Earlier this month Cryptic Studios launched their new super hero MMORPG, Champions Online. In the days prior to its retail release, Cryptic granted gamers a sneak peak in the form of an open beta. The beta event was open to all and let players craft their own “Champion” in a world that pays parodist homage to our favorite super heroes. Champions Online models itself closely after its predecessor, City of Heroes, but is hardly a rehash. Cryptic has updated their model to include many modern features, some happily borrowed from the competition. These impressions are being written by a gamer who is has yet to fall head over heals in love with the genre – so what sort of impression did Champions leave on this self proclaimed tourist?
As with most online role playing games, Champions begins with the creation of an avatar (toon). Cryptic has upped the ante once again, and offers players an unheard of number of Champions Online Gold. If you have played an average MMORPG, you’ve seen how simple most character creation is. Most games give you a very limited set of options in your appearance, relying mostly on equipment (loot) to diversify the population. Champions, like City of Heroes before it, doesn’t really have armor or clothing drops – Instead you’re given vast control over your avatars appearance. Through various sliders you can change nearly every detail of your physique. Combining this freedom with a plethora of costume pieces that you can mix, match, and color, you can create practically any hero you want.
The freedom granted by the astronomical tailoring options are only half of the creation process. You have to design your heroes abilities as well, or at least the path on which you’re going to build upon those abilities. The first job on your journey to Champion status is chose or create your own framework; the basis of your hero’s abilities. Basic frameworks include descriptions such as power armor, electricity, and telekinesis. The framework you chose mostly seems to dictate your initial statistics (strength, dexterity, etc), since you’re not limited to powers from one specific framework. The lack of any real class distinction adds a great deal of depth to the games progression and character building.
It’s easy to imagine that there will be an abounding variety of heroes in the Champions world; from knockoffs of old favorites, to entirely new and unique creations. The tailors you’ll find scattered throughout the game’s world allow for even more options. For a fee (in “Champions Gold”) you can visit an NPC who will allow you to create and save new costumes. You can even send your saved costumes to friends, who can then load them into their own game. For the purposes of the beta, my main toon (Cassandra Prime) was a mechanized female, who followed the basics of the power armor framework. Perhaps the most amusing creation I encountered was Jesus, complete with a white robe and halo; I didn’t bother to inquire about his superpowers or crime fighting prowess.