Updated Thu, Sep 03, 2009 by Savanja
When it comes to MMO gaming, all good things come in pairs. We've seen some great titles duke it out with launches that land close enough to the same date that gamers have to pick one or the other to play. There was an epic battle between EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, and a bloody PvP-ridden struggle between Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. As another September rolls in, gamers get to enjoy another big title beat 'em up with Champions Online and Aion.
So which game will you cast your lot for?
It's not an easy choice. With Champions Online already on shelves as of September 1st and Aion close on its heels with a September 22nd release, gamers could buy both games and try both, but in these tough economic times, that may not be a viable option for many. So how do you know which game is more to your tastes? Ten Ton Hammer details some of the features of each game and splays it out so you can make an informed decision. Will it be the Asian smash hit Aion or the dashingly heroic Champions Online that you pick up and play this fall?
Champions Online boasts nearly endless costume options
Both Aion and Champions Online have good customization in character creation but they do it in different ways. In Aion, creating your character means adjusting and fine tuning nearly every part of the head and body, allowing for characters that can be any body style you want. The character creation tool can make avatars of the same race look as different as a dwarf does to an elf. With that in mind, armor tends to be fairly similar between the same class at any given level. So while your skin may look very different, you may end up at the prom wearing the same dress your friends are.
Luckily, in Champions Online the opposite is true. The creation of your character's actual skin, facial features, and body shape is relatively limited, so the focus shifts to costume design. Here you can go nuts, and you'll find yourself spending hours creating every kind of costume you can think of. This makes each character in the game as unique as you choose for them to be. So while looking at a groupmate may be like peering into a mirror from the neck up, the only thing really limiting your costume choice is your own imagination. Simply cover your face with a cool mask, if it bothers you.
Recently Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle touched upon the importance of graphics as first impression in one of his daily Loading... newsletters. Aion and Champions Online are very different in their art styles and may appeal to completely different types of gamers. Aion was created for Asian players who tend to appreciate more of a high fantasy and stylized approach to their game graphics. Tall, lithe creatures of great beauty, bright and vivid world colors that are just too pretty to stay within the realm of realism, and sweeping landscapes that look like something out of a watercolor art book are all features of Aion's visual experience.
New graphic touches makes Aion more NA friendly
Champions Online stays true to the comic book style of graphics, giving Champions a unique feel. The comic book cell-shading and bright coloring offers the player a vibrant, straight-from-the-comic-pages world to play in that draws comic fans into places they could previously only imagine within their own minds. If you aren't into the comic book art style though, you can actually turn some of those features off. In fact, the graphic options in CO allow for quite a bit of tailoring, so if you don't like the graphics right out of the box, you can play with them a bit to find what suits your tastes.
Another big hook for players is content. Gamers look for different things when they log into game. There are soloers, groupers, raiders, and PvPers, all of whom are looking for a good time. Very rarely do we see a game that caters to all of these types of gamers with lots of quality content. So where do each games' strengths lie?
Aion offers soloable and raid content with a focus on group and PvP content. The North American launch is getting quite a bit more content than what was offered during the closed betas, much of which is additional PvE and contested mob bosses. This closes some holes in content, but Aion will still offer the best experience for small groups playing in overland zones and PvPers battling in the Abyss. PvE soloing, while completely viable, will be challenging and leave solo players out on much of the better game content in Aion.
Champions Online offers much of the same content that Aion does, but in varying amounts. CO has PvP and raid (boss) content, but there is a clear focus on solo and group gameplay. Solo players will find plenty of missions to do that will take you through the world at a fairly steady pace. Some of the better content of CO though is in the group content. Group focused missions and instanced lairs make great content for those who prefer to work together with others, but just because there is a lean towards group content doesn't mean other content is completely lacking. Raid quality boss mobs will be in game and CO does have a nice PvP set up that allows champions to go toe to toe with each other in various forms of arena style gameplay.
Flight in Aion...
One feature that puts CO a notch above the competition is the Nemesis system. This innovative system allows the player to create their own nemesis and play through storylines with that creation. There is really no better content than the content that is completely customizable to the player!
Character progression is quite likely the only thing Aion and Champions Online have in common. Both utilize linear leveling that allow players to quest and grind their way to the next milestone. At each level, skills or powers are purchased and both games encourage further customization with powersets or stigmas. The new wave of MMO games really has gotten the importance of customization and these two games really show that off!
...is not quite the same as flight in Champions
Still not sure which game is for you? Here is the breakdown:
If you enjoy a more realistic fantasy setting in a "sword and sorcery" backdrop with solid small group play and compelling player versus player experiences, then Aion may be the game for you.
If you prefer solo and structured instanced full group gameplay that encourages you to dive into a comic book world full of mayhem and evil, then you might be better off giving Champions Online a try.
Which game did you choose and why? Let other players know why you picked your game in our forums! For those still deciding, we hope we eased the pain of choice a little and whichever titles you pick, happy gaming!