The Return Of A Hero – Champions Online Beta Diary Part 1

Written by Ian Yuan, August 26, 2009, 0 Comments
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A Brief History
A few years ago a mutual friend of Howlett and myself got us hooked on City of Heroes. Matt (our friend) had been playing for a couple of weeks and gave us a quick demo of his character in action, a big blue juggernaut with an ice sword and earthen armour. Sometime later we both succumbed to the temptation and each bought a copy. Howlett made a speedy martial artist clad in white and I made Sad Robot Girl.

At first, the concept for Sad Robot Girl (henceforth referred to as SRG) came about as a joke. After hours, unable to come up with a decent character, I remembered some jokes Howlett had made about the frequency of “sad robot girls” in animes and mangas. With nothing else to build on, I started to make a depressed looking robotic girl using a dark colour palate and a look inspired by an old anime. (Why a girl? Well, I’m not much of a role-player online, so I really don’t mind what sex my characters are.) I gave her dark energy powers just to add to her gloomy personality. And so that is how the three of us spent that summer, traipsing around a digital realm thwarting evil.

So perhaps you can understand how excited I was when, Howlett and I went to Fan Expo 2008, met Randy Mosiondz and got to play a really early build of Champions Online. Well, now the open beta is upon us and so is the return if SRG!

Monday, August 17 – Wednesday, August 20
2 Hours Of My Life Wasted

After booting up the beta, my first task ahead of me was to resurrect SRG using the character creator provided. Making your hero begins with choosing a framework which sets your initial powers and provides stats to complement them. There are 16 frameworks in total, arranged in themes like fire powers, martial arts or sorcery. Naturally, I chose the darkness framework but you’re not limited to the ones provided because you can make your own. Yes, you can make that sword wielding telepath you’ve always wanted to! After that, you choose their gender and set their body and facial types. The game provides you with a few pre-fabricated body and face templates to use with the ability to edit the scale of each feature using sliding bars. SRG’s body type? Vixen of course! With their body shape determined, their costume is next.

Those who’ve played any of the City Of Heroes/Villains games will remember that half the fun was designing your heroes’ outfit to the last detail. Well, this game does well to improve on its spiritual successor in this department. Once again, there are an insane number of costume pieces, all with changeable colours and many with various pattern and effect overlay options. A number of insect and animal themed items are available too, including entire heads. By far though, the creator’s best feature is the ability to save and load the costumes you design, making re-doing characters a breeze. Now equipped with some new sleek robot armour and chunky jet boots SRG was ready to hit the streets.

Some Pest Control
The tutorial begins in a sealed section of Millennium City, a major metropolitan of the Champions universe built upon the ruins of Detroit. Why is it sealed? Because of an invasion of marauding alien insects of course! The first sets of mission are pretty standard tutorial fare, just to get you adjusted to the controls. Even just a few minutes in it becomes quite obvious that combat is handled a little differently then in most MMOs. You still attack by clicking on bad guys and then your skills, but the game goes one step further. Many skills can be charged up or maintained for extra damage and short cool down times set a quicker pace. Some objects in the environment can even be picked up and thrown at enemies. Poking around the well laid out HUD revealed a couple of nice surprises including the ability to change the colour of your powers (I say, “Yes!” to purple fire), titles you can earn and console style achievements.

After getting the hand of things, the rest of the missions are typical fetch quests, kill “x” number of enemies and rescue the civilians. Eventually the authorities see fit to send SRG out to help Ironclad (one of the primary heroes in the Champions universe) defend a giant cannon, the keystone of the city’s defense. This mission was a little different than the others. Rather than starting when you receive the quest, this mission is constantly running and anyone that enters the vicinity will see the current objectives. It’s intended to be a kind of freeform quest that encourages all passers-by to band together and works fairly well. 85 squashed alien invaders later the cannon was safe and ready to fire. All that was left to do was to head inside Champions HQ and sink the alien mother ship. This is the first instance map you’ll encounter complete with boss fight. As it turns out Dr. Destroy – the world’s pre-eminent super-villain – is responsible for all this chaos. After firing the main cannon and crushing the alien mother ship SRG heads outside for a little street party thrown in tribute to the city’s savior. But there’s no time to rest on her laurels as evil is still afoot. Next stop, the Canadian wilderness!

Champions Online is a highly anticipated MMORPG based on the pen-and-paper game Champions. Developed by Cryptic Studios and published by Atari, the final retail version will be available September 1, 2009.

About Ian Yuan

Ian has been playing games for as long as he can remember and pretending to write about them for some significantly shorter amount of time. Words often mistakenly used to describe him include: sophisticated, gentlemanly, scholarly and Korean. His favourite time-wasters beside videogames include reading pulp detective novels, making hand sewn sock animals and adding to his skinny tie collection. He does not talk about his day job and neither should you.