Champions Online: A Second Look

Posted Wed, Aug 10, 2011 by jeffprime

champions online

I eagerly awaited the launch of Champions Online for a variety of reasons. First, I was a huge comic book fan (and still am) and spent a small fortune on my now-gone comic collection. I’ve always been a huge fan of superheroes fighting crime and opposing evil. Second, I had played the Champions RPG back in the 1980s with my gaming buddies, so I was somewhat familiar with the setting. Lastly, it was during one of my separations from City of Heroes and I was looking for a new comic book MMOG to try out.

I was lucky enough to get into CO’s beta and continued to play the game thoroughly after the game officially launched, and I have to admit, I enjoyed playing the game immensely. There were a few things that I didn’t care for, design-wise, but overall, I thought CO was a solid game. Eventually, my vagabond nature took hold after I hit level 40 and I wandered off to other MMOG pastures. Since I’ve been gone for over a year, I thought it was time for me to return to Champions Online and give it a second look.

champions online
Heroes fighting against the legendary Foxbat.

A lot has changed since I left. CO is now officially Champions Online: Free to Play and supports a hybrid subscription model. You can pay for a subscription which gives you all the game content plus the ability to create freeform characters. Your other option is to play for free, but have limited character slots and have to choose from specific archetypes as opposed to creating truly unique superheroes. Let’s rundown some of the changes that has happened to CO over the past year.


Originally, a player could choose any power set that he wanted in CO with the limiting factor only being that certain powers could only be taken after a player had already selected a specific number of powers within that power set already or had a minimum number of powers overall. With the game going to free-to-play, players now have to choose from an archetype if they don’t wish to pay for the ability to have a freeform character. By choosing an archetype, the player’s power progression is fixed and they are limited to specific powers which they gain as they level.  If you choose the Blade archetype (a sword wielding hero), then you’ll be unable to get a healing ability as that it is not part of the power progression for that archetype. Currently, there are 8 archetypes for free and another 8 that can be purchased from CO’s C-Store.

champions online
The Marksman Archetype.

Overall, I don’t have any issues with the archetype system. The basic types of hero are available for free and, if you want to do anything special, you’ll have to pay for it. If you’re a subscriber, then every option is available to you. The basic archetypes, while not earth-shattering, are pretty solid and provide a decent number of options from which to choose.

Upgraded Zones

One thing that bugged me about CO when I originally played was the zone layout. The first three zones that you play in (Millennium City, Canadian Wilderness, and Southwest Desert) had a weird level progression layout. When you finished the tutorial, you had the choice to go to either the Canadian Wilderness or Southwest Desert. The first time I played, my reaction was, “Is there a difference? Is one area better for me than the other?” The result was some confusion. Then, you spent the majority of your time hopping from one zone to the other based upon your level. You would spend two levels in Southwest Desert, then hop over to Millennium City for another level, then head over to Canadian Wilderness for a level or two and then rinse and repeat.

champions online
You won't be using the jet to hop from zone to zone like a madman anymore.

The biggest reason for this hopping around was the insanely varying levels of the enemies you would encounter in each zone. You could be a level 10 superhero and be fighting level 10 enemies in one section of a zone. Then you would cross over the hill to a new area (still in the same zone) and find yourself facing foes that were 5 to 10 levels higher than you!

Fortunately, that has been toned down quite a bit. Now, after you finish the tutorial, you go to Millennium City and begin your adventures there. Later on, you’ll travel to the Southwest Desert and the Canadian Wilderness, but now those zones are much more smoothed out threat-level wise. You won’t be hopping around like a rabbit on a hit tin roof anymore. There is now no longer the confusion of where do I go next?


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