Champions Online Exposure Compilation

[Note 8/26/09: most of this information is now fairly outdated.]

Rather than being productive over the past couple days, I wasted my time quite effectively by lurking over the Champions Online forums like some kind of digital vagabond, my nose pressed hard against the glass of fine dining I won’t see for another two months.

By the end of the second day, I pretty much had learned all that I needed to know, short of actually being in the beta.  Amongst the more poignant data bytes to know about the game:

  • Combat is a simple, rapid-fire affair, a lot of the game is spent rapidly firing energy-building attacks to save up for energy-expending attacks.  The higher speed may make strategy difficult to apply. However, manual blocking is an important focus, tied closely to energy and the amount of damage you’ll take, so active involvement is important.
  • In the GUI, there’s only 7 (or possibly 8) hotkeys to assign powers to, but each power has multiple uses because they can be charged up for different effects.
  • In addition, you have 3 primary pieces of equipment and 5 secondary pieces of equipment.  Equipment is not necessarily tangible, but they all grant various stat boosts and (considering hotkeys are assigned to them) some primary equipment may be activation-capable.
  • Character creation is very versatile. Over 40 levels, you get 14 powers that can be mixed and matched from all the available power templates.  Specialization within a template will get you access to higher-level powers quicker, but you’ll eventually level up to a point where you’ll get access to higher-level powers regardless, so you can skip earlier powers. You also get a free movement power and endurance power.
  • There’s eight core attributes based off of the Champions IP.
    • Constitution – This influences your total hit points.
    • Endurance – This influences your energy (some powers require it, some powers build it).
    • Strength – Instead of a simple damage booster, this actually refers more to your ability to resist being physically restrained and throwing things around.
    • Dexterity – Influences your evasion and chances to land extra-damaging blows.
    • Intelligence – Influences the effectiveness of more cerebral powers, recharge rate of all powers.
    • Ego – Influences your ability to mentally overpower others while resisting being similarly effected, also has an influence on critical hits.
    • Presence – Reduces aggro gathered while boosting the strength of charismatic effects, such as healing.
    • Recovery – Influences your ability to act quickly and consistently in combat
  • Powers are upgradable into three ranks – rank 1 is the weakest, rank 2 is the average the game is balanced around, and rank 3 is the most powerful.  Getting several powers to rank 3 will mean several others will be at rank 1. Equipment is one means to boost power ranks.
  • Advantage points are earned that can be spent upgrading your powers to have various perks. This is beyond (but may include) rank-based potency, and gets into things like upgrading a power to be area-of-effect but at the cost of higher energy expenditure.
  • The contents of your choices from the available  power templates is fairly simple, mostly attacks, but given how you can mix and match you’re able to custom-build whatever kind of hero you want to play.  Among your choices:
    • Ice, Fire, and Electricity are primarily three flavors of attacks, some more area-of-effect based than others.  Note that fire is more effective in hot places, and a similar environmental synergy probably applies to the other elemental effects as well.
    • Archery is built around the idea of being an archery-based hero, such as Hawkeye, prioritizing noteworthy accuracy and trick arrows.
    • Gadgeteering is heavily utility based with party support abilities, includes a power to summon toys. Gadgets can apply to many heroic concepts, from Batman to James Bond. What will you put in your utility belt?
    • Munitions is built around the idea of a gun nut hero, with a wide arsenal of different weapons ranging from simple pistols to high power assault cannons, miniguns, ect. Lots of contemporary heroic concepts like to pack some form of heat, but some (like The Punisher or Rambo) may opt to take them all.
    • Power Armor – Power Armor is mostly a batch of built-in attacks suiting power armor. Widely exposed powers include chest/eye beams and shoulder launchers – basically, anything you might see on one of Iron Man’s many powered armor designs might be found here.
    • Darkness – Dark hero powers centered on powerful attacks and draining life. No doubt a heavy influence from Spawn here, the strange sticky summoned monsters have been seen in some of earliest of Champions Online shots.
    • Sorcery – Magic hero centered on summoning other kinds of servants and support. Notable popular magic-based heroes from comics include Dr. Strange or Scarlet Witch.
    • Supernatural – A bestial slant, having many physical biting attacks, venom breath, lunging, attacks with metal (possibly enchanted) chains, and ability to summon beasts to assist. Basically, a good set to choose from to make some kind of supernatural monster hero (werewolf, vampire, ect.) It’s also a really interesting set because you get an idea of how mix-and-matchy the sets are – you could take picks out of here to be a Vampire Gunman or just the Lunging for your Wolverine types.
    • Force – Heavy on the knockdowns, lets you reach out and hit someone. Some heroic concepts call for wielding raw force, and here is your power set.
    • Telepathy – A lot of mind controlling capacity, a heavy focus on monster control. A main healing set, along with sorcery and gadgeteering. This can be thought of in terms of high-power ESP psychic heroes.
    • Single Blades, Dual Blades, Fighting Claws, and Unarmed – All different flavors of melee combat attacks. Comic books are lousy with a wide variety of melee scrappers, take your pick as to the type you’d most like to resemble.
    • Might – Built around the concept of a strong hero who does a lot of heavy lifting and super-powered smackdowns. A combat style favored by a category of super-string heroes in which you might find Superman or The Incredible Hulk.
  • You get to choose your travel power sooner rather than later, at the end of the 5-level 45-60 minute tutorial. There are 9 travel powers, each bound to the T-key upon choosing them, and each play differently.
    • Flight – Starts off flying slowly and speeds up over time.  Charging causes you to speed off from stationary to high speed quickly, along with a little sonic-boom like effect.
    • Super Speed – Strictly ground based, simply runs very quickly.  Is there a charge-up effect, or is it just a Toggle?
    • Super Jump – Giant leaps.  As with Super Speed, it’s hard to say if it’s just a toggle or if there’s a charge-up effect.
    • Teleportation – You are temporarily phased out and turn into a wisp that moves at a very fast speed in any direction (even up/down), but when time runs out you phase in again.  Charging it up means you stay phased longer.
    • Jet Boots – It has a higher top speed than flight, but requires constant tapping of the travel key to adjust your current speed. The general movement style is somewhat modeled on recent Iron Man animations, with reverse thrusting for deceleration being part of it.
    • Swinging – Tapping the travel key fires out another zip line, it can be rather tricky to use.
    • Acrobatics – This was always spun as a compromise between super speed and super jump, you jump and run a little better. It may not seem too powerful, but sometimes an all-rounder approach to mobility is preferable. Of course, there are some flashy animations (look at about the 1:05 point for a backflip) to go with it.
    • Ice Slide (another video) – Builds up top speed quickly, but feels appropriately slippery.
    • Burrowing – Sort of an underground version of super speed, except you can climb some pretty steep inclines with it.
  • There’s public quests in this game, similar to Warhammer Online, these being ongoing activities that several players participate in to accomplish a unified goal. The tutorial has you build a giant cannon, for example.
  • Champions Online has no “shards,” everything takes place on one server.  Consequently, they’ve adapted a naming convention of allowing anyone to choose whatever name they want, and whenever there’s a conflict you address charactername@playername instead.
  • You can further flesh out your hero by building them a nemesis, although you (currently) can’t play them, and the goal is to eventually jail them in the stronghold.
  • PvP is in the game, but in the form of special arenas which are simulating worse case scenario preparation, because it doesn’t make much sense for heroes to be beating on heroes. There is a diverse number of matches available.
  • They plan to add metamorphs (shape shifters) but they want to take the time to do it right, so it won’t be a feature at release.

I might have revealed more in my various poking around, but that’s all I can recall off the top of my head.  Still, I seem to have a relatively complete picture now. Champions Online is shaping up to be very much a quick-action game combined with a high degree of customization.

The heavy focus on attacks across all set templates is very telling. Regardless of what character you roll up, the core gameplay will basically be pewpewpewing, watching your energy levels, and blocking. This can be somewhat confirmed in what little gameplay video we’ve seen (such as the reels in the Nemesis and Sorcery trailers).

Is it disappointing to this older, habitual gamer to discover such a simple premise under the hood of the game I’ve been following for months? Not necessarily. There’s something to be said for the sophistication of acting rapidly instead of deeply, and if the game possesses a good deal of dynamic content, perhaps that will redeem any depth concerns.

4 Responses

  1. […] I’ll not be talking about Champions Online for awhile.  It remains foremost on my mind, as my press compilation piece indicates, but I’ve said all I can about it until it gets much closer to release, some 59 days from […]

  2. […] May 12th – May 14th, I hung around Champions Online’s forums severely boning up on my current favorite MMORPG-to-be. […]

  3. Thats great that you found all that out, but as a current beta tester [… remaining portion of the post removed.]

  4. I appreciate your taking the time to drop a comment.

    However, I’m currently a beta tester too (I wasn’t when I wrote this) and I have to say that you shouldn’t go around saying anything negative about the game. Even these generalized impressions you’re passing around are devastating as far as Word Of Mouth is concerned.

    They’ve inducted us into beta trusting us that we’d keep all judgment to ourselves until the NDA drops. The game still has another 69 days of development before release, so lets trust them to what they need to with that time.

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