Champions Online: A Second Look

Champions Online entered the superhero MMOG fray with both fists swinging. However, a year and a half later, the game went to free-to-play. Ten Ton Hammer’s Jeffprime heads back to Millennium City to give CO a second look.

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I eagerly awaited the launch of href=""> style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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 href=""> style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
and I was looking for a new comic book MMOG to try out.

I was lucky enough to get into style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online
and give it a second look.

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alt="champions online"

Heroes fighting against the
legendary Foxbat.

A lot has changed since I left. style="font-style: italic;">CO
is now officially style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">CO
over the past year.


Originally, a player could choose any power set that he wanted in style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">CO’s

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alt="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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

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alt="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?


One constant player complaint is of lack of content. There were times
that you had to grind to hit that next level. Cryptic has added some
new content in the form of the Adventure Packs and the Comic Series.
While the Comic Series (Aftershock) is free, the three Adventure Packs
(Serpent Lantern, Demonflame, and Resistance) are not free unless
you’re a subscriber.

These new adventures are rather well done and better yet, scale with
your character’s level. Therefore, you can play these
missions from level 11 all the way to level 40. This new content is a
welcome addition and Cryptic plans on putting out additional Comic
Series with the next one href="">arriving
in November.

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alt="champions online"

Investigating a destroyed camp
in the Aftershock Comic Series.

New missions were introduced and others were changed/deleted when the
game went free-to-play. The new missions, especially the introductory
ones in Millennium City, are well-designed and help immerse you into a
storyline as opposed to the standard kill X of something. Still, more
content is always desirable, but having four content updates in a year's
period with the game switching over to free-to-play isn’t bad
at all.


Another change to style="font-style: italic;">CO
is the addition of sidekicks and henchmen. These
characters are essentially hirelings (as in href=""> style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
that act as trained pets. You can summon them, after purchasing
them from the C-Store, and they’ll travel with you for an
hour fighting your enemies and staying by your side. I like the use of
characters like these as that if you only have a short time to play or
are having problem getting a group together, you can just grab one of
these and just go do your mission. There are two limitations though.
The first is that you can only have one active at a time. I think it
would be better if you could have more than one if you wish to choose
to. The second is that you have to purchase them from the C-Store. I
would prefer that you could buy them from the C-Store and have a
limited number available for purchase from an in-game vendor for
in-game currency similar to style="font-style: italic;">DDO’s

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The mighty Harajuku Twins make
great sidekicks.


Cryptic has recently added player hideouts to the game. Subscribers
were able to get one for free, but you can purchase all of the
available hideouts if you wish. Overall, there are four different types
of hideouts: the sanctum, the moon base, the basement, and the cave.
Each of the different hideout types has a number of different types.
For example, there’s the Hi-Tech Basement, Mom’s
Basement, and Vigilante Basement (upcoming). Each hideout has a number
of different options that you can choose to more personalize your
individual hideout. While it is not truly customizable, it is a welcome
addition to the game. Every superhero worth his salt needs a lair for
them to plot their crusade against evil. You can also invite friends
into your hideout so you can hang out and socialize.

I am personally stoked over the addition of hideouts to style="font-style: italic;">CO.
I’ve always been a proponent of player housing in MMOGs so I
was glad to see it finally come to style="font-style: italic;">CO.
While I wish that you could do
more to customize your hideout, I’ll gladly take
what’s available now. What I would like to see in the future
is the ability to customize them some more and the ability for guilds
to have hideouts of their own, but on a grander scale.

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alt="champions online"

The Hi-Tech Cave Hideout.


has changed since I
originally left, but the core
gameplay is still there. The biggest change is the switch to
free-to-play and its impact upon choosing powers through the use of
archetypes. While you’re locked into a specific power
progression, at least you can truly look unique. style="font-style: italic;">CO’s
creator is href="">still
the standard of character
creation in the MMOG market.
The zone progression is a great deal smoother and there is some nice
new content with the Adventure Packs and the Comic Series. There are
still areas that need some attention such as PvP, end-game content, and
guild housing, but, overall, style="font-style: italic;">CO
has made some improvements since I
left. The game is definitely worth a second look and, better yet, it
won’t cost you dime to try it out.

For more superhero goodness, check out href="">MMOSUPERHERO.COM.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Champions Online Game Page.

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