Published on January 1st, 2010 | by prime0
Champions Online – Re-Review Update
Summary: The fights get tougher, the bad guys get stronger, but the game remains the same
Champions Online has changed a lot since it launched, sadly these changes haven’t been in the one area that it really needed. Cryptic Studios has tried to listen to all of the feedback, and made a lot of noise about all the usual class-balancing nerfs and tweaks that always accompany an MMO’s early weeks. What it hasn’t done is address the way the game is flawed at its very core.
For instance, players complained a lot about the lack of mission content once you hit the mid-20s. Cryptic’s answer was to seed a few ‘repeatable’ guests in there for the ‘Kill 150 bad guy X’ type. The complaint was that at this stage, the game becomes far too grind-heavy. The solution, therefore, is not to add missions that essentially ask you to grind even more.
The much-vaunted ‘Nemesis’ system was supposed to be a chance to add variety to proceedings by letting you customize the main villain in your missions quests to something of your own choosing. Again, it does do exactly that, but it doesn’t make a squat of difference to how the game plays. In truth, it’s only in there because it’s a key game mechanic from the pen and paper RPG CO is based on – at least it gives the Dungeon Master some material to craft stories that tie themselves to the player characters and draw you in – here it’s just a chance for you to dress up the master villain you’d still be facing off against, even if the system wasn’t included. It adds nothing to the underlying game mechanic.
The basic truth is that no matter how high you go with CO, there’s precious little to the game other than continuously blasting villains in the face. Whereas other MMO worlds try to offer something to break up the ever-present combat that persists in them, CO pays little more than the thinnest of lip service to anything non-fight related. Which gets very tiring, very quickly. At some point you need to break up the pace. MMOs are, by their nature, notorious for being ridiculously combat-oriented, but at least other games try to balance that by giving you a fully realized world to explore. Here, you simply shuttle between the same three main ‘zones’ (Millennium City, the Desert and Canada), occasionally popping over to one of the high-end zones (Lemuria, Monster Island, etc.) once you’re high enough, but still doing exactly the same things in all of them.
Like we said, it’s not that Cryptic hasn’t tried to address the early concerns, it’s just that it’s been facing a losing battle since the start. Introducing a whole new powerset (Celestial for all you angelic fans out there) and trying to shoehorn ‘roles’ into the existing framework to offer the pretence of group play being anything other than uncoordinated all-out blasting chaos, have simply served to show just how haphazardly the entire project was managed from the very beginning. The offered ‘fixes’ simply don’t change any of the deep-rooted flaws the game system is presenting, and instead are just attempts to divert your attention away from the fact that, ultimately, Champions Online offers a very shallow experience from start to finish.