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Posts Tagged ‘Champions Online’

All Dolled Up

September 28th, 2009 No comments

As I’ve mentioned before, what initially appealed to me most about¬†Champions Online was the promise of creating my superhero’s own “nemesis.” However, I was disappointed to learn that the feature doesn’t become available until a character reaches Level 25. Now, after spending entirely too many hours at the keyboard, my primary hero (Toygirl) has at last acheived that milestone.

Yesterday I thought, now what? Who would be the archrival of a toy-themed gadgeteer adventuress?

Every hero has villains, but in my view only one can rise to the level of “nemesis,” the opponent to which a heroic character is eternally linked. Batman may battle the Penguin or the Riddler, but everyone knows that the Joker is one that really gets under his tights. (Errr…)

My theory about nemeses is that they basically come in two flavors: the duplicate and the opposite. A duplicate is a villain who is more or less identical to the hero, with similar powers and perhaps a costume which parodies that of his rival. An opposite is one that is everything the hero is not. An example of the former is the Flash’s foe Professor Zoom; he might be nicknamed the Reverse-Flash, but he’s really just the Flash with a color-inverted supersuit. Lex Luthor is an example of the latter. Superman is characterized by his physical might, Luthor counterbalances that with mental genius.

Anyhow, my initial thought was to give Toygirl a duplicate: a rogue gadgeteer named the Dollmaker. I saw him as surrounded by deadly Barbies, rag dolls and the like. Unfortunately, I soon learned that at this time one can only choose a pre-generated set of minions (pirates, ninjas, etc.) for one’s nemesis. That didn’t seem all that toy-themed to me.

So, thought I, “Why not make Barbie herself the villain?” Rather than a duplicate, she can be an opposite: a self-aware toy.

Tremble, then, before the majesty of Barbara X-03!

She's come straight from Malibu to kick your ass!

I wrote up a short bio for her: “The final creation of rogue toymaker Geppetto Dolly, Barbara X-03 (known affectionately by no one as “Babs”) is a plastoid shell over an unobtanium mechanical frame. Plotting from her dream house, Barbara X-03 is out to prove that killer fembots can do anything!”

The first nemesis mission is a museum heist, which begins when the villain blows a huge hole in the wall. I like that the first thing one sees of the nemesis is a slow, cinematic pan up from the feet.

Isn't that typical? You always lose one Barbie shoe."I am here to chew bubblegum and kick ass!"

Kneel! Kneel before Barbara X-03!

BWAH HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA!

Since that initial encounter at the museum, Barbara X-03 has not made a reappearance, but her robot minions have ambushed me on several occasions. I would’ve liked to have posted a better screenshot of Toygirl vs. Barbara, but quite frankly any time I get near her she blasts me halfway across the room!

Until next time, Babs. Until next time.

I Make This Cape And Tights Look Good

September 15th, 2009 No comments

Champions Online launched last week, and it’s already been a colossal drain on my free time. I’ve got a half dozen active characters, mostly to try out some different superhero concepts.

I’ve concentrated on a gadgeteer named Toygirl, whose signature move is to unleash “Attack Toys” on her foes. From what I can tell, the Attack Toys power is much maligned by the CO gaming community for putting out too little damage, and indeed, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else use it. But come on, I have a chance to unleash killer teddy bears and toy soldiers, and I’m not gonna take it? I don’t think so.

Fighting Foxbat in a TV studio.

My initial impression of Champions is that it’s a superhero amusement park. Wherever you travel, there’s something going on. In addition to the standard missions doled by my “contacts,” sometimes a bystander will run up and tell me, for example, that he’s just seen a bunch of robots run into a museum. Last night I happened across a bank robbery in progress.

Then there are the so-called “open missions,” which repeatedly recur in certain areas of the map. They’re typically big brawls involving a dozen or so heroes against a major menace, and the interesting thing is that you can join them in progress and compete for points. (The winners get the best loot, but everyone who participates gets a prize.)

Somewhere in the middle of this is one poor supervillain.

As you can see from the screenshots, it’s a beautiful looking game. The main map is Millennium City, a sprawling metropolis built on the ruins of Detroit. I enjoy simply swooping around on Toygirl’s jet sneakers, buzzing between buildings and through the legs of statues.

co06

Another early impression is that Champions seems to encourage solo play much more than City of Heroes/City of Villains did. In CoX, I couldn’t take two steps without someone inviting me to join their team or guild. I’ve temporarily teamed up with another player to take on a troublesome mob (“mob” is Massive Multiplayer Online game slang for a “mobile object,” aka a thing what attacks you), but have yet to pursue or even to be invited onto a team for an evening. There are some missions that are recommended for two or three heroes, but I hear that some people even go solo on those.

Dinosaur Jones makes aliens extinct!

On the other hand, the game also encourages player vs. player (PvP) combat, to the extent that even I’ve joined in. This is my fourth MMO game (Asheron’s Call, Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes), but the first in which I felt comfortable enough to battle other players. In the past, my relative ineptitude with the controls and with the intricacies of creating a character designed to make other players cry left me unwilling to take on snotty game punks.

The nice thing about the PvP combat in Champions is that it’s a five-on-five cage match, with participants more-or-less randomly assigned. Everyone is set to fight as if they’re a Level 20 character, and there’s no penalty for losing a match. So, even though I still suck at it, I’ve actually had fun in most of my PvP battles. I’ve even been on the winning team a few times!

Excuse me, can you direct me to Tiananmen Square?

There’s been a fair amount of in-jokiness so far. The TV studio mission pictured above has one saving thinly-disguised members of the cast of the movie Anchorman. I also played a couple of scenarios clearly inspired by John Carpenter’s They Live, including a parking lot fight against a parody of Rowdy “Roddy” Piper.

As might be expected, the character creation system is even more robust than the one for City of Heroes. (Cryptic Studios designed both games.) One can play all manner of demons, angels, aliens, furries and even gorillas.

Meet Two-Gun Gorilla!

As seen in "For a Few Bananas More."

And here’s my attempt at mixing powers from different sets. Chillblain (who probably needs a better name) is a combination fire/ice thrower.

His suit keeps hot things hot, and cool things cool.

Meanwhile, if only to prove that I’m not above prurient interest in my superheroine designs, here’s Bettie Bombshell.

Call my party line at 900-555-BOMB!

Finally, here’s an alternate costume for Toygirl. One can preset multiple “builds” for one’s character that can be toggled back and forth depending upon whether one is playing an offensive, defensive or support role, so I came up with an appropriately beefed-up look for her more aggressive mode.

I'm my own action figure!

Sorry, I’ve got to go. There are aliens coming, and I’ve got a city to save!

Oh. This is not good.

Putting On Tights Again

August 20th, 2009 No comments

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.