you choose a stat upgrade (or in the character creator) it tells you what each stat does. Whenever a power relies on a certain stat it tells you in gigantic, bold, yellow letters. I’m sorry but… you can’t blame the game if you never bother to read the information that’s readily available pretty much everywhere. If you’re selecting an item and not sure about a stat? Check it out on your character sheet.

    Presence? Presence is how much attention your power draws from mobs, so presence is great for tanks or for escort quests. Not only that but it’s helpful to mentalists too, as quite a few mentalist powers rely on presence (as mentioned in big, yellow, bold letters)!

    …and people wonder why there are people playing as totally broken builds and complaining about the game being too hard. The information is literally right there, all the time, whenever you need it. If the basic stats of Champions confuse anyone, I’d hate to see how badly they’d manage at any pen & paper RPG. But then, that’s what Champions is, massively pen & paper.

    But yeah, there’s loads of information on stats and the only way I could even conceive a situation where one wouldn’t know what each stat did is if they completely ignored the on-screen information. The mind boggles.

  40. jalf says:

    It wasn’t in City of Heroes either, that’s what people tend to forget

    I fail to see how that is relevant. Does Champions become a better game because an earlier game had the same shortcomings? I don’t think that affects Champions at all. I judge Champions based on what Champions has to offer, no more, no less.

    I’m sorry but… you can’t blame the game if you never bother to read the information that’s readily available pretty much everywhere

    Again, why not? If people have a harder time figuring out the stats and their effects here than in other MMO’s, then yes, we can blame the game.

    I have a lifetime subscription, so I can leap back in whenever there’s a burst of content

    I don’t have a lifetime subscription, so I too can leap back in whenever there’s a burst of content. I’ll pay $8 or 10 or whatever, and I’ll be up and running. I can do that quite a few times before I’ve spent as much as you. ;)

    And when that is said, I’m really enjoying Champions. I don’t think it’ll last me much more than a month or so, but I’m happy I bought it. I’m having fun, and what more can you ask for in a game?

  41. Danarchist says:

    It is fun at the moment, I will give it that!
    The big problems as far as I can tell is too few quests and too severe a penalty for decision making mistakes. I have just leveled a second toon to 16 and found myself seeing fewer and fewer green circles each level. To the point im now doing quests far too difficult for me for lack of things my own level. This is ok for me, I was sick last week and had extra time to do online research on specs etc. But for a new player that maybe took a couple powers he is finding aren’t doing much for him this can mean a leveling brick wall. End of content. Game Over. And if he should want to go back and fix said error? Assuming he is the same level as me (16) and made the mistake two powers ago, he needs about 4 gold to pull it off. Without being the first guy to actually make a profit off the games auction house he needs 4 times the money he will have to even retcon. Ignoring the fact he may want to change his costume or buy a few “health packs” from a vendor. The games messed up economy is only overshadowed by its lack of missions. If i didnt find it so incredibly amusing at the moment id hang up my spandex for a few months.
    If there is one thing I have learned from the last three MMO preorders I have done it’s “wait 4 months, then play the finished game”. I think im going to print that out and hang it above my computer.

  42. Bagalot says:

    That’s the exact same problem I’m having. I’d really like to give this game a try, if nothing else to witness the amount of customizability your character has. Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing the same criticisms everywhere (which is a good indication they’re true and not just skewed opinions). A trial would get me to try it, and likely get me to fess up of month or two of subscription, but I just can’t justify paying the price of a full game and a month of subscription just to give the game a chance.

  43. Jimbo says:

    This review represents my thoughts exactly. I played a couple of characters to 10 and felt like I had seen the best this game had to offer me. Once it opened up into Regular-MMO-Land I immediately got bored and cancelled my subscription.

    A couple of additions I would have really appreciated in the time I played:

    *Make your weapon/s visible at character creation.
    *Throw in a power house at character creation.
    *Explain the character stats a lot better.
    *Make it so your weapon doesn’t just appear from thin air.

  44. dds says:

    However, it also, at every step, introduces you screenfuls of text, some entirely minor details which don’t really matter and others absolutely key mechanics you have to grasp or you’ll get hammered. It’s pulling both ways at once, and while I breezed through it, it was enough to turn comrade John Walker off the game entirely.

    I’m with John. I paid and downloaded this on Steam over the weekend, created my character and was prepared for a new MMO experience.

    After a couple hours, I was completely underwhelmed as well as a bit lost, but without any desire or “carrot” to keep me going.

    I canceled my subscription yesterday and uninstalled the game.

  45. nullwert says:

    I’ve not played a super-hero style MMORPG till Champions, but I thought it was time to try one. All sounded well, character customization as you wish and everything. But for me it felt all the way unintuitive, badly explained, and plain dull.
    My self-created champions look super – but my powers seemed to suck very early. Why it was that way got lost somewhere between the hundreds of lines of completely useless descriptions. Of course, I could have read thousands of threads written by well-informed insiders in some esoteric message boards – but I haven’t. I don’t think one should have to!
    In short I think: This game just isn’t doing justice to it’s potential and the MMORPG genre as a whole. It’ll get lost in the footnotes of gaming.

    BTW: I’d like to know how this genre generally appeals to Europeans (or generally not U.S.-Americans) in comparison to, well, U.S.-Americans, since I think the super-hero thing is a very much American interest. Is there any info on this (e.g. for City of Heroes)?

  46. We Fly Spitfires says:

    I’d agree. It’s a fun game but not a must have. I’ll probably pick it up at some point just because I can trade in Arkham Asylum.

  47. Bikes says:

    It’s a fun and involving game… if you have the time to read the forums and learn how the game works. Cryptic really dropped the ball on teaching players the basics, which is why many people complain about being underpowered. After the tutorial, the game dumps you in the powerhouse and leaves it to you to figure things out. It’s great that they’re trying to do something different, but it would help if they explained what they’re trying to do first.

  48. Stromko says:

    The brutally unaffordable retcons and how easy it was to gimp your character by picking the wrong powerstat, that’s what got me to unsubscribe to Champions and stop playing it.

    Realizing I put a week into one character to get him to level 21, but he’d never live up to his potential, or even be remotely tough, was a real downer.

    • Stromko says:

      Also having to do the same one or two zones whenever I made an alt .. Making an interesting alt was always a nice, engaging out when you got sick of your main character or messed him up, but after the first alt in Champions you’re doing the same quest chains all over from start to finish.

    • Railick says:

      I’m a total alt lover. I probably had 20-30 characters in Ever Quest . Once I get to level 20 or so and things start to slow down I always make a new character. worked well with Everquest with all the diffrent starting locations and quests in those areas. Once I run out of no below level 20 things to play with I just stop playing. I’ve never got very far past level 20 in ANY mmorpg.

  49. Zyrusticae says:

    Honestly, I loved the game, I really did.

    Believe it or not, it was the PvP that kept me interested, all the way back when I first started playing in Closed Beta in April. There was just something about the combat system, and the dynamics of hero vs. hero combat, that I simply found absolutely fascinating.

    But now… After the thousandth time getting chain-held and chain-KBed around an arena time and time again, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the brokenness. I’m sick of the neglect. What amazes me is that at one point, holds were NOT ridiculous (17-second duration, really?!) and for some bizarre reason they decided to make them impossibly powerful. Oh, and then there’s *teleport*, a get-out-of-jail free card that grants you virtual invulnerability from defeat in any instance. And the only solution to those is, you guessed it, abusing the holds and chain KB.

    So PvP is no fun for me anymore. I’ve made a character specifically to abuse the flaws present in the system, but it just sucks the fun out of the game beating on people who are completely incapable of responding back. And PvP is one of my primary motivations for advancing in the game, so now the repetition of content is really starting to get to me (though granted, this is, what, the 30th time I’ve gone through the low-level zones?).

    Oh, and the endgame is broken. No wonder they did everything they could to keep people from reaching it.

  50. TooNu says:

    What? WHAT? dude, it’s a whole lot of fun. The best part of Champions, the absolute best part is this, there is no commitment to anything, none, nadda, zilch, feck all. None of this from EvE “oh we have to go and destroy this POS today and we have to SAD their system”, none of this from WoW “oh we have to go to this 20 man raid today, come on we need one more tank…ffs…one moar tnak is there anybody that cna come?? FFS!”.

    You log on, you pick the hero you want to play with and you go find something you want to do in your short gaming period and log off and feel you achieved something with your game without relying on any large group of people. And btw, most of the best superheros and comic heros are all solo types or at least have a partner/sidekick/occasional hand/part time member of a superteam.

    Batman, Superman, Judge Dredd, Wolverine, Deadpool, DArkness, Blade, Johnny Alpha, Spawn, The Incredible Hulk, IronMan, SPiderman, The Green Lantern, The Silver Surfer, Thor, The Punisher.

    Such a great game that you can customise your character to be your own minds interpretation of your favourite superheros, and then act out your own heroic stories with your super hero/ant-hero and just go to town. It is a shame you reminisce over COH playing with your mates and let that cloud over your own enjoyment of a comic book simulation such as this. Sad Face.