The majority of missions, however, are stock ‘kill X of this,’ ‘use Y on that’ fare, albeit nicely done. Characters have unique dialogue for each section, most indoor locations are short and to the point, and most major areas have a strong theme, including an Anchorman parody in the city TV station, and the barely-disguised cast of Lost showing up in Canada. Champions also offers ‘public’ quests, a la Warhammer Online, where any heroes in the area can band together to help protect the mayor from snipers or take down a robot invasion, and the clever concept of ‘patrol’ missions, where you can run into and accept respawning bank robberies or other set-pieces while travelling round the city map. And if you really must, there are still random ‘door’ missions for City of Heroes fans.
One of the best tweaks is that kill-stealing isn’t a problem – anyone who lands a good hit on an enemy will usually get credit for its defeat. Unfortunately the same isn’t true for escort quests and collecting items, which leads to a lot of waiting around for respawns, and other players running off with your guy after you rescue them. Working in a team can also be problematic, with no easy way to see other members’ quests, objectives or waypoints.
By MMO standards, leveling is damn fast. The key words there are ‘by MMO standards,’ which means that it still takes too damn long, and rolling extra characters still means retreading too much old ground to justify having a full stable of different heroes at your disposal . Hit the endgame though, and starting again is about all there is on offer.
There’s very little high-level content, PvP mode is just boring duels and simplistic arena fighting, and there’s not much in the way of social activity. Millennium City cries out for more inspired pursuits, from competitive crimebusting or a Riddler-type character to challenge your heroes’ brains.
The Nemesis system, where you get to create your hero’s arch-enemy, may add something later, but it’s currently a damp squib. You get the design tool at Level 25, but your control over anything other than your enemy’s visual appearance and broad power-set (as in ‘Fire’ or ‘Munitions’, not ‘Fireball’ and ‘Assault Rifle’) is depressingly minimal. The opening mission introducing your Nemesis is terrific, but the goodwill is quickly burned away by then repeatedly getting mugged by packs of your foe’s generic minions while trying to go about your business. It’s cool the first time, but gets old fast.
Champions Online is an unusual game. It’s quite broken in many ways, but it quickly grows on you, and becomes surprisingly endearing. It doesn’t always make itself easy to like, and it’ll die on the vine unless it gets more areas to quest in and endgame content pretty damn soon, but it’s a fun break from the normal MMORPG template, and even with its problems, it's still worth checking out.
Sep 9, 2009