At a Glance
- Crazy customization; Cel-shaded graphics.
- Slower paced and more traditional MMO compared to DCU Online.
Extensive customization lets you create and battle with the superhero of your choice.
Champions Online, a massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game
based on the Hero System tabletop roleplaying game, was released in
2009 by Cryptic Studios to an average reception. It seems that few
wanted to pay $15 a month for another MMO…so in late 2010,
Cryptic converted Champions Online to a free-to-play model, similar
to what Atari did with Turbine’s Dungeons &
Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited. The entire game is free, but
there are certain limitations on the free account. Custom or
special character archetypes (such as a necromancer type called The
Void), premium items, and free customer service, are all restricted
to what’s now called the Gold account, which remains at $15 /
month. But the underlying game is now free for everyone.
Champions Online has you strictly as the hero, unlike DC Universe
Online or City of Villains, which gives you the option of being
bad. You’re given an insane level of customization, even on the
free account–more so than any other MMO I’ve played. Your hero can
look strikingly original without a lot of effort. And the
animation-style, cel-shaded graphics make your hero really pop out
of the background.
Unfortunately, the customization is the bright spot in the game.
I’m spoiled by DCU Online, but Champions Online is firmly rooted in
traditional massively-multiplayer online games. Your character
moves slowly and attacks slowly. You hit the key to perform the
special attack and watch it happen, and there are no combo attacks.
You don’t immediately begin with a travel power and can’t scale up
buildings or double jump or other crazy things that DCU Online lets
you do. Champions Online seems very down to earth and low-key in
comparison, so it’s easy to get bored with it. The backbone of the
game is the same Hero System rules the tabletop game is based on,
so veterans of the paper-and-pencil version will feel right at home
Champions Online has a lot of content and is certainly better
than the aging City
of Heroes. (Created by the same company, Cryptic Studios, in
2004, but later sold to its publisher, NCSoft, City of Heroes has
quite a bit of content, but the graphics are dated and it’s very
slow paced and punishing to new players by today’s standards.)
Neither City of Heroes nor Champions Online really hold a candle to
DC Universe Online. However, Champions Online has one major thing
going for it … it’s free. And for a free MMO, it’s loaded. Even
with the restrictions on the free account, you get more and better
content than some pay MMOs, let alone other free ones. Give it a