Builds and Roles in Champions Online

By Reuben Waters -
The ability to quickly adapt to a given situation is one of the major things that sets true superheroes apart from the masses of masked vigilantes and can be the determining factor in whether you send your enemies off to cool their heels in Stronghold or you wind up taking a snow nap along the shores of Big Bear Lake in the Canadian wilderness. As superbeings continue to proliferate on both sides of the morality fence, the tactics employed to achieve one’s goals has also seen a dynamic shift.

Unlike traditional MMOGs, characters in Champions Online need not conform to rigidly defined classes, or perhaps more importantly, the standard roles typically associated with a class-based system. As you progress and unlock new powers, talents and advantages, you’re free to pick and choose exactly what path your character will ultimately follow. Want to be an unstoppable melee machine that shoots lasers out of its eyes? You can do that. Or perhaps you want to be a supernatural being that dabbles in necromancy but is also strong enough to pick up tanks and throw them with little effort; you can do that too. Within the framework of available powers in the game, the only limit truly is what your imagination can come up with.

Much like power selection, the role you assume in combat can also be altered through the use of Builds. The system is fairly robust and allows you to switch between offensive, defensive, balanced or support roles at the drop of an irradiated hat. Before diving headlong into the intricacies of what defines a given Build in CO, let’s take a closer look at Roles.

Defining Roles – The Basics

Roles could best be described as a set of interlocking elements that help define how effectively you can potentially tackle a given combat situation. If you’re familiar with the more traditional MMOG group make-up of tanks, healers, ranged or melee DPS (damage per second) and CC (crowd control) masters, then you could look at roles in CO in a very similar way; the main difference being that you can fulfill each of those archetypes within a single character if you want to.

You begin the game in a Balanced role, but there are three others that can be unlocked via Perks; Offense, Defense and Support. To do so you’ll need to deal, receive or heal 5,000 damage respectively. These tend to open up fairly quickly, and it’s worth noting that the Support role can be unlocked even if you don’t currently have any healing powers selected for your character. Watch for the small green orbs, called Boosts, which drop from fallen villains; the health gained from boosts factors into your overall total, and is an effective means of unlocking your support role fairly quickly.

Each of these roles will provide a specific set of benefits while active, altering how effective certain types of powers are in combat. Likewise, each role also has some associated disadvantages to help keep things balanced. For example, you can deal more damage with attack powers in an offensive role in exchange for a decrease in the effectiveness of incoming heals, or a defensive role can help you tank better but at the cost of increased energy decay.

Defining Roles - Advanced

Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits and disadvantages associated with each role:

Guardian (Balanced)
  • Standard Damage
  • Standard Bonus Hit Points
  • Potency of Healing powers are standard
  • Potency of Hold and Root powers are standard
  • Resistance to Hold and Root powers are standard
  • Power decays at normal rate
  • Energy generated when blocking incoming attacks is standard
  • Standard Threat generation
  • 1 Versatile Passive slot

Avenger (Offense)
  • + All damage is increased by 20%
  • - Bonus Hit Points are reduced by 50%
  • - Potency of Healing powers and effects are reduced by 20%
  • - Potency of Hold and Root powers are reduced by 20%
  • - Resistance to Hold and Root powers are reduced by 20%
  • + Power decays at 50% normal rate
  • - No energy generated when blocking incoming attacks
  • Standard Threat generation
  • 1 Offensive Passive Slot

Sentinel (Defense)
  • Standard Damage
  • + Bonus Hit Points are increased by 25%
  • Potency of Healing powers are standard
  • Potency of Hold and Root powers are standard
  • + Resistance to Hold and Root powers are increased by 20%.
  • - Power decays at twice normal rate
  • + Energy generated when blocking incoming attacks is doubled
  • + Bonus to Threat generation
  • 1 Defensive Passive Slot

Protector (Support)
  • - All damage is reduced by 20%
  • - Bonus Hit Points are reduced by 25%
  • + Potency of Healing powers are increased by 20%
  • + Potency of Hold and Root powers are increased by 20%
  • + Resistance to Hold and Root powers are increased by 20%.
  • + Power decays at 50% normal rate
  • Energy generated when blocking incoming attacks is standard
  • Standard Threat generation
  • 1 Support Passive Slot

As you can see in the above lists, each of the four available roles alters key elements of your character such as hitpoints, threat generation and what type of Passive powers you can have active. But what exactly are these passive powers? Read on to find out!

The Building Blocks of Builds

The first part of this guide covered the four specific roles you can fulfill in combat, but roles are only one of many elements that can ultimately be associated with a given build. Before giving a complete breakdown of the other elements associated with builds, let’s go over some of the basics of what a build is, how they’re obtained and how they fit into the grand scheme of character customization within the game.

Much like roles, builds are unlocked through normal gameplay, only in this case new build slots become available depending on your level rather than through the completion of Perks. The first additional build becomes available at level 8, or roughly around the time you reach the tail end of the Canada or Desert crisis zones. As each new build slot opens up, a new tab will be added along the top of your main power tray. To switch between active builds simply click on one of these tabs, or alternately you can also press the associated keybind on your keyboard (mapped to the F4-F8 keys by default).

You open up the build screen by pressing the “B” key. Within this window you’ll see a number of elements that can be associated with each build as described below:

  • Role – A dropdown menu allows you to select which of the roles you want to associate with a given build, as described above. Switching between these roles will also add a small graphical element to the left side of your power tray depending on whether you’re in an offensive, defensive or support role.

  • Powers – Each build allows you to alter the layout of your powers on the power bar. To do so, open your power window by pressing “P” on your keyboard, and then simply drag and drop your powers in the order you’d like associated with a given build.

  • Passive Powers – Unlike most powers, passive powers are associated with specific roles which will be indicated by a small icon on the bottom left of the main power listing. As the name implies, these are powers that grant some form of benefit simply by being slotted, though you can only have one of these active per build. Examples of passive powers include things like Regeneration, sorcery Auras or martial arts Focus powers.

  • Blocking Powers – As with passive powers, you can also slot one block power per build. These greatly enhance the inherent benefits of blocking during combat, typically providing additional boosts to resistance of certain damage types. Block powers are easy to overlook when purchasing new powers, but they can really save your bacon when faced with overwhelming odds in both PvE and PvP situations.

  • Travel Powers – While you’ll be using your primary travel power through most of the game, a second travel power becomes available at level 35 which can then be associated with your various builds.

  • Upgrades and Devices – You can also select exactly which upgrades and devices you want to use with a given build, which can be handy if you want to shift the focus of your stats to better fit with the role you’ve selected. To do so, press the “I” key to open your inventory and then slot the items you want associated with your build as you normally would. This itemization layout will then be associated with your new build, but keep in mind that you’ll need to keep enough open inventory space for these items to land when switching between builds unless you use the same items for each build you create.

  • Costume – As you open up additional costume slots, you can select which of them you want to associate with a given build as well. This opens up some pretty cool possibilities; for example you might have a defensive build focused on Unarmed skills but then decide you want to “Hulk-out” (or in this case I suppose that should be “Grond-out”) and switch to a Might-focused offensive build with a costume change that increases the overall size, skin tone or even full costume of your character. There’s loads of possibilities for how you can approach this, so be creative!

  • Name – Now that you’ve selected what elements will define your new build, you can give it a name which can either be something descriptive, or simply something fun; it’s really up to you.

At first glance, putting new builds together might seem like a fairly complex system, but it also provides an immense amount of flexibility during combat. Since you can alter any of your previously created builds any time you like, don’t be afraid to try different approaches until you find what works best for your character. Altering your current build is a simple matter of opening the build screen to make whatever adjustments you’d like, and then the system will automatically update based on any alterations you make.

A main restriction to keep in mind is that there is a short cooldown associated with swapping between builds which ultimately helps retain a certain degree of balance within the system. Otherwise, the sky is the limit in terms of how you choose to construct each of your available builds. Whether you choose to create a build that focuses on buffing certain stats, resistances or damage types is entirely up to you.
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