On paper, Champions Online really does seem like Cryptic Studio’s previous outing (City of Heroes/Villians) into a superhero MMO. As a matter of fact, I believe their only competition in that genre is a game that they themselves created. So why make another superhero MMO, you know, besides having sold off the City of Heroes/Villains license to NCSoft? I was able to have a few words with Bill Roper (who had some pretty dope kicks on) of Cryptic Studios while at Gencon to find out exactly why and what separates this Champions Online from the ravenous pack of MMORPGS.
First and foremost, the backdrop for my interview with Mr. Roper was the Champions Online booth that had numerous computers running the game. As you can no doubt tell from the screenshots, this game looks unique and, more importantly, gorgeous. It was explained to me that the game was intended to have this cel shaded look from the beginning, almost like a 2-D drawing rendered in 3-D with modern effects. The game was running at a local server at the convention on computers that were more than capable of displaying the game at maximum settings. Running on a local server with no more than 12 people made for a pretty much lag free performance, something that I wasn’t able to get with my short time with the Beta. What it comes down to is that this game is one of the prettier MMO’s that you can play.
However, pretty graphics do not make a great game. With an MMO, it’s all about being an immersive experience in a persistent world. The world itself has to have some sort of fleshed out history and it needs to be rich and engrossing. Cryptic Studio’s and HERO Games has got you covered. Champions Online is based off of the Champions tabletop RPG, originally published back in 1981. With the sixth edition of the HERO System hot off of the presses, there was a sizable library of source material for Cryptic to build the world of Champions Online. As Bill regaled to me a tale of one of the developers of the tabletop RPG getting a chance to play the game and being shocked to see a super villain that he created as an NPC, I began to understand the care that went into preserving the universe in digital form. Both companies worked closely together to ensure that the Champions universe was translated as faithfully as possible. Cryptic even went so far as to purchase the Champions license from HERO Games and then license it back to them.
Alright, so the game has the looks, deep history, and interesting world. If I were on a date with Champions Online at this point, I wouldn’t exactly be clamouring for a second one. Warhammer Online sunk it’s nails into me with it’s hot and sexy PVP, I had a fling with World of Warcraft due to it’s popularity and casual gameplay, and I fell in love with Final Fantasy XI due to the dedication of it’s player base and the rewarding difficulty. What could Bill Roper and Champions Online offer me that would have me leaving desperate messages every half hour until they called me back for an evening at Red Lobster with some delicious cheddar biscuits?
The answer was customization. The options for creating your own personal champion are massive. The whole idea is to give you the ability to make this avatar your own and something that will create a special bond between yourself and it. While playing the beta, I must have spent a good hour or so just customizing the look of my champion. You can play anything from a crazy ninja robot to a savage laser wielding bug. Those options don’t stop there as the look of your powers have a degree of customization. Once you hit level 20, you start getting hints that a villain has taken interest in you, leading to a system e-mail at level 25 informing you that you have a nemesis. As if making your own personal champion wasn’t enough to make you feel like the game is offering you a unique experience, you then have to build your nemesis in much the same way. This opens up your own personal quest line that allows you to have other champions assist in taking to take he/she down. A Champions work is never done however and, after defeating and locking up your nemesis, you’re able to create another one to add to your gallery of super villains.
For me, that was enough to warrant at least a call the next day to say I had a lovely time and would be willing to go out for a drink sometime soon. It also appears that Champions Online enjoyed the company of PNG and we’ll be spending some time getting to know each other in the next few months. We were lucky enough to secure a review code, however, my non-heroic brain can’t possibly comprehend how to go about writing a review of an MMO. What is an ordinary common blogger to do? Wait… what is that smell? Do you smell the kicked up dirt of a long horse trodden road leading into an endless horizon of adventure? If you smell a series of articles on my experiences with Champions Online coming up, you’ve got a keen and almost heroic sense of smell my friend.
Thanks to Atari for the screenshots and a chance to interview Bill Roper, Design Director of Cryptic Studios and Executive Producer of Champions Online. Due how WordPress handles galleries, after you click an image and it brings you to the images page, you will have to click it again for the full size image.