When we last left PNG’s fearless hero, he was boarding an aircraft for the Southwest Desert for more adventure and excitement. Irradiates have erected a radiation shield around (insert acronym here) and it’s up to heroes like The Equestrian to save the day!
One of the first missions you get upon landing is to go to The Powerhouse and level up your character. This is where, when you gain a level, you get to pick a new power, rank up a power, get your travel power, or get talents that increase your character’s stats. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of information given to me during character creation and during the tutorial to know what stats would benefit my chosen powers and path. Luckily some of the traits and talents have obvious names like shooter and sniper that helped me discern what exactly I would want to boost when leveling up and picking out rewards for future missions. The Powerhouse also has some rooms with moving targets and such for you to try out whatever you decided to purchase when you leveled up. Leaving The Powerhouse locks in your choice unless you would like to pay resources (Champions Online’s currency) to “retcon” your choices. If you have the resources, it’s possible to completely redo your character. This can get extremely expensive as you have to pay to retcon each power from the last power chosen to your very first, and it gets more expensive the older the power.
I want to touch briefly on travel powers before I get into my desert adventure. Naturally I chose super speed for The Equestrian, as being part horse he should be rather fast. There were quite a few possibilities like from swinging on webs, traveling on a floating disc, gliding on ice, or just straight up flying. There were also rocket boot and pack options as I saw a certain iconic character pictured to the right flying around The Powerhouse. The Duke lives! While I enjoyed running around with my travel power, I found that going at high speeds in populated areas caused my frame rate to drop like a brick and made it nigh impossible to play when The Equestrian reached top speeds. After a video card driver update, changing some security settings in Windows 7, and allowing Champions Online access to ports in my router, I found I was able to get consistent and playable frame rates.
After leveling up, I wandered into the desert to help with the deactivation of the radiation shield. It once again felt like a typical MMO with me accepting quests to kill this or retrieve that. However, with a new move or two and my super speed travel power, I was pulling off more interesting combos with my dual swords, dual pistols, and a shotgun. It seemed almost as if this was a second tutorial level as the radiation shield kept me in an area about the size of the previous area along with the basic structure of the main mission line. I found myself doing little missions and collecting information that ultimately lead me to the super villain responsible for erecting the shield and letting loose the irradiates. After finishing the main quest line, the map opens up and you have the option of either continuing to fight the irradiate menace, heading to the Canadian wilderness, or fight crime in Millennium City. After a quick trip to Canada to get a change of scenery, I decided to stick around the desert for a little and explore.
As of this post, I’ve made it to level 15 and Champions still has this odd hold on me. I’ve run through all of the available quests in the desert and Canada and have finally settled down in Millennium City, which appears to be the size of each of the previous maps put together. Besides being gorgeous and having some rather intuitive action oriented controls, I can’t find anything in the core game that makes it much different from some of the major MMOs out there. The change from a fantasy setting to something a little bit more sci-fi with heavy roots in comics is refreshing, but I still feel like I’m doing the same types of missions/quests since World of Warcraft made MMORPG’s mainstream. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I remember the painful grind of Everquest and Final Fantasy XI like it was yesterday. On the other side of that coin, when you gained a level in FFXI or EQ, it felt way more rewarding than it does in current MMOs like Warhammer Online or WoW.
My next article will focus on the Nemesis System that is unique to Champions Online and was one of the most interesting things I took away from my interview with Bill Roper. Expect it next week when I hope to hit level 25 and defeat The Equestrian’s long time rival, El Chupacabra.