May 7, 2009 – With City of Heroes starting to show its age, Cryptic Studios is prepping to break out its hot new superhero MMORPG to let players act out their heroic, bad-guy pummeling fantasies in style. Based on the tabletop role-playing game, Champions Online is an action-heavy, comic book-inspired effort that’s poised to show up the developers’ past work in the arena of ripped, super-powered guys and gals.
Beta testing is currently in full-swing, and the online game’s cross-platform launch is set to kick off in the coming months. We recently donned multi-colored spandex tights and dove into the crazy action in Millennium City. After spending some time cracking the skulls of humanoid insect warrior and helping the local citizenry alongside dozens of other strange-costumed do-gooders from around the virtual globe, our hands-on time with the PC Beta build of Champions Online left us wanting to go back for second, third, and fourth helpings of superhero ass-kickery.
Creating an awesome superhero can either be as short and sweet or as long and complicated as you choose. Cryptics’ past efforts included a tremendous number of customization options, and Champions Online seeks to literally bury players under a mountain of choices for your character. After selecting from a few pre-set stat categories, I was presented with various frameworks to choose from. These determine your starting abilities and the abilities you can pick from later on as your power grows. Examples include archery, force, martial arts, munitions, power armor, sorcery, and telepathy, among quite a few others. Settling on telekinesis, I moved on to body specs.
Here’s where things get overwhelming. You can adjust practically anything about your character, including their height, body mass, muscle size, and fine-tuning features for most body parts. That’s before you even get to customizing your costume, which offers a ton of awesome and ridiculous options. I put together a meagerly-statured muscle guy donning a reddish-pink suit, a whip-like tail, and a weird inhuman head that looked like a cross between a praying mantis and some kind of fish. You can hand-pick everything, randomize it all, or randomize specific elements. It’s even possible to customize the color of your superpower effects. In the finished version, you’ll also create a custom super villain character who will come into play as your nemesis throughout your time in the game, though that option wasn’t available in the Beta.
When my superhero arrived in Millennium City, all hell had broken loose. The city was under attack from giant alien spacecraft choking the skies above. The extraterrestrials, a medley of insect like humanoids and other creatures, were tearing things up on the street level, and other superheroes of all shapes and sizes were running around working to help the local cops keep the citizens safe from the invaders. Different levels of chaos were unfolding in various neighborhoods of the area of the city I explored, and each presented opportunities to take on unique heroic tasks to gain experience. Even the relatively small section of the city I tooled around in felt huge in scope. The game’s slick, cel-shaded art style is very attractive and definitely delivers on the intended comic book vibe. Checking out other player’s hero characters running around the city and the wonderfully designed environments themselves was a blast. But standing around sight-seeing while folks were in danger isn’t very becoming of a superhero, so I launched into the tasks at hand.
After a few quick tutorial missions, I was soon using my limited beginner powers to zap and pummel away at the evil-doers while gaining experience and reputation to boost my abilities and level-up my hero. Since I chose telekinesis, my primary attack consisted of shooting laser-like beams from my fists. This was effective at various ranges, and scoring repeated hits on baddies boosted my endurance meter, which allowed me to trigger my secondary attack – a dizzying flurry of energized punches and kicks – in short spurts. I found it took a lot of battling to level-up enough to acquire the points needed to spend on new abilities. Leveling-up gains you points to buy new powers and advantage points to spend on customizing the powers you’ve already unlocked.
Who Needs a City When You Can Have the World?
August 25, 2008 – There’s one thing you can say about comic book fans – they are some of the most diehard out there. I’d almost say that they are more diehard than Trekkies or Warsies, except they generally tend to be the same group of people.
Over the years, we have been treated to several comic book related video games. Some have flat out sucked and some of them have been pretty decent. However, in nearly every instance, they have always been about existing super heroes, their universes, and whatever current storyline is going on at the time (see the Maximum Carnage game for the Genesis as a good example). Of course, I did say nearly. There was one game, City of Heroes, that I played for no other reason than to digitally recreate the superheroes from my imagination.
The major problem hindering City of Heroes, and even City of Villains later down the road, was the limited speed of everyone’s internet at the time. So, when you had your character running in the streets to go and find some “action,” they would look more like stop motion animation than anything else. Thankfully, we will not encounter such a fiasco this time around, and Cryptic Studios is in the driver’s seat again to give comic book fans, or the people that have always wanted to create the perfect hero, the game they wanted way back when.
For starters, the customization options for Champions Online will be so grand that they will challenge even the most scrutinizing amongst us to find fault. There are billions of possibilities for your character, including body type, color variations, and costume pieces. Literally, it appears there will be no way you cannot develop the exact look of the character you have in mind. The customization won’t stop with the general look of you character either. Your powers and abilities will also be fully customizable, giving you complete control over everything thing, even right down to how your power will be displayed on screen. After all, who doesn’t want to make certain that “Ballerina-Girl” has the appropriate shade of pink and purple ribbons of death energy whips? These very specific customization options are the heart of this game. However, there is one other thing that will separate it from other comic book related MMOs; you’ll also create your hero’s worst enemy. The old adage, “keep your enemies closer,” rings true with Champions Online. You will create your character’s antithesis the same way you created your hero, developing their costumes, powers, and their back-story as well.
While your arch-nemesis will constantly hinder the progression of your career at every turn, they won’t be the only threats you will face in the game. The main, overarching theme of the game involves various villains with their own plans for world domination or the total annihilation of humanity. Of course, how can one hero stand alone against these evils most foul? While nothing has been confirmed, we can imagine that teams will be able to form in order to take on the various evil-doers of the game. We can also assume there will be the classic “two heroes meet, misunderstand one another, fight until one of them is hit with a rock to understand what is really going on” cliché. This is helped by the fast-paced combat system implemented in the game. Gone will be the traditional automatic power uses and pain-in-the-ass recharging of the abilities. Fast-paced combat will certainly aid in cutting back the time it will take before every hero is fighting one another, just like in comic books.
Some of the more interesting aspects of exploration of Champions Online are that they won’t be based solely on the world. You will challenge evil across the stars, under the seas, and even some parallel universe action is in store for us would-be heroes. None of this would be enticing at all if the graphics were not shaping up nicely. Judging by some the already created heroes and villains of Champions Online, it should generate enough enthusiasm of would-be creators to eagerly await the games arrival. Aside from the character models already shown, the environments also are sharp and crisp. However, it does beg the question, how much detail has been thrown into all of the various locations that will be present in the game? I am excited to see the areas where I can cause the most damage, while protecting it of course
Just like a certain other comic book related MMO, there hasn’t been much talk on how the impending monthly cost will be handled on the console version of the game. However, with downloadable content becoming more of a staple for video games, I could see the benefit of destroying the monthly service cost and incorporating monthly scheduled DLC to pique the interests of the truly dedicated.
Either way, with the inclusion of Champions Online, comic book fans wishing to explore a vast universe of either preordained creation or one they help create are in for a treat soon. Champions Online is a few points ahead of the respective competition, the largest being the freedom to help build a comic book universe from the ground up. Because of this, we won’t have to worry about any random “Crisis” events happening just because. Maybe that alone will cause some comic enthusiasts to wait until they can create their own Champion.