Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Game Review: Champions Online - Another City of Heroes?

Champions Online Game Review

If you missed it, this past weekend there was an open beta for the soon to be released game Champions Online. Yes, if you recognize the name it is based off of the old table top, pen and paper game of the same name. Cryptic Studios bought the licensing rights and made an MMO [massive multi-player online] out of it. So at its core is it a super-heor online game.

I got a chance to take a peak at it and played it for the entire weekend. I first didn't remember the game, but seeing a couple of videos about it, I do recall it at E3. Low and behold it was the same game. I recall at E3 I wasn't that impressed by it, but it was still developing at that stage.

On to the review. Since this is my first review on my blog, unlike my YouTube reviews at Shakaama Live, I'll make this as factual as possible and list the criteria for the review.

- Overall style (4 out of 10): The overall style of the look of the game is very unpolished. In city of heroes, your heroes were very larger than life and you really got the sense that you were playing a super-hero. Although the graphics were in fact realistic and the cityscape was modern, it just did not give you a sense of anything unique and exciting. It was not impressive

- landscape (3 out of 10): The environment was well executed, but everything was just so tiny and the levels were so compact that you never got the sense you were in an actual city, an actual forest, an actual tundra. The zones made it clear that you were playing a game with snow, dirt, trees and not that you were in some actual area.

- character (4 out of 10): The graphics of the NPC's and the PC's were not impressive at all. Again they were not polished. The animation of the characters were all stiff as well. There was no sense of fluid real life motions, nor super-hero life motions as well.

- hardware capability (6 out of 10): This category is for if the game really tests your hardware. As you can see by the previous graphics categories, it isn't a graphically impressive game. As such, I found no problem installing it and getting it to play smoothly. So for smoothness of playability graphic wise it gets a complete pass, but the lack of challenging hardware with impressive graphics it fails.

- chargen (2 our of 10): Character generation was a sticking point in City of Heroes. They constantly redeveloped the chargen. Champions Online completely just copied them. Chargen involves nothing more than making the rudimentary powers of your hero and overabundance of looks for your character. I say overabundance, because unless you are playing zoomed all the way into your character you will never see all the minor things you or anyone else did to their character. In the end chargen boils down to basic heights, colors and costuming. The hundreds of facial expressions you can put on your character or whether he has a cleft chin is unnecessary. Chargen therefore was not innovative at all. I've yet to see a super-hero chargen where you can plan out or plot out the path of powers he's to go on or even remove the powers altogether and do an actual back story in game of developing the powers. Both City of Heroes and Champions missed the point of this. They both just lazily put a text editor on your character and let you write some mumbo jumbo about the origins of the hero. The fact that Champions chargen is exactly the same as City of Heroes smacks of plagiarism.

- controls (2 out of 10): the controls were clunky as hell. I heard that you could attach an xbox controller to your computer and have massive fun, unfortunately I don't have one and didn't think about it. I suffered through, what has to be the worst physics known to man. It's as if my hero was 4 tons and didn't have control of his own muscles. While the developer at E3 called the gameplay heroic, it is anything but. The worst thing were the travel powers. I tested them all. unless you chose superspeed and flight, you had zero precision of how your character moved. None of this stop on a dime. I also was disappointed with the flying disks that they put in: ice, electric etc... those travel powers used a disk, and when you stopped moving you floated to the ground. I just don't get the point of that. Do you lose control of your disk in relation to gravity? I'm sure it's to prevent some exploit, but for game play it sucks. Speaking of ice, I thought it was going to be like iceman. You know he cools the air under his feet and creates a path of ice. No, it's a floating icy disk. How lazy are you that you can't program an icy path that fades in 2 seconds behind him after 10 yards. Yet in the videos and the splash screens he has an icy path. Mind you it wasn't even my power of choice, but I found it disappointing.

- ui (0 out of 10): User Interface! What can I say about their user interface. Oh one word comes to mind: HORRIBLE!!!! This was a pain in the butt. Man it was god awful. I just cannot say enough about it. There were these ... and then these ... also these... ugggg it was ridonkulous. Who thought it up? And, lastly, it wasn't even something new, it was just a bad copy of other UI's. uggggg!!

- rpg ( 3 out of 10): Is there a story you can follow? Yes, and they do convey it. Yes you get a feel for what is going on in the game and it's not just something boring. Ok, for there being a story Champions gets a pass. As for the actual merits of the story? Fail. They had the most unimaginative staff come up with the worst scenarios possible. I've seen more imagination in table top games from complete social rejects, than what i saw in this game. The story for a super hero... yes a SUPER HERO, should be epic. Literally the challenges in this game, a swat team could handle and be home by dinner. It was just so bleh.

- lore (6 out of 10): Was there background to the story and the world and the game? Yes, they have cut scenes and npcs that talked to you. The voice acting was well executed and gave you a sense of the character speaking. Not bad build up to it.

- rpg (1 out of 10): Does your advancement in the game have a story like quality to it? No.

- hack n slash (1 out of 10): Is the game advanced by hack n slash? Yes

- Immersion: Did you feel immersed in this online game. No

- Must have: Is this a must have game for video game nerds. No. This is not going to be a classic and a "if you're a nerd you must have this in your library". This doesn't advance any game style. In fact it doesn't even advance the Champions franchise. I'm sorry to say that. I played champions only once, hell i spent a month making the character. This game is not impressive in the least bit.

I predict a lackluster launch and a lackluster following. This game just does not capture the imagination.


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