October 13, 2011

Reviewing Champions Online -- Schizophrenia Incarnate

Edit: I have just read that the F2P for DCUO will be on the 19th of October. So, barring anything unusual (such as the Missing Link actually launching the 18th) I should hopefully have an overview going out a week or so after. I am trying to go into the F2P of DCUO without the meh attitude I got during the beta.

Last time I talked about City of Heroes, and DCUO is still not on the horizon as free to play yet, I decided I am going to talk about Champions Online today. Champions Online is again another game from Cryptic and is actually the IP that City of Heroes was based on. That being said, everything that Cryptic wanted City of Heroes to be is not what Champions Online became. Instead it's just a giant hodge-podge mess of a game that doesn't know what it wants to be in the end, and the hardcore minority players do everything in their power to sabotage any future the game has.

Graphically there isn't much to say about the game. It's one of the best visual experiences out there with only a few minor quibbles here and there and perhaps the most robust and detailed character editor/costume creator you can find on the market (outside of spray painting your shirts in APB). You have a plethora of costume choices, a ton of locations an varieties you can actually edit said locations with many, many different color choices and mish mashes to come up with on top of the ability to control finer details of your character such as arm length, hand size, and many other features that are often over looked in face of generic texture skins.

But one cannot play a game based on Barbie Dress Up and outside of the awesome character creator, despite all feelings to the contrary, Champions Online offers painfully little to the actual genre that it is suppose to be appealing to. This is a glaring weakness that overpowers the sun and will immediately strike anyone in the face as soon as they enter into the world itself.

I have to say, Champions Online is a game trying too hard. They are trying to do so much to appease everyone and focus on the small group of vocalists they have forgotten they are trying to make a game that appeals to a much larger crowd and not the lowest common denominator minority group. They've appealed to the weakest link so much it's filled into the game as a whole, and the result is the game keeps losing the interest of the very people they keep trying to appease because they listened too much to them.

Champions Online is a game with too much going on and too little content. That's hard to quantify, but basically there is a thing that is too much of something but not enough. Champions has no endgame content, and again, like with City of Heroes, offers a ton of starter content but the middle and ending of it suffers all in favor of the alters who can't be bothered to play a character longer than 5 minutes until they make a new one.

The powers system itself is an abysmal mess as well, where there is no clear cut definition to help characters, and the one thing this system is crying for is constantly denied at every avenue to have it implemented. In this case dual power builds. The powers system in Champions is, to put it mildly, schizophrenic, it suffers from bloat but offers no clear, concise path to how a hero should be built. Powers are little more than a hodge-podge, at best, and while powers can be chained together, even if wildly different, there is little that actually synergizes. About the only real option you have is building a tank mage, as support characters are pretty much non-existant in this mess and any attempt to do so will be met with derision from the masses if you even dare suggest making the roles stronger.

In fact the entire set up is just bad. In comics and stories, heroes are a combination of things, but Champions took the route of listening to a select group of people and instead of sticking to their guns and actually putting some control in, allowed them to dictate that characters should be able to pick and get everything. Sorry, this is not how super heroes are actually created. Super heroes have their combat skill, or lack thereof, their powers, then they have a signature ability or abilities that define them. Sometimes two or three of these parts are all the same but that is always constant.

The powers system has to be one of the worst things about Champions. Because of how it works, people are forced into specific powers regardless of desire or intent, if you are freeform. Even if you had a concept build or something trying to stick with that build will be met with disdain and contempt from fellow gamers who spend most of their time meta gaming and basically doing everything they can to build the ultimate build, regardless of final intent of the user to actually have a character that might actually fit these powers and abilities. It's not so much build the hero you want as it is build a schizophrenic character that has no clue what they are.

Content here is lacking as well. Following the dogged WoW model of go to contact and get the dude smack down quota system, there is little that actually challenges many except the most inept of builds or players. While some will contest that heroes should be unstoppable, this is not what makes a hero. A hero and a badass are not just unstoppable forces that can finger flick things out of the way. A hero and or badass is defined by someone who can fight against the odds, rise to the challenge and overcome them through their tenacity, injuries and sheer intelligence. A character who can do everything, destroy everything or be unhurt by anything is not a badass or hero, they are a boring character, and this is the crux of another problem with Champions.

Champions is a boring game because there is no challenge. It's all single player style, and anyone who says that is a good thing doesn't deserve to play MMOs and should go back to their single player games. MMOs are defined as games where people join together to do things and be a community about them. This decided take from the idiot minority in Champions that heroes should never break a sweat against anything or never team up is both stupid and yet another thing that is killing the game.

When there is no challenge no one wants to stick around for an encore of the same thing and this is yet another problem with Champions; everything is handed on a silver platter. Any reward you want you can practically get without effort. This is terrible design decision because it bores people further and makes them not want to play because they have nothing to work for. This is something the lowest common denominator minority can't get through their thick skulls. They think people love this game style yet everyday you can see the numbers dwindling out of each of the zones. People want to feel they earned something and if it's handed on a silver platter where minimal effort is required, even on the most difficult setting, then this is terrible design decision

And that brings up the community. This is something I didn't touch on with City of Heroes, because it slipped my mind. However, to put a small blurb in, despite how dated that game is, the community is still top notch. There are the asshats, as expected, but for the most part people are genuinely trying to help other people or create events or just trying to be friendly.

Not so in Champions. Oh, regardless of how some people try to claim, Champions has one of the most egotistical communities out there. The forums are rife with it despite anyone's claims to the contrary and the if you aren't playing someone else's way, no matter how much they call freedom of choice and such, they will shoot you down. And if you even bring up endgame and raid content in those forums, or even in game, you will be met by the same people trying to tell you to go play some other game. It's the same attitude that games like WoW have, and the sad part is they try to sit there and say they are the superior community.

Overall, Champions Online is the victim of a lot of expectations that were never met. The super hero expectations were never met, the better City of Heroes expectations were never met, and the large world of Champions IP was never really met. There was a magic point in the beta where things were almost perfect, but then Cryptic started listening to a group of loudmouths to implement specific features. And as those features got added more people quit.

In the end, Champions is promising a lot for its future, but it has to get over the hurdle of listening too much to the minority there. The game has suffered for it and its constantly in an imbalanced state. The freeform combat system is nice and all, but you never feel challenged. Cryptic is stating that the level cap will be going up to 45 then 50 and endgame will be added, but somehow, considering they thought UNITY was suppose to be endgame, I have serious doubts about it.

DCUO will hopefully hit F2P soon. Honestly, I think they have the right ideas just poor implementation, and of course too few actual super powers. I guess I will see what the last 10 months have done for DCUO when I actually get into the F2P.

1 comment:

  1. Oh turns out the October 19th thing they said is now they were just going to be preparing to prepare to go to F2P. Good ol Sony.