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Putting On Tights Again

August 20th, 2009

After a couple of days of downloading, patching, downloading again, repatching and smacking my head against the tabletop, last night I was able to join the Champions Online open beta. The superhero role-playing game goes officially live next week, but they opened up the beta test for those who pre-ordered.

You may recall that I used to play City of Heroes, a similar MMORPG. Both games were designed by Cryptic Studios, though City was eventually handed off to South Korean company NCsoft. My initial reaction to Champions Online is that it’s more of the same, except better.

One obvious improvement over City is that one has much more control over the look of one’s heroes. There are dozens of slider controls to tweak both facial features and physique. Unlike the older game, it’s actually possible to play a small-breasted (or no-breasted, if you’re into that) female character.

There also appears to be greater variety of character archetypes. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to lock one into a specific role (“scrapper,” “blaster,” “tank”). Instead, beginning character builds are based on their power sets. I noticed that at least some powers can be modified; for example, I was able to make one of my psychic attacks emerge from my head, hand or even chest.

My first character was an attempt to recreate my favorite from City of Heroes, Ms. Mesmer. I really like the spiral effect on her costume. Not so crazy about the hood; it’s big and dorky. But at least she gets a cape from day one. In City, heroes could only don them after reaching Level 20. While I understand that the idea was that it made a cape an obvious status symbol and a reward for long-term play, it was pretty silly that you couldn’t just tie a towel around your neck, same as any five-year-old pretending to be Superman.

I took Mesmer out for a spin through the tutorial levels last night. It took me quite a while to get the controls to my liking, and to stop auto-running into a group of angry alien insects. I’m not familiar enough with the pen-and-paper role-playing game on which the online Champions is based to fully understand the attribute scores that describe my character’s capabilities. (The original RPG was so insanely complex that an advanced degree in mathematics was helpful when trying to get the most of your superhero.)

Gameplay so far seems like a familiar mix of missions: “Go beat up 30 bad guys,” “Go take this piece of paper over there,” etc. Hopefully there will be more to it once the full experience is up and running.

Ms. Mesmer takes on the Black Talon!One thing that doesn’t seem to be active I haven’t been able to try yet* is the aspect of Champions Online I find most appealing: the ability to create one’s own archenemy. It came to bug me that in City of Heroes, ¬†everyone was fighting the same set of supervillains. To me, every great hero needs at least one really compelling rival that’s all his/her own. Batman has the Joker, Spider-Man has the Green Goblin, Betty has Veronica. Supposedly, Champions will include in the character creation process the opportunity to design a custom villain who will be computer-controlled, and will dog that hero’s career. I’m looking forward to introducing Ms. Mesmer to the dreaded Mr. Remsem!

And now, here’s a sneak peek at my first new character for Champions Online:

Dinosaur Jones, Prehistoric Adventurer of the Spaceways!

* Apparently, I was wrong about the “archenemy” thing. I’ve read that you don’t get that perk until Level 25. That seems awfully late in one’s superheroic career.

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