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Champions Online Free For All Review

Champions Online Free For All Review


  The tale of Champions Online begins many years ago when Marvel comics was looking to develop a new MMO based on their licensed properties. Cryptic Studios had previously developed City of Heroes, the first successful superhero MMO and was chosen to be the developer for the project which had the working title of Marvel Universe Online.


  The publisher (Microsoft Game Studios) and Marvel went back and forth on licensing issues and the project was eventually canceled, although at the time they blamed the competitive nature of the subscription based MMO market.


Good idea bad idea Marvel

Learn the difference people.


  Left hanging in the wind Cryptic Studios decided to re brand the project under a new license from Hero Games owners and developers of the pen and paper superhero role playing game Champions, thus was Champions Online born.


  Unfortunately the Champions brand name had nowhere near the power of what Marvel would have brought and many found the game very shallow upon release. Champions Online struggled for survival. It would be the decision of another company that would lead Champions Online to its next phase of life.


  Turbine Inc. had developed the Dungeons and Dragons MMO, but the game was far from profitable and was very close to being canceled when they decided to rework the game and turn it from a subscription based model into a hybrid subscription/free to play MMO. This was such a success that it not only saved the game but turned it into a profitable revenue source. Proving that when done right, a hybrid subscription/free to play game could be even more profitable than a standard subscription based game.


  Everyone in the industry then watched as Turbine decided to try their free to play model on Lord of the Rings Online a game that was not struggling. When this increased revenue nearly 400 percent for Turbine, Cryptic Studios had all the proof that they needed and began to redevelop Champions Online into a free to play game. So did it work? Well according to publisher Atari revenue from Champions Online is up over 1000 percent!


  So that brings us to Champions Online Free For All.


  So what is the first thing you should do once you sign up for your free account and download the client? CHANGE THE VIDEO SETTING TO REMOVE COMIC-STYLE OUTLINING! Sorry about that but you have no idea what a big difference this made in the game. You will find this option under the video tab, advanced, effects.


Champions Online comic style outlining

With comic-style outlining.


Gas prices in Millenium City

After shutting off comic-style outlining.


  The characters and the game world looked like absolute garbage with the comic style outlining enabled. After playing for a few hours with this setting on I nearly passed on this assignment, but came across this option when I decided to play with my settings. Oh the difference this makes.


  As a free to play account holder you will have two character slots available to you, you can increase this by an additional two slots for 1120 Atari Tokens. As of the writing of this review the tokens cost anywhere from $6.25 for 500 Atari Tokens to $62.50 for a bundle of 5000 Atari Tokens.


  I never understood why all of these free to play companies try to sell additional character slots when you could just create another account under a different e-mail address but hey whatever works and continues to bring in revenue for the game I guess.


  Free to play accounts do not have anywhere near the freedom to create unique heroes that subscribers have as options, you are limited to choosing one of seven archetypes;


The Grimoire

The Mind

The Inferno

The Glacier

The Marksman

The Blade

The Soldier

The Behemoth


  You can increase the amount of archetypes available to you by once again spending Atari Tokens. At the time this review was written each of the following archetypes cost 920 Atari Tokens.


The Void

The Specialist

The Inventor

The Savage


  One of the few areas where everyone can agree on that Cryptic shines is in their character customization options. If you have ever played Cryptic's other MMO game Star Trek Online, you will find the physical avatar customization very familiar.


  Once you are done customizing your body it's time to design your uniform. This is where things get tricky as you are confronted with several sub menu's. You will see the Atari Token symbol pop up here again on certain pieces, yes you guessed it, certain items need to be unlocked via the store. You can very easily customize a decent outfit with what is available. One problem that I came across was with the capes, these are very iconic items in the super hero genre and I found that it made my avatar look like they had an invisible hunch back.


  Once your done you need to name your hero and don't worry because your favorite name is not going to be taken! Yes you read that right. Cryptic uses a handle system to create two part names so that there can be two people (or more) with the same name in the game. Each character can be identified as different by viewing their handle. This is a system that DC Universe Online should look into adding into their game, in fact a lot of MMO's could benefit from this system.


  It's off to the tutorial for you once you have your chosen name in place. You find yourself in Millennium city which is under attack by an invading force of insectoid aliens known as the Qularr. Millennium City is protected by a superhero group known as "The Champions", but it seems that their head quarters were one of the first targets to be hit by the Qularr. It's up to you hero to save the city and find out if the Champions are still alive.


Firefox in Champions Online

She's still hoping to be cast in a A-ha video.


  Champions Online uses ye olde wall of text questing with some very minor voice acting and cut scenes thrown into the mix. The tutorial will take you from level 1 to level 6 ( the current level cap is level 40) and will teach you the basics of combat and questing in the game. You will find yourself constantly referencing the world map as it is not always clear were you need to go to accomplish your objectives.


  Combat uses the familiar click this box to attack/use a power as most fantasy games but you also get to use a blocking action utilizing the shift key. You can also become ensnared by your foes and will need to repeatedly hit the Z key to break out.


  Once you have saved the city from the invasion several weeks will pass in game time as you help the city to recover and then you will receive the key to the city in a nice little ceremony as thanks.


  You can now go to the Powerhouse to learn new abilities and gain your travel power. This is where you feel punished if you do not choose flight as unlike DC Universe Online everything seems to be an obstacle, no super speeding up and over buildings for you! Also you sustain damage from falling, so you have to be careful about how you run around or how far you fall from, it might not kill you but it might weaken you enough that a bad guy could finish you off fairly easy.


  To customize the user interface all you have to do is hit the F12 key on your keyboard. This will allow you to move around and resize the various boxes in the UI. Unfortunately you cannot change the skin or coloring of the UI, and boy did they choose some ugly color combinations there. Once your done fooling around with the boxes you can hit the F12 key again to go back to the action.


User interface color choice

User interface color choices by the color blind.


  The music in the game is hit and miss, sometimes sounding good, and sometimes sounding like its coming off an old 16 bit cartridge game, but hey who am I to judge when I have bands like The Advantage, The Black Mages, and several OST videogame scores on my IPod.


Champions Online compared to DC Universe Online


  The art style even with shutting off the comic-line styling, still leaves a lot to be desired. Every vehicle in the game looks like a toy and there is just not the same mood and immersion that you get when you travel around in say Gotham or Metropolis in DC Universe Online. When you reach the border areas of a zone, the colors drain from the screen leaving you with a black and white scheme. It was a little immersion breaking to me, but I have yet to see an MMO that has handled this particular problem well.


Champions Online zone border

Negative, you cannot advance any further.


  In the end I still ran into odd glitches and targeting problems from time to time which were frustrating. The game still has a shallowness to it, along with the cartoony vehicles and mostly bland buildings, leaving me feeling that it was a good idea for Cryptic Studios and Atari to move this game to a hybrid model. Is it worth a subscription fee? I cannot say that it is, but it is definitely worth checking out under free to play. Just remember you get what you pay for.


Final Verdict for Champions Online Free For All 6/10



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