Champions Online review

  • Tons of action and silliness
  • Very different from City of Heroes
  • You're awesome from level 1
  • First few hours are miserable
  • Fiddly interface
  • Very little high-level content for now

At the same time however, most likely as a holdover from the original pen and paper game, Champions Online all-too often feels compelled to over-complicate everything. Case in point, there are no character classes, so you can pick more or less whatever combination of powers you like. Hurrah!

However, you then find that your powers’ effectiveness rely on a combination of eight different stats, as boosted by in-game upgrades and inventory items. You can equip nine different items, each in their own slot, with items split between three different crafting disciplines, some of them adding bonus powers, others changing the look of powers, some doing something when you click on them, others just a bundle of stats described as being a new gun or a mace or a heartwarming story about a cat or whatever. Ye gods, make it stop! There’s no reason for it to be this fiddly!

The fact that most items (rightly) have no bearing on your custom costume or powers doesn’t help make these stat boosts feel like rewards. Nor does the fact that you get a lot of useless crap you can’t even equip at your current level. It’s a ridiculous system that cries out to be ripped right out in favour of a few simple core stats, more flexibility in customising individual abilities, and the occasional cool gizmo to play with. This isn’t the only place where it feels like the game’s pen-and-paper RPG roots are probably clashing with the more casual game Cryptic actually wanted to make, but it’s one that never stops being annoying.

The less statty elements of the world work far better. Again though, first impressions aren’t great. As of the launch, you spend the first 30 (of 40) levels restricted to just three relatively small zones: a city, the Canadian wilderness, and an irradiated desert, with only two more waiting in the final stretch.

Luckily, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Champions treats its maps more like worlds in their own right, packing them with quests for all levels. Getting around is painless thanks to getting a travel power (like flying or swinging) right at the start, and while the overall world design is a bit bland, it’s spiced by lots of great individual areas, with missions taking you to everything from a seedy villain Fight Club, to a Westworld-style theme park where cowboy robots have gone berserk, to a nightmare graveyard where zombies flood in from every corner for a taste of your sweaty spandex.

Easily the best individual quest we’ve seen so far is the introduction to Monster Island (yes, really) around the level 30 mark, featuring giant flaming ape-on-dinosaur action, huge robots, and an almost Call of Duty-style assault on a fortified beachhead held by a criminal organization that’s supposedly very scary, but which still looks disturbingly like GI Joe toys dressed by a supervillain.

More Info

Release date: Sep 01 2009 - PC (US)
Sep 01 2009 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: Cryptic Studios
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • Ded - September 24, 2009 5:25 p.m.

    You're spot on about the items. Fiddly indeed! And they just upped the number of standard, generic items dropped to help the economy, will be a confusing mess to new players.. Gotta agree with others though, character creation is the best part :D
  • DeadGirls - September 11, 2009 5:29 a.m.

    I played the beta of this game for a month. The best thing -- THE BEST THING -- about the game is the character creation. It is awesome really. But I found that after I made a character and got my flight(travel) ability and played with my powers for a bit that it was all downhill. It is just another MMO, and the pvp is lame. I really think that this game could have been great if it was a coop action/rpg instead of an MMO, all that character creation fun is going to waste on boring MMO grinding.
  • Yazleb - September 10, 2009 5:45 p.m.

    And there's nothing listening to TDar Podcast and playing Champions Online, thats FUN & FuNNY
  • FriendlyFire - September 10, 2009 2:18 a.m.

    That review saddens me a bit, I felt like the game could've had a fair bit of potential but it's let down by its very RPG roots. We need to get away from the D&D structure, it's no more appropriate for modern games!
  • Japanjack - September 10, 2009 12:16 a.m.

    @Fancy Rat Ever heard of Guild Wars. . ? Because surely you meant 'free to play' rather than a general 'free MMO'.
  • TheRedAtlasProject - September 9, 2009 10:34 p.m.

    I heard that there might be a fee per month like City of Heros or WoW. you didnt mention it though, does anyone know anything about it?
  • Yazleb - September 9, 2009 10:30 p.m.

    Hey that was a nice review. I am obsessed with the game at the moment and am also a lifetime sub'er (if that makes my opinion any more valid?) He's right on many points and that yes the game needs more content, but for your first few months of playing you WILL have a blast, just make sure to do what I do, and play the damn game WITH AN XBOX 360 controller, otherwise its just not the same action. Peace!
  • Nannerpus - September 9, 2009 10:11 p.m.

    anyone know if there will be a free trial. cant find one...............first
  • dweller - September 10, 2009 2:40 a.m.

    Surprisingly addictted to Champions Online. I understand the need for alternate characters now(I have 4!).
  • JohnnyMaverik - September 10, 2009 1:05 a.m.

    Actually there are loads of totally free MMO's, Perfect World is the only one that I kinda enjoyed... for about 2 days, but I hate MMO's so that doesn't meen it's aweful. I have Guild Wars aswell and sure it's not "free" but like Fancy Rat said, it's got no subsciptions or additional payments after purchase the game. Never play it though... I hate MMO's -_-
  • Fancy Rat - September 9, 2009 11:01 p.m.

    @ TheRedAtlasProject "As of August 4, 2009, the pricing structure for Champions Online[16] is as follows. The game retails for $49.99 USD ($54.99 CAN, €49.99 EUR, £29.99 GBP). The monthly subscription cost is $14.99 USD ($16.49 CAN, €12.99 EUR, £8.99 GBP)." No such thing as a free MMO.
  • jar-head - September 9, 2009 10:30 p.m.

    Just wait for KOTORMMO......

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