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Champions Online : An open beta review

Posted in Gaming

champions_logoYou may know that I’m a player and fan of the City of Heroes/Villains franchise, yet I’ve always said if given the opportunity I’d try Champions online out.

One of the annoying elements about Planetside was that it had no rivals, the game didn’t have to fight  it was the only one of it’s kind, it stagnated due to this and the players suffered. The idea of more SuperHero themed MMOs in the world is a very appealing one to me as it encourages enhancement development of each game and of the whole genre.

I grabbed an open beta key from Fileplanet, who appear to be the hottest place for open betas at the moment, yet they have the slowest download queues in the world. Grrr.

Happily I set my download off before bed and it was ready when I woke up on Saturday, My chance had arrived and here are my thoughts on the game.

# This post may contain spoilers, cease reading you are avoiding them #
# Please remember this is Open beta and the game could change before launch #

screenshot_2009-08-23-19-26-27

Like a war zone

I’ll be honest from the start this game really reminds me of my first encounter with Tabula Rasa, with some rather similarities between the game mechanics.

  • The inflexible interface – If there was one element of TR I disliked the most, it was the way the interfaces weren’t movable on the fly or how they were stuck in stone. I’ll be the first to admit that Champions has a superior system to one one that was in TR but it still feels lacking in some areas. Melmoth pointed out to me that F12 allowed access to the layout screen, which is a step in the right direction, I had a rather interesting time trying to compare the elements of two in-game screens that both closed the other one down.
  • Gank lottery quests – Many games have this ‘feature’, you may know it as the “take out target before the other 10 people doing the same quest” style of mission. Of course with each shard limited to 100 players it’s not a massive issue as each zone is large enough your not steeping on each other toes. Yes I know it is(was) a rather common feature in EQ / EQ2 games too, not a system that I tend to enjoy.
  • Multiperson world – Single player game – Much of Tabula Rasa I was able to complete solo and when I wasn’t soloing my team would run around attempting to be the first at taking down a boss etc, it was a rather competitive gameplay style. I teamed a couple of  time with folks to get certain tasks done, but frequently it was a case of “Care to help with XYZ”, “Sure”, BAM, “See you around”.

Of course there are more things different between the games, it just had a familiar feeling to it.

It was nice to see that the plan is for no location limitations nor any server shards in the live game, so you should be able to enjoy decent populations no matter what time of day you play. I truly hope more MMOs move towards this type of arrangement in the future, us EU player may stick around longer then.

A quick breakdown of the game elements:

  • Graphics
    • There isn’t much I can add to the topic that hasn’t been mentioned a thousand times over. It is unique and works for some people and not for others. I found it rather enjoyable but also could imagine it getting a little irritating if this was your primary MMO, the black outline appeared to kick in at a greater range at times resulting in a black blob appearing until i got much closer.
    • I was without my normal graphics card at the start of this testing. I used a temporary replacement that only just met the requirements of the game specs. Those playing with older machines may find the graphics lack detail and the gameplay jumpy when busy and the costume creator gets laggy.
    • Those with advanced graphical option will see the costumes in full, those without may find their character looks different to other players.
  • Costumes
    • The costumes was always going to be the life & sole of this games genre. I have had a good play about with the creator and there are many options to pick from in some areas, other I feel had a token two options in there to keep them on par.
  • Crafting
    • I managed to get a little crafting done in the game and reached ARMS level 100, where I then get presented with the option to buy an unlock for the next 100 levels. The crafting seemed decent and allowed me to salvage resource from unwanted equipment and purchase recipes for crafting new items.
    • I briefly seen the Auction house, but there was nothing happening on there and it require that I know the name of what I wanted. Or i could have just been inactive.
  • Inventory
    • The inventory system works like Guild Wars you get your first bag to start with, then you can craft additional bags with X number of slots depending on the recipes you know.
    • Powers
      • To be frank I wasn’t that impressed by the powers-sets that were on offer, of course this will all expand in the future but for now there wasn’t much and they all felt samey at least in the levels  to 10. As there are no classes in the game you either get to choose a role or pick ones you prefer, there isn’t much awareness of what each set had to offer later on so it became a mixed bag, though you can respec for for cost whenever you liked, which was rather nice.
      • The travel powers were interesting and offered a few different modes of transport, some could be grouped: Flight, flight on object, Superjump, Acrobatics, swinging and tunneling. I found alot of this powers awkward to use and preferred not to use them. I found acrobatics was a good all around power as it allowed for decent jump height plus allowed for a fast run in general while active (I missed sprint!)
      • I levelled a few characters and the tutorial area feels a little long with you having a block power, a energy increasing attack power and finally a larger attack power. This was the combination for the various power-sets I tried out and each felt identical with only the melee powers needing me to get that bit closer.
      • The power acquisition I found confusing, I’ve had a read and still didn’t completely understand how it fitted together. Every time you level up you get a point to spent at the powerhouse, but these points don’t all result in direct powers. So by level 12 I had 4 powers plus my block and travel power with some statistics builder powers too, but it felt like enough for me to handle at that stage.

Conclusion
Champions Online looks like it going to be a rather fun game for those that prefer the style of gameplay offered by City of Heroes/Villains, I found the options for powers to be very limited and had expected a few more, but then it could open up in the later levels.

I was glad to have this chance to give Champions a bash, admittedly the vast outdoor style of the gameplay has put me off more than anything else*, but those that plan on playing the game are going to have alot of fun.

* A rather annoying bug caused my powers to continually vanish from my powerbar, this was irritating and was linked to having to hold a power down to charge it up. This bug appeared to have vanished after a patch that seen the powers become unmovable unless the power window was open.

Other Screenshots
For this trial I created numerous characters  the most memorable were:

screenshot_2009-08-23-17-16-07

Forphine

Little Ms Violent - Lvl 6

little ms violent

I know you!

I know you!

And you!

And you!

We're not in Nerva anymore

We’re not in Nerva any more

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

underwater and no SCUBA?

underwater and no SCUBA?

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