The evolution of storytelling continues as Atari and Cryptic Studios combine to introduce Champions Online (open beta testing begins today), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game that lets participants create their own heroes and villains.
Like Cryptic’s other successful PC gamers, City of Heroes and City of Villains, players are allowed to make their own characters to roam the world (and beyond) and take on assignments/missions in a fully immersed world, interacting with other creations and established characters. Though its beta version is just launching online now, the Champions superhero role-playing game book was published back in 1981, making it one of the first. The rules and worlds from the book and its many updates will form the basis of how people play, with obvious additions.
So what’s the difference between Champions Online and other MMORPGs? It seems to be the level of customization available. With the number of costumes, body types, power sets and character appearance tweaks available, there are billions of possible combinations to make any hero you can dream up.
Build your character with power sets including sorcery, supernatural power, gadgeteering, fire-based abilities and martial-arts mastery. And, of course, your hero must have an archenemy. You also can create this villain using the Champions system. As the press release says: “This ultimate adversary will appear throughout a hero’s career, and even form diabolic super groups to bedevil other players throughout the universe.” Seems pretty cool that they could pop up at any time and that if you really wanted to, you could make your nemesis even tougher than you are. Dr. Destroyer is the top evildoer, though, so unless you have some serious power and experience, maybe you should steer clear for now.
With established heroes like Defender and Saffire, shady organizations such as VIPER, ARGENT and PSI, and super villains including Dr. Destroyer and Foxbat, the battles and nefarious plans will go on for years. Also entertaining are the side stories and other additions, such as Saffire’s “Sex and the City”-like column, Spandex in the City, and the retelling of Ironclad’s pre-superhero past.
The customizable aspects of the game may draw many to their consoles, and eventually their XBox 360s as the rumor goes, but the game still feels familiar. Everyone has customizable character creators out there, even “Mad Men,” and once you get up to a certain point (like a million possibilities), it’s not as novel and can become cumbersome. Some gamers want that creation mode freedom, but for actual gameplay, we’ve all seen little guys shoot at big ones. Some of us need to see how the storytelling unfolds and characters interact after gamers get their hands on the beta version to better evaluate it. Though, with many of the big evil bosses here, no matter what hero you create, you’ll want help bringing them down.
These MMORPGs can be a lot of fun and really addicting, and when Cryptic launches their “Star Trek” take, many may not leave the house for a while. Check out some of the video here for tips on building your champion and to see some of the game play. If you have any cool names that you’ve created, leave them in the comments so we know whom to look out for. It’s a big world in there, and though he’s the No. 1 guy, there are hopefully some more creative names than Defender!
– Jevon Phillips
Photos: Champions Online