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Champions Online review

Champions Online Review


Genre: Hero-themed MMORPG

Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment

Developer: Cryptic Studios

Free to play available

Champions Online Release Date:
September, 2009

Play Champions Online

"The style is impressive, the gameplay spans from bearable to absolutely kick-ass and the chances are you’re in for a treat."


Champions Online has been an MMO staple for some years now, along with developer Cryptic’s other MMO efforts City of Heroes and City of Villains. Unlike say World of Warcraft or The Old Republic, it hasn’t really attracted too much attention in the mainstream media, but it’s still maintained a userbase and constant chatter within the MMO world. Being free-to-play, it’s impressive just how much there is to do right from the word go and it has the very best character creation system I’ve ever come across while reviewing an MMO. I can’t overly praise just how much there is to do in order for you to make a unique character. Since Champions Online beta, the game has made a lot of progress with several content updates.

Choose your superhero

To begin with, you have to choose a superhero archetype. Gone are races, archetypes let you pick the sort of powers you’d most like for your character to possess. Would you like to be a master of warfare, a one-man army? What about having the power to control the world around you with your mind? There are a great deal to choose from and, if you have a paid account, even more. Each archetype has a couple of specialties and descriptions help you choose which is best for you. That’s only the beginning of the character creation process. Fear not, you won't need a Champions Online guide to create a character.

Next you get to design how your character looks. I’m not talking about one of nine or ten different bodies to choose from, and then a differing design based upon your equipment; you can change almost everything from the hat being worn or the tightness of the lycra that all superheroes are forced to wear by law. Although, in Champions Online, not even that is definite and you get to pick and choose how your character looks in a way that rivals even the biggest single-player RPG games. In the end, you have a truly unique hero that you’re proud to represent you in the big bad world of Champions Online.

Alien attack!

And that big bad world soon comes to life when you’re dropped into a city under attack by aliens. Heroes (played by other characters) are running around, fighting enemies. Police officers are lined up ready to go into formation and fight to the last at the drop of a hat. You’re in a warzone and it shows. Even though it’s just a tutorial, the game sets you up for a very exciting time and you soon find yourself dodging enemies and using your powers like a pro. Although it is very similar to World of Warcraft and other RPGMMOs – you get quests, perform quests, gain experience, hell, even the visual layout is similar – the pace is much faster I think and that makes all the difference.

As just mentioned, Champions Online takes the form of any other RPGMMO. You can have multiple quests at once, you speak with an NPC to start the quest, kill a set number of things (or some other, similar quest) and then head back to an NPC for your reward. The character I created, a master of guns, could shoot enemies from a distance and this made the early parts of the game very, very easy. I couldn’t say too much about the melee-based characters, but I imagine it’ll be slightly harder in parts where there are more enemies surrounding you.

Quests and stories...

I like the quest system in Champions Online, while it isn’t a million miles away from what we’re used to, I feel that the story given behind each quest is quite interesting. I spent more time than usual reading what I was supposed to be doing instead of just following an arrow and doing what I can. Following the quest’s lead is unnecessarily complicated but not so annoying that you find it bothering you too much. If you don’t know in which direction to go (although it’s sometimes mentioned in the explanation), you must click to get the waypoint pointer onto the screen. It’s mildly inconvenient, not terrible.

Graphically, the game isn’t amazing. It isn’t terrible, certainly not to the point where you’ll be questioning what you’re looking and it isn’t so bad that it’ll put you off playing, but it’s not the most beautiful game out there. It’s stylized take on the comic book look is very endearing though and the colours are fantastic – it reminds me of classic video game super hero games like Spiderman 2. It’s also worth mentioning the music, which has a fairly epic feeling, and the sound design, suitable for the occasion and not too annoying, both of which are decent additions to the game.

Good community and well-populated servers

The community seems quite good and the server seems well-populated. I can’t turn around without seeing at least one person who has gone all out on their costume and created the most unusual thing within their power. It says something about the power of giving people the ability to make their own characters that you’re always on the lookout for more and more outrageous costumes. You’ll also come across Champions, NPC characters from the RPG from which this game gets its basis. If you know them, you’ll have a blast as you recognise characters left, right and centre. If you don’t know the game, you won’t even know it was based on anything, which is probably for the best really.

Free to play is not full-filling

The downside comes, I hear, when you run out of things to do. For all its positive points, the free-to-play aspect of Champions Online is incredibly short. As you start to make your way through the quests, it seems you come to a point where the quests stop being interesting and game just has your grind up experience. I can’t say for certain that this is entirely true, not having played it for 25+ hours, but I think it should go without saying that if you can get 25 hours out of a game and no pay a penny for it, that’s nothing to grumble about.

I’d also say for all its good points, that some of the things you need to do in the game are overly fiddly. I give an example, early in the game you are told to scan some aerials. You go and kill the people around the aerial and start scanning (I believe there’s a keyboard shortcut, but I couldn’t find it and ended up accidentally stumbling on a button that let me use the item needed), but before long I found myself being surrounded by enemies again. Indeed, enemies will often spawn around you a few seconds after you’d killed their predecessor.

I realize that that is something very MMO, but it annoys me to feel like I’m having no effect on the world, while at the same time being constantly told how much I’m having an effect on the world. Every NPC thanks me like I’ve done something unique, while several other heroes stand around me reading the same message. Nothing ever changes, I can never fully save the world without turning around and seeing that everything is just as it was.

Definitely impressive for a few hours, Questionable afterwards...

The first few hours of Champions Online MMO are interesting and impressive, but not enough to keep you coming back for more if you’re playing alone or if you’re just not decided on which MMO you want to play. It gets more interesting, although you shouldn’t expect the quests to stray too far from the basic formula. Then, apparently, it goes downhill again and higher level players are left searching for something to do.

Play Champions Online

Champions Online Review Score: 7/10

Simply, Champions Online isn’t one of those games that I say isn’t worth your time. It’s free-to-play, it’s available on Steam and the download and update isn’t going to bust up your bandwidth allowance. Give it a couple of hours and perhaps you’ll be impressed, perhaps you won’t especially, but you’ll have had a pretty good time without any obligation to pay to play. The style is impressive, the gameplay spans from bearable to absolutely kick-ass and the chances are you’re in for a treat. You can visit our video section for Champions Online trailer.

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