And now, the positives of Champions Online!
Character Creation – Champions starts off right away with its most powerful positive, an incredibly robust character creator that not only lets you mix-and-match powers to your liking, but has a vast array of tools to custom design the look of your character to be as unique (or derivative) as possible. It’s not uncommon to spend hours in the character creator, attempting to find tune a perfect look, and players continually come up with new and impressive ways to combine visuals to stand out from the crowd.
Altoholics ‘R Us – Champions really is the altoholic’s dream, as you are always thinking up new ideas for outfits and curious about how such-and-such powerset plays out. Two weeks into the game, and I’ve already maxed out my character slots!
It’s Got The Looks – Visuals are always subjective, but for my dollar, Champions is a gorgeous game — not just for screenshots, but almost every power has “zing” and “oomph” behind it. Whether I’m flinging five bad guys away from me at once with force explosion or chopping into a villain with a double-bladed chainsaw, I dig the over-the-top looks. And if we want to compare to City of Heroes, Champions’ world is light-years more colorful than CoH’s grey cement-on-grey cement style. There may only be five zones, but they’re all drenched in personality and atmosphere, from the ice zombie romp of northern Canada to my favorite, cowboy robots in the Southwest.
It Feels More Like Superhero Combat Than Anything We’ve Experienced So Far In MMOs – Champions’ action gets called “console-y” a lot, and I’d agree with that sentiment — but, in my opinion, it’s a very good thing. Combat feels fast, furious, and powerful, the antithesis of painstakingly-careful pulls and down-to-the-second timing of other MMO dungeon romps. Instead, you take on whole crowds of bad guys and decimate them, well, by being superer.
Travel Powers Galore – Yes, teleport is by far and away the best travel power and needs to be retooled a bit to bring it in line with the limitations of other powers, but I have to say that all of Champions’ travel powers are just plain fun. Forget other games where you spend gobs of money on a trotting horse and call it a “mount” — here you get an awesome travel power at level 5, and use it extensively to navigate your surroundings. Champions almost triples the amount of travel powers from City of Heroes (although some are just reskins of others, like the various flight powers), and there’s nothing that makes me feel more super than to see a bad guy charge up for a powerful attack, when I hit the teleport key and whoosh behind him to deliver my own death blow while evading his.
The @name System – Giving players a permanent handle actually works in the context of this game. We all play on one server, and as such, can always find our friends no matter what alt they might be on at the time. Plus, I never have to worry about my character name being taken!
It’s The Little Things, Silly – Whether you realize it or not, MMOs need lots of little details to make their worlds feel more vibrant and alive. You may not notice them as much when they’re there, but you will sense something is “off” when they’re not. I found myself delighted with some of the smallest details in Champions — the way water drips off you when you get out of water, the sonic boom that comes in mid-flight, being able to toss a lamppost around just for the heck of it, or even hitting the tops of trees and seeing them sway. You could argue that many of Champions’ features are purely cosmetic — which is true, but no less vital to the atmosphere of the game. It matters what your costume looks like, just as much as being able to visually modify your powers (hues and where you launch them from). Maybe flight and fire flight are the same travel power, but it felt greatly different to have flickering flames around me vs. soaring through the air all Superman-like.
Other small features I like:
- The use of talents and abilities to customize powers is a lot more intuitive and enjoyable than City of Heroes’ enhancements
- Perks are fun to collect, and they represent currency that can be spent for items and costumes later on.
- It’s good to see public quests in the game, although I haven’t partaken in too many.
- Creative enemies with a wide variety of skills — who doesn’t want to be lassoed and branded by a cowboy? Err…
- Being able to create an outfit and save it to file, to use or trade at a later point.
It’s Funny – Like the comic books it emulates, Champions has a snarky undercurrent of humor. Some folks might not like the fourth-wall-breaking, or the pop culture references, but anything that makes me chuckle or laugh in a game is a wonderful inclusion.
Summary of Pos – Champions’ motto might as well be “Freedom!” If it makes you feel better, we can make that a good Braveheart-ish “FREEEEDOMMMMM!”
Sure, you can put Champions down by stripping it down to its underpants of MMO features, which more or less line up with a lot of what’s already out there on the market. But if you do that, you’re missing what I feel is its biggest strength: that it gives permission for players to be free. Free to make who they want. Free to move up and down and underground, whatever they like. Free to whip up their own superhero origin story and to secretly feel as if they are the most important champion in the whole dang town.
This is a game where you do a LOT of people-watching, because it’s endlessly fascinating to see what folks conjure up, from the svelte to the abominations, from the freakish to the feline. I’ve seen the predictable superhero knock-offs, the Star Wars “Darth [NAME]” clones, the references to whatever pop culture thing someone might be digging at the time. And you know what? It’s all groovy. It’s a big, weird, messy asylum of creativity and clashing genres, and it works because that’s how the comic books are.
And even as I acknowledge and frown on the assortment of mistakes and problems in the game, it’s hard to put it down — Champions is fun, plain and simple, and it feels like a breath of fresh air in a field of fantasy-dominated MMOs.