Hey geeks.  There’s something unique about the desire to save the world with your astonishing personalized abilities.  So why is every superhero game so busted?

In the coming weeks I’m going to be reviewing the SuperHero MMORPG niche.  There are three current games on the market (after the closure of fan favorite City of Heroes/Villains): Champions Online, DC Universe Online, and the upcoming Marvel Heroes.

I will start with the game I know the best, and played the most:

256px-Champions_logo

Customization

So Champions gets this very right.  I’m gonna be throwing alot of shade in a moment, so I want to point out that in Champions Online, you are given the ability to make a very wide variety of character concepts.  The look of your character is dictated by, what may be, the most robust costume creator in any video game.  If you want a fish-man or a Giant Bear  with wings or just a fresh take on tights, champions offers players the chance to make these concepts a visual reality.

In champions, it’s not just your look that is customizable. The game’s feature with the greatest potential is its powers system.

champions-online-characters-screenshot

If you want to be Super-Strong and still shoot lightning and psychic bolts, you can make a character who does just that.  The freeform power system is gained only after paying for a $50 token or a $15/month subscription. It’s a substantial investment to get the game’s most desired feature, but someplayers still choose to go without it. It is extremely important to point out that just because you can make any character doesn’t mean that the system is built around any concept of build equality.  Some powers are simply better than others and unless you choose the powers based on performance there’s a large chance your character will comparatively suck.

Community

Geeks is good people.  Unlike most MMOs that are chock full of homophobes and ignorant, internet keyboard warriors, the Champions Online community is overwhelmingly welcoming.  Without ever intending to do so, I found tons of fellow gaymers who not only wanted to save the world, but wanted to do it in style.  People take pride in their creations.  The game itself does VERY LITTLE to encourage teaming or grouping.. the fact that there is such a social bond between players is completely due to the willingness of the players themselves to find likeminded people.

The game population, in my opinion, is much lower than ever in the history of the game. Champions-Community Of course Cryptic Studios lives up to its name in not releasing any of its game population stats to the public, but anyone who has seen the game over the last three years can give plenty of indicators to the game’s population.  With fewer players, the zoning feature is decimated, making dedicated griefers and general assholes much less avoidable.

If you are seeking positive social experience and to find a viable community there is no worse place to look than Champions Online PvP.  The player vs player community is filled to the sphincter of assholes and shit talkers.  The only possible joy a player could have is to defeat these people and shut them up.  If you enter PvP there is no current system to block out these players from your matches.  The worst part is because of the game mechanics, gamers are denied the satisfaction of DEFEATING these players – more on that later.

There is a very active Role-Player base in Champions Online.  There are a few dedicated instances for Roleplayers such as “Club Caprice” and “Minefield Club”.  Players in these instances usually play house with other players.  It was however dreadful difficult to find players who actually wanted to BE superheroes that saved the world and spoke in context of action heavy combat.  The content players rarely actually play in character and this is perhaps one of the biggest letdowns of the champions community.

Lore

So you can create any toon you want with a supportive community.. sounds great.  But the biggest failure of Champions Online is that these character concepts and players often completely disregard the robust and accommodating lore of the lesser-known Champions IP.  I am not just speaking of all of the Marvel Comics (and DC Comics and DragonBall and ..) character clones.  Some players take it upon themselves to create entire backstories not supported by the Champions lore.

LemuriaMission quests are as run of the mill as you can get.  Champions hired some really good and robust writers for the story and made it a point that most every mission quest is a piece of a larger story.  The problem (as it is with most MMORPGs) is that so few players ever even read the robust story or explore the existing world.  If you are a fan of the Champions pen and paper lore, the game completely disregards most of the actual lore.  Instead the game feels like a “blank slate” template of alternate versions of Marvel’s characters.  This is somewhat understandable because the game rose from the death of the Marvel Universe MMO that Cryptic originally was working on.

After launch, there was a full two year stint of content releases facing magic foes.. players complained that until the Resistance adventure pack magic stories were the norm, including the game’s only zone expansion, Vibora Bay.  This came as a particularly disappointing decision, because the game was just beginning to gain its footing and players who found the game simply wanted to recreate their characters from other games.  Instead of providing a superhero full immersive experience, the game simply gained no niche footing.

The tone set by the writers has a definite thread of camp that permeates much of the game.  There is a real lack of “realism” that does well for the game’s content roleplayers.  It also keeps players (PvP players excluded) from taking the game too seriously.  There are plenty of laughs and player triumphs, but darker more realistic comic books (Deadpool, Wolverine, Spawn, Batman) sell to a wider audience so it’s no surprise camp is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Game Mechanics

You may remove your sunglasses children, because here comes the ultimate shade. Champions Online manages to give you so much cerebrally but seemingly forgot that they are creating a video game.  It is hard to imagine there was EVER a combat and AI designer to the game, but if there was once one, it is apparent that there is none now.

Stats

There is no crafting in Champions Online.  There once was, but it has been completely assimilated by the game’s stat system.  This move could have been a great decision, but the stat system is itself busted!  The stats all do very different things to increase your character’s effectiveness.  There is however no governance to limit how the stats truly affect gameplay.  For one example.. every one point of Constitution grants 15 health points and there is no limiting factor nor diminishing returns model for stats.  This is compounded by the fact that the game offers one passive that just gives a blanket increase of all stats.  Some stats perform great feats, others provide very little to the gameplay experience.  If they cannot balance such a core part of their gameplay mechanics it can only get worse.  The game’s foundation has never truly been set and the building on which it stands definitely began to show its cracks over time.

Powers

Powers are imbalanced. Period. The combat system is based on a energy system that has been made completely irrelevant.  Even powers of the same type have extreme variation of efficiency.  You would think that block enhancer work generally the same with different effects or quirts to aid gameplay; you’d be dead wrong.  The freeform system is governed by using a tier gating system instead of a power tree.. this tier gating does nothing to prevent creating extremely overpowered characters.  At launch passive strength was tied to specific stats, however this was changed and no new system was putchampions_online Mind in to govern player strength.  The end result is that if you choose the powers that you enjoy, your build is not optimized. Then there are 3 or 4 builds that are optimized for either PvE or PvP.

Overall Ranged players have huge advantages over melee players.  For movement powers flying and/or invisible powers have huge, unregulated advantages over ground and/or visible movement powers.  Although it seems the designers had initially intended for there to be, Champions Online has no trinity gameplay of  tank, healer, damager.  Players regularly have the ability to tank, heal, and damage inside their singular build.  This leads to a dissatisfying experience playing as a healer character in particular.

Utility mechanics really fail in Champions Online.  As a superhero game that has a freeform powers system you would tend to expect utility abilities like stealth, crowd control, debuffing, buffing, and crafters/item users to be important to your gameplay experience.  Each and every one of the systems I just listed is completely busted in Champions Online.  Yaherrd? Completely.

Difficulty

The game difficulty overall is easy.  There are sliders that are there to increase difficulty but only inside instanced missions.  Because there is NO benchmark of effectiveness set by the system designers the game is set to the lowest common denominator with very few challenges for the advanced gamer.

Content

Shut up about the Foundry.   No, shut up.  It’s not coming to the game.  Before you go ANY further complaining about it, just know that.  The Foundry is tool for player generated mission content that is used in Cryptic Studios other titles Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. Not Champions Online.Telekinesis

Now that I got that out of the way.  Champions Online has a generally robust amount of content for a new player.  The problem is that it has had staggeringly small amounts of content releases since launch, and the content releases have gotten historically smaller, fewer, and further between.  To put it bluntly, the game is dead.  In the MMO world, the lack of expansion is death.

The developer staff that was once dedicated to Champions Online have been moved to the Neverwinter project.  While no one knows what the future holds, it is clear that Champions Online is not a priority for the studio.

Summary

Champions Online is a great game for people who like the Sims but say “know what I could do without?  All the jobs, living and social interaction”.  If you want to create a custom avatar to navigate a world in with and chat with people who sometimes like superheroes.  Sign up today.

If you’re a gamer, who seeks engaging gameplay, robust storytelling and balanced foundation you probably have never played of Champions Online and have no reason to start.

So..  Is Champions Online Trusted or Busted?

Answer:
Busted

 

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