Fans of Champions have been violently allergic to (frequent) comparisons of CO to City of Heroes, wishing that this game could be taken on its own merits without contrasting it to anything else. But that sort of fanciful thinking exists only in a cold, hard vacuum, and while Bio Break does love a moment here or there in the depths of outer space, we recognize that comparisons are inevitable and sometimes necessary to formulate opinions and to gauge worthiness. After all, your time is a limited quantity, and you want to make sure you’re playing what’s best for you.
So why not compare the two games, just for fun? After all, they’re both superhero MMOs, they were both developed by Cryptic, and they both share enough of their makeup (and art assets) to be step-brothers. Oh, and I’ve played both (and in the same year), so there’s that.
This feature is one of the most touted and celebrated of both games, as just about everyone loves the freedom to tweak and customize their character to give them that unique (or, hey, copycat) look. While Champions has more “crazy” options, including a lot of additional polygons for above-costume pieces, CoH wins this handily. CoH’s creator has more options (several of the cooler ones which did not carry over to Champions, for some reason) and an easier interface. I can see this tipping the scales in Champions’ direction if they started pumping out a lot more art work and streamlined their sometimes-confusing dropdown menus.
CoH offers a mix-and-match between whole powersets, letting players choose a primary and secondary. Champions, on the other hand, allows characters to be built with powers picked from any set, restricted only by their tier system (which favors powerset focus, but doesn’t demand it). Even with CoH’s ongoing “powerset proliferation” (which sounds very unsanitary, in my opinion), Champions wins by a complete knockout.
Power Customization – Visuals
One of Champions’ big selling points for powers was something CoH fans had been clamoring for years — the ability to change power colors and also move their origin point (head, chest, fist, palm are the typical options). Of course, right when Champions launches, CoH’s “coincidentally” announces that they too are going to offer tweakage to power colors and whatnot, so I guess this point is moot. I’ll give it as a Champions win, because NCSoft never bothered to have this in the game until the competition showed them that it was important to their customers.
Power Customization – Stats
I never, never liked City of Heroes’ enhancement system. It was obscure (especially back before they would let you know the numbers behind vague details like “medium” and “very long”), annoying to maintain, and abstract. They’ve recently improved with with enhancements that never would become obsolete, as well as several combination sets that would give players cool bonuses. Still, I vastly prefer Champions’ talents and abilities, which give you a straight-forward choice of how to improve your stats and powers, so this is an easy Champions win per my tastes.
I still haven’t gotten the hang of Champions’ multiple “builds”, which let you swap between a balanced, tanking, support and defensive roles. This is partially due to the fact that each build has their own equipment loadout, which complicates the setup somewhat. At least CoH was pretty easy to understand in this regard — if you were a Tanker (or Bruiser), you tanked. If you were a Defender, you were support. If you were me, you died a lot. So barring a miracle that Champions’ build system clicks with me, CoH wins for clarity.
This is probably where the two games diverge the most. 97% of CoH’s action takes place inside instanced buildings and structures; I’d say that 90% of Champions is an outdoor romp. CoH encourages grouping for their missions, Champions skews more toward soloing. I never felt as though I had to take any quests in CoH as long as I found a group running something, but questing in Champions is an absolute necessity. The question here isn’t whether which one is better, because it really boils down to preference and playstyles, but for me, I enjoy being able to go off on my own in Champions and explore the world, with a side order of grouping once in a while. So… tie? I guess?
I’m not big into PvP and never really played it in either game.
CoH’s combat is more strategic, particularly with activation times, lengthy cooldowns and the ever-present problem of the slowly regenerating stamina bar to worry about. Still, CoH’s combat always felt fast-paced and fun, but this is eclipsed by Champions’ lightning-quick action, where you’re never waiting around for a power to recharge, but you always have something ready to go. I like both, but Champions wins due to its virility.
This is a tricky beast. I’m not hearing a lot of great things about Champions’ end game, but I’ve never heard anything great about CoH’s end game either. I think that simply due to how long CoH has been out and updated, and how skimpy Champions’ zones and quests are as of now, CoH wins the weight war.
Badges vs. Perks
Both games have an achievement system of sorts, and both work more or less alike. The difference here is that I found CoH’s badge system to be clunky and unappealing, which might well be just one of those pesky personal preferences, but it wasn’t the most awesome of awesomes. Champions’ perks, on the other hand, have a better interface and offer more substantial rewards as you can trade in perk points for goodies. So, yeah, Champions wins.
This is kind of a catch-all category for how alive and notable the world, quests and NPCs are. I loved CoH’s vomiting zombies, but I also adore Champions’ Walking Dead summons. That sort of thing. Champions has more voice-overs, which is a nice touch, and both games make limited use of cutscenes and NPC speech bubbles. Superhero games naturally promote larger-than-life personalities, settings and events, and I’m going to give this one a tie because both titles exude flavor and pluck.
This might not be fair at all to CoH, because they’re obviously operating with a much older graphics engine, but that’s the way it is. Champions simply looks better, particularly with the semi-cel shaded design, and — most importantly — the Champions world is colorful and inviting, whereas CoH’s is a load of grey cement next to brown buildings. Easy win for Champions.
There’s a lot of great things to be said about both MMOs, and a few negatives that plague each of them. Because Champions is struggling in its infant stage with limited content, unbalanced powers and other bugs, CoH holds its own (or comes out a bit ahead) due to its maturity and growth over the years. But I can see Champions sprinting far past CoH in the next year or so, once Cryptic starts adding lots more to the game and outpacing the future growth of NCSoft’s dev team. So for now, either title is a solid pick, but I’ll put my chips on Champions as a bet for tomorrow’s supremacy.