It seems like forever ago that Cryptic Studios released Champions Online released to moderate
fanfare. It was only a year ago in reality, and now
Champions Online has followed in the footsteps of Turbines Lord of the
Rings Online and countless other reforming subscription-driven titles with a free-to-play
alternative. Does the epic game of spandex and superheroes lose
something in the transition? Not as much as you might expect!
The ESRB gives Champions Online a T for Teen. It has Blood, Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes. In my time with it though, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary for superheroes fighting crime, so I'd say this is safe for the children so long as they can put up with the usual unruly suspects and chatter that inhabits MMORPGs.
For all the performance gains associated with cell-shaded graphics, gamers tend to love or hate this particular art style. I would have argued this kind of art style and direction a perfect fit for a comic-book game, but after seeing what DC Universe Online with its more photorealistic bent, I think I much prefer the atmosphere of, say, Gotham City to Millennium City. Yet Champions Online hosts a variety of non-urban settings, from jungles to a wild west theme park, so your personal mileage may vary.
Model design and animation are certainly on par with CO's recently launched cousin, and the game does regularly capture the feel of a live setting. Bright lights, neon outfits, and fiery explosions occur on a regular basis in Champions Online, and it does a good job of keeping it pretty yet civil enough to understand whats going on. Travel Powers in particular are a lot of fun and have some neat graphics to go along with the super speed, flight, or a variety of other ways to get around. Enemies can be a little difficult to pick out of a crowd, so you just end up assuming everyone is hostile by default. Its the only way to ensure there are more of those lovely explosions!
Champions Online also does a good job of scaling down to lesser computers and windowed modes, so those of us who like to multitask on one monitor or a laptop are still able to enjoy our time fighting crime.
Some above average voice acting is in place for the various heroes and villains that dot the storyline, which helps fit the setting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the music and sound effects, which come off as clips from a low-budget superhero movie soundtrack. Music and sound do the game justice especially now that we're talking F2P; its just not on the same heroic level as the voice acting clips youll run into throughout the game.