any MMO gamer who’s been doing their homework over the
past 5 years, the first name that comes to mind whenever customization
is mentioned will no doubt be Cryptic Studios. While not the sum and
total of what the developer’s first impressive effort, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/140"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes,
brought to the MMO table, it’s hard to deny the character
creation tools raised the bar to seemingly unreachable heights.
Interestingly, the industry has yet to see a true challenger in this
particular arena (Cryptic’s own href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/34"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Villains
not withstanding) – that is until it was announced early last
year that Cryptic had begun development on href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/co" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online.
Like a kid in a candy store with infinite funds and a sweet tooth the
size of Millennium City, I jumped at the chance to get some hands on
time with Champions
Online for a preview event
this weekend, eager to see just how robust the character creation
process is. I’ve had numerous character outlines scribbled on
the corners of every spare scrap of paper in my office for months now,
and couldn’t wait to see Dehydro, the coffee-addicted vampire
finally come to life in glorious 3D!
From the very first moment you log into the game, the visual
elements of Champions all but leap off the screen with plenty of cool
nods to the super hero genre. Character selection even incorporates a
series of comic book covers, the image of your character boldly
emblazoned upon the front with its current level serving as the issue
number. These subtle touches are found throughout every aspect of the
game that I’ve encountered so far, giving even the simple act
of logging into the game a “larger than life” feel.
Before you get to see the cool collection of comic covers at character
select though, you’ll fist be presented with a blurred out
cover bearing a giant question mark - another nice touch rather than
simply providing a small “create character” button.
From here the creation process takes you through a series of screens
where you start building up the basic concept of where you’d
like your character to begin their adventures. One of the cool things
about the way character progression seems to flow in Champions at this
point is that, rather than locking players into a set progression path
based on these initial choices, players will have much more control
over their character’s destiny which I’ll touch on
in a moment.
The first step in the process is choosing your champion’s
origin. Clicking on each of the nine origins gives a brief description
and shows how that particular selection will alter your starting stats
for things such as constitution, endurance or recovery. Scanning
through the list, many of the origins are biased towards four of the
eight overall stats, with a couple that spread things out fairly
Next up is the aptly named Choose Your Framework screen which gives you
the option to either select a premade framework from a fairly lengthy
list, or there’s also the option to create a custom
framework. Frameworks themselves will piece together the building
blocks of what makes your character ultimately tick (or burn, smash and
freeze things for that matter). Selecting any of the premade frameworks
will grant you five starting abilities (including two active
offensive abilities) and provide a brief list of possible future skills
should you choose to stick with the theme of that particular path.
Unfortunately the option to create a custom framework wasn’t
available during my playtime, but I was able to take a peek at just how
thorough you could be with that aspect of the process should you so
choose. For example if you wanted to create a champion that could use
both fire and ice attacks in tandem it’s entirely possible in
the current system rather than forever being tied to an offensive
archetype from only one elemental type or the other. Cryptic certainly
hasn’t pulled any punches in terms of allowing players to
create the exact
champion they want, rather than a rough approximation.
With a basic origin and power set squared away, it was finally time to
dive headfirst into what I could only describe as being a character
creation tool so robust it’s almost an entire game in and of
itself. Every minute detail of your champion can be tweaked and altered
in some way, right down to the type of eyes your character has and what
color they are; and I’m not just talking the iris here folks!
Want no iris at all? style="font-style: italic;">BAM!
Done. Want your eyes to be neon green? You guessed it, that’s
entirely possible as well.
Thanks to a layered 3D approach, many of the costume pieces will
actually sit on top of one another rather than having the typical
“painted on” look. Sure, the option is definitely
there to wear a basic skin-tight spandex costume and cape combo, but
even the material your costume is made out of can be altered, so with a
few simple clicks that spandex can become either leather or metal. The
metal material selection packs a particularly impressive visual punch,
especially when paired with any number of robotic limbs, tubes or
One element absent from the preview that I was hoping to check out is
the concept of altering the particle color of your powers, or even the
specific body parts they emanate from. All things considered there are
more options to play around with than any other MMO currently on the
market. For those of you who, like me, can easily while away the hours
messing around with customization options, Champions certainly
won’t disappoint. I expect a fair few players will spend a
good chunk of their play time come launch day simply tweaking the
visual aspects of their champions before ever taking their first steps
into the tutorial zone in Millennium City. As for myself, I
can’t wait to scamper around as Dehydro, reigning doom down
on the heads of my doomed enemies!
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