Champions Online – Initial Impressions

Despite my trying lots of trials and demos of MMOs and other games this summer, nothing really hooked me. My attention span was too short, I was too stressed, I was working too hard, or something. But nothing seemed as “OMG AWESOME” as I was hoping for. Not only that, nothing even seemed “fun.”

On a few people in the blogopshere’s advice (namely Pete at Dragonchasers and Syp at Bio Break), I yanked a pre-order of Champions Online from Gamestop. Unfortunately, I was so busy over the past few weeks that my plan of learning the ins-and-outs of the game during open beta and the headstart didn’t pan out. But I finally got my retail key, made my first live character (Professor Beej@professorbeej, no less), and took my first real jaunt into Millenium City.
Now my fiancee and I had co-created a heroine during open beta and gained a few levels, but it was early and we knew nothing about what was going on. We hadn’t even figured out the engery building/draining powers yet. So entering into the game’s tutorial on the live game really was a learning process for me.
My first surprise was that the game played so similarly to other MMOs on the outset. But I had been warned about that, so I didn’t let that deter me. I followed the quests here and there, doing my menial superhero tasks like getting people’s vacation tickets and luggage back for them amidst an alien invasion, and I learned the ropes. The tutorial was fun, but it wasn’t until I got to the open mission at the end that the game really grabbed my attention.
Open missions are roughly equivalent to Warhammer Online‘s Public Quests. And I love love love love love WAR‘s PQs. Fighting aliens alongside other heroes and then getting a cool solo instance where I fight a supervillain for my troubles? Yes, please!
By the time I left the tutorial, I had a pretty good grasp on the game, I thought. So I pick that I am going to Canada for my second tutorial area, and head to the Powerhouse (where young heroes train their powers, obviously!) and pick up my very first travel power to replace the incredibly slow Antigrav boots I got for preordering.
Now, since I’m on my fiancee’s laptop, I’m unable to upload a picture of my champion for you to see. Suffice it to say that I’m not the most visually creative guy in the world, so my guy’s only wearing a black suit and tie, a fedora, and has some matching feathered wings. I was delighted to see the wings flap when I activated my preorder flight power, so I assumed they would do that for any power.
No, they don’t. I picked the absolutely terrible Ice Slide as my travel power and had no idea that I could test it out inside the Powerhouse (thanks, World of Warcraft, for making me think I can only use travel abilities outside). Now don’t get me wrong, Ice Slide sounds like it could be great. I loved Bobby Drake in X-Men comics for years, but this power is nowhere near as awesome as he makes it seem. It can’t hover, it’s slow to start unless charged, and it actually feels slippery when you’re coming to a stop. There’s no maneuverability, either. And to top it off, my wings didn’t flap.
I play around with it for a while (finding that there are LOST-themed quests in Canada! Yay for pop culture references in MMOs!), and gain a few levels, but I can’t stand to travel like that anymore.
So I go back into the Powerhouse to retcon (respec in Champions Online lingo), and find that I’m too poor to unlearn Ice Slide. Retconning is ludicrously expensive for newbies, which I think is silly since most new players have absolutely no idea what powers/abilities are going to be worthwhile. I know I can get another travel power later on, but I find out by asking around that it’s at 35, and I’m only 8.
So I reroll. I also take the time to edit my costume to a less gaudy black and grey suit as opposed to the neon green and blue it was originally. I finally look like I’m a hero ready to whip some tail. When I get back home, I’ll post a blog with my picture.
So I breeze through the tutorial again and this time pick the Desert instead of Canada. I don’t think this area is as fun, really, but I made my choice, and I’ll stick with it. I’ve so far gotten back to level 8 and into the second part of the Desert storyline. I look forward to what awaits me.
Now, as far as gameplay goes, I like it. It’s fast paced and fun, and the Telepath framework I started with seems to be decent enough. I’ve heard it’s one of the better healers end-game, so I’m heading in that direction now. I want to be able to heal whenever I want to and then solo when I can, and I’ve found a couple of builds I’m altering a little to accomplish that. My main concern is that I won’t be able to go back and retcon all the way down when I get to end-game if I make some silly choices now. We’ll just have to see how that plays out. I’m not sure if I should be building for a healer as I level or if I can use my Build 2 to do that at end-game. I just don’t know enough about the game yet. And I’m not much of a reroller/alt man, so I hope there’s a way.
Also, my fiancee has a pretty high chance of playing this one. As I said before, her impressions of the beta were positive, and she was quoted as saying something along the lines of “I like superheroes; I don’t like druids.” MMOs are always so much fun with other people, and I’ve been trying to get her into some kind of game with me since we started dating. This might be my chance. Her character, Ex Libris, just might come to life on a second account once the wedding is over in a couple months.
As it stands, I’m happy with how Champions Online plays. It’s fast paced, the animations are smooth and enjoyable, the customization is through the roof, and it’s fun to play casually. I don’t feel a need to play; I feel a desire to. I want to have fun, and that’s what I’m looking for in a game. And given that there are no real servers, I can finally play with everyone I want to instead of just a select few. I expect to stick with CO until I at least hit the level cap and see what the game has to offer. I have a few qualms with the retcon system, picking powers, and the fact that the game has gear-based progression, but I’m willing to deal with them for the time being.
The main selling point for me is that it’s fun. It’s fun, and I can have that fun on my own terms. Right now, that’s worth the price of admission and the subscription fee. So if anyone wants to meet up and smash some faces, run an instance, or just do whatever it is that off-duty heroes do, hit up @professorbeej.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. Nice review! (It's Kyrin by the way)

    Just hit 40 myself, and got my SG formed. I'll shoot you an invite if I see you on tonight, though Mord and Tei should be able to do that for you as well if they catch you first.

  2. I wonder if you'll like Aion when it comes out. I haven't had a chance to play Champions yet, but my friends all enjoy it. My favorite part of MMOs is customizing my characters, so I could probably spend hours just on that. Good to know it's easy to get into and fun.

  3. Great review! 🙂 I enjoyed Champions Online when I played it in beta but I ultimately not to buy it right now. I've already bought Aion and will have it play so I guess I'll do that first. I reckon I will pick up Champions Online at some point though – I like the idea of something easy and fun. Plus I love superheroes!

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