Champions Online Character Creation System Preview

For 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...

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For 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, 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 City of Villains not withstanding) – that is until it was announced early last year that Cryptic had begun development on 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 evenly.

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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? 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 plugs.

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 still far 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!

*insert maniacal laughter*

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