- Expansive character creation
- Unique archetypes
- Nice fitting visual styles
- Twitch combat that rewards skill
- “Create your own villain” Nemesis System
- Overpowered premium archetypes
- Developers rarely update free content and seem greedy
- Unbalanced archetypes
Champions Online is a free superhero MMO developed by Cryptic Studios and published by ArcGames. It was first released on September 1, 2009.
Champions Online is a superhero-themed free MMO made by Cryptic Studios, the same team behind of City of Heroes and City of Villains. In Champions Online, you take the role of a superhero, defending Millennium City from various evils trying to take over the city. The game is played from a third-person view and controls are done via the keyboard and mouse.
Champions Online is an action MMO with a twitch-like gameplay. When fighting enemies, you have to block or evade attacks manually. There is a power bar which you can charge by successfully blocking an enemy attack, or by hitting an enemy. This power bar slowly depletes when not in use and the most powerful attacks depend on this power bar. As such, most fights in Champions Online revolve around timing your blocks and attacks so that you can use your most powerful skills as frequently as possible.
As expected of a superhero game, the character creation is incredibly diverse and expansive. During character creation, you can select from a variety of body builds and can even customize your characters’ default animations. Want your char to run on all fours? Well, you can do that and more. There’s also a large variety of costumes you can choose from, and you can freely mix and match them. Weapons too, are also a part of the costume, and you can freely change them.
Before it went free-to-play, Champions Online had an open power skill system that allows anyone to pick any combination of skills you want. After it went free to play the developers replaced it with a more streamlined Archetype system. Think of archetypes as your standard MMO classes. Each archetype is based on a particular comic book superhero. There are 11 free and 15 premium archetypes available in-game.
One of the most unique systems in this game is the Nemesis system. Once you’ve reached level 25, you can create and customize your nemesis along with his minions. Your nemesis’ minions will then ambush you from time to time, and will drop a clue upon their defeat. Gather enough of this clue and you will start a quest line culminating in a showdown with your nemesis. After you’ve defeated your nemesis, you can then create a new nemesis, or reactivate the old one to fight them again.
Want to create a pink elf with the body of The Incredible Hulk that dual wields rocket launchers? Yup, you can do that. The character creator is incredibly fun to play around, and you can create some pretty weird heroes.
The unique archetypes also all play significantly differently from each other. For example, while “The Behemoth” and “The Glacier” archetypes have a similar role as a tank, their abilities create a widely different experience. All the archetypes are thematically distinct from each other and have their own pros and cons.
The graphics are also extremely fitting. The use of cartoon cellshaded graphics and the comic book font fits well with the game. It is a comic book superhero MMO after all, and it certainly feels that way.
Unfortunately, not everything is good with this game. For one there is no way to access the 15 premium archetypes without paying real money. That in and of itself is not a huge deal except that premium archetypes tend to be more powerful than their free counterparts. On that note about the importance of real money, the game is also incredibly grindy unless you pony up some cash to bring the grind to a more reasonable level.
The biggest problem of this game is the developer’s priorities. They’ve done nothing except add more costumes, more premium classes, more gambling items and basically nothing not behind a paywall. They don’t try to add new unique contents or fix the broken systems already in game, such as crafting. There is simply too much importance placed on making money over expanding what is a good foundation for a superhero MMO.