Champions Online - PC - Preview 2
As the second major entry into the “superhero MMO” genre I can honestly say that while Champions can easily stand alone as it’s own game. Champions has it’s own distinct feel, lush graphics, and some very interesting twists on the typical MMO fare we all expect. Staggering degrees of customization for each character combined with a combat system that is both complex and easy to learn make Champions Online a very attractive massively multiplayer online (MMO) title. Based on a long-running pencil-and-paper RPG, Champions Online has taken full advantage of the history, lore, and creativity that has gone into the Champions universe.
Champions Online gives players an unparalleled list of things they can customize about their characters. Everything from your appearance, your costume, how you move, to your individual powers can be customized. For example, two characters could both use flaming attacks. The first could use standard red and orange fire while the second could use electric blue flames. As characters develop more options become available as more powers are gained.
In addition to the cosmetic options players have, players also have a great deal of control over how their characters develop. Each player can make individual choices as they grow their characters. As is typical fare for the “superhero” MMO sub-genre, players can choose which powers to gain. They can also choose which stats to raise. Some stats will increase your character’s raw power. Others will increase recovery rate or accuracy or the ability to shrug off blows. Training packages also effect stats – offering players the chance to make major decisions about how their characters will develop. Players can spread their points out, creating a jack-of-all-trades style character or build into a specialization.
One of the most interesting facets of Champions Online is the way characters handle their endurance – mana in a more traditional RPG setting. Each character starts with two attack powers. As their career progresses they will earn more. The attack skills fall into two categories. The first are “build up” powers. These powers are always available. The have minimal effect but they generate endurance every time they trigger. The second are what I call “finishing moves.” These attacks drain endurance and require a set amount to even activate. While build up powers typically do little damage, finishing moves do significant damage or have a significant effect. Players also have access to generic powers that can be activated for a price. Powers that let players fly, run at super speeds, or have other beneficial effects.
The dynamic between attempting to charge up your character’s endurance combined with the temptation of using that endurance to quickly obliterate your opponents is an interesting strategic twist for the game. It is worth noting that the give in take is very intuitive. Beginning players will be able to jump right in. All characters also have access to a “block” ability. While blocking a character is almost immobile and cannot attack. Any incoming damage is seriously reduced. In addition, some attacks have additional effects. A character can be thrown to the ground, stunned, or affected in other ways. A blocking character is protected from many of these effects. Enemies display a very visible sign over their heads before they unleash one of their devastating attacks.
As these factors combine, Champions Online is blessed with a very interesting, engaging combat system. While other MMO’s are often mocked for having combat systems that devolve to “press one button, go get a sandwich” or “press one button repeatedly” a true master of Champions Online will be immersed in the combat from start to finish, weaving attacks, defense, charging up, and unleashing their power in a deadly dance.
The final innovation that Champions Online boasts is the Nemesis system. When players reach level 30 they will be allowed to create a nemesis. They can design this enemy as they see fit – create a back-story, a look, choose a theme for their powers, and the same level of customization that players enjoy for their own characters. Over your hero’s career this nemesis will appear in missions as a “boss” you must face. Over time you can even permanently defeat your nemesis. And at that point you can choose to have a new nemesis. Perhaps your previous villain had a sibling, an employer, or a close friend who now has a certain vengeful gleam in their eye when they think of you..
Champions Online is one of the most innovative MMO’s I’ve seen recently. While it has many features any MMO must have, it also gives players extreme flexibility. Each character can be built from the ground up as the player sees fit. The interface for Champions Online is easy to use. While Champions Online will take players a moderate amount of time to master, any player will be able to learn the basics of the game very quickly. By allowing players to create their own arch-rival, the nemesis system will allow players to have an even greater sense of immersion in the world – and control over their personal, heroic journey.