Champions Online

What superpower would you have? Us? We’d probably have to plump for invisibility because you can’t kill what you can’t see, and someone has to watch over Veronika Zemanova as she goes through the dangerous process of trying on lingerie. And, as luck would have it, in the forthcoming MMO, Champions Online, you’ll be able to live out these superpower-wielding dreams without the fear of arrest.

Above: Can you comprehend just how bitchin' this image is?

The key to everything is customization. Cryptic Studios, the chaps behind the insanely successful City of Heroes, are keen to give players of Champions Online as much choice as possible. This means that before you even start there will be a wealth of character options to wade through, and as you progress, you’ll be able to tweak or change your online persona to your heart’s content.

Once you’re set up, you’ll be dropped off in the substantial world map and left to your own devices. The game is something of a landmark as it should be the very first decent MMO released for 360, and one of only a handful of games that support cross-platform play with PC gamers. Now, before you roll your eyes and click back – having already dismissed Champions Online as a nightmare of fiddly controls, dull menus, and endless fetch-and-carry missions – it might be worth reading on.

We were just like you – ready to write this one off as impossible to make work, until we saw it in action a few months ago. You see, the fellows over at Cryptic understand your reservations, and have gone to great lengths to make this a very simple, very playable MMO. Combat, which takes place in real time, is as easy as tapping the 360’s face-buttons (very much like Fable II). Super-powerful moves can be unleashed once your special gauge is full, and again, these are executed by the touch of a button. Some PC gamers might even plug in a 360 pad (gasp!). As you’d expect you can specialize in a variety of combat techniques from ranged, to close-quarters, or plump for more outlandish support roles.

It’s all alarmingly accessible, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there won’t be any depth. Champions Online will be unique every time you play it thanks to the whole world being populated by fellow humans who you’ll need to interact with to enjoy any kind of meaningful success. Largely because the game encourages you to specialize (by offering so many customization options), buddying-up with other players who have different strengths and skills is essential.

Fail to get sociable and you feel more chumpion than champion. Each enemy type in the game has a set style of attack, and a number of behavioral traits for you to exploit. Fail to do so and you’ll have your own personal arse handed to you on a plate. If your character doesn’t have the necessary abilities to smash certain bosses or bad-guys, you can always fall back into a support role as your mates bring their core skills into play. And don’t worry about fighting alongside players of vastly different levels either, as the game will automatically assign you a group rank and allocate bonuses accordingly to help even out your every encounter. With a gameworld that spans the entire (fictional) Earth and beyond, and additional quests being added regularly after release, Champions Online has the potential to be a total revolution online. Will it live up to its potential? You just wait.

Jan 28, 2009