Champions Online releases

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Champions goes live today for anyone who pre-ordered the game. All other subscriptions begin September 1.

Champions Online is a mixed bag of reviews from the closed and open beta. Not everyone likes all of the features of the game, but there are those that people agree on. The character customization is amazing. Cryptic put a lot of work into this. There is more flexibility in character creation than in any other MMORPG out there.

Many people get hung up at this point in the game, creating character after character. There are only eight available character slots, but for those with extended subscriptions, they received an extra eight character slots. There are people who have to delete characters, just so they can create another. Most any costume imaginable can be created, but the customization does not end there. Power sets, the look of the powers, from which part of the body the power comes from, and even initial stats are all customized. The character really is what the player wants it to be, and not a preset class.

The power sets are not completely balanced. All characters need defensive powers, no matter what kind of character they are. Some power sets are more powerful than others. However, Cryptic is listening to players, and has made attempts to balance powers more. Players can choose what stat (strength, intellect) that they stack to increase their power.

The other function that is undisputedly loved is the travel powers. Characters can get around the world by flying, super jumping, swinging, speed running, riding a floating rock, and many other options. Characters get two travel powers, one at level 10 and another at level 35. Some are better than others, but the more fun ones that might not be the fastest can be offset by another that is more efficient.

The rest of the game is open for debate about how much fun it is to play. Combat works more like a console game, with only a few buttons to focus on, and these are hit repeatedly. It is easier to set up an Xbox like controller to the PC and play this way. RPG purists argue that this has no place in an MMO. RPG format is not for everyone, and there are many that loved battling this way. Most superhero games on consoles have this kind of action, so they have their audience.

The game is instanced, putting only so many players into an area at a time. This can separate people from their friends, and initially coordinating the right instance with other people is tricky. This is also a concern that Cryptic is aware of and should be fixed soon, if not already easier in the release. On the plus side, there are still plenty of people around, and it reduces competition when trying to fight a certain mob.

The starting zones act as a tutorial, and every character goes through this, even if it is the player's sixteenth character. There are a few secrets throughout, rewarding extra equipment and such if the player takes the time to do these. This will reward people who want to take the time, but allow those that have seen it to speed through a little faster. After the first tutorial is another instanced crisis zone, which allows two options of which zone to go to. This is sort of a secondary tutorial. It will take the character to level 10. Unfortunately for the game, these are not the most exciting places. Many people in beta never moved passed this and had a negative impression of the game. Once past this, and into the "real game," it gets better, and is worth sticking around for.

The real test of this game will begin now, when the players become a community. There will be reports of initial sales and subscriptions of the game, and it will be interesting to see how many players they have in a year. DC Universe is coming up, some may defect to that game, or it might be regarded as inferior. And then City of Heroes/Villains is still out there, with upcoming content. Champions might lure players from that game, or make people want to revisit it.

By Andrew Powers

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