Comparing Champions Online to City of Heroes

I recently downloaded the demo for Champions Online and the trial for City of Heroes. I call what Champions Online offers a demo because it is ONLY the tutorial area. That is levels 1-5, with the ability to get to level 15 (or so I have heard) by grinding level 2 aliens.

City of Heroes offers a more traditional MMO trial. It lasts 14 days and as far as I know has no level restrictions. The usual deal applies here, so you won’t be whispering anyone, trading or talking in general chat for the most part, but those aren’t really necessary to decide if you want to pick up a game, at least not right away.

Let’s get the age difference out of the way first. City of Heroes is showing it’s age. The graphics aren’t terrible by any means, but when compared to Champions Online it looks dated.

That is if you like the graphic style of Champions Online at all. The cell shading is a huge point of contention with fans of the two games, though I can’t really see why. I don’t know how people can be fans of comic books enough to want to play a super hero game, and yet not like the cartoony look. Then again maybe they are fans of super hero movies.

Pictures after the jump.


Feudal from City of Heroes


Feudal from Champions Online

Looking at just these two screenshots I could see why some people prefer City of Heroes’ graphics, as they look more realistic. I still prefer cell shading for my super heroes, but to each their own.


The skyline in the starting area from Champions Online

The starting area for Champions Online feels a lot more epic right off the bat. Sure, alien invasions and forcefields around the city may be a staple of both of these games, but starting out punching a few thugs in City of Heroes feels extremely weak compared to stopping an alien invasion in your first few seconds.

There do seem to be more costume options in CoX (City of Heroes/Villains) such as Feudal’s shield, which is sad because I truly enjoyed slapping people with it.


A downside, at least as I see it, with City of Heroes is that you can’t choose how your character runs or jumps, other than selecting a beast stance. This is the same in Champions Online, but unlike CO my character in City of Heroes ran strangely.


Running in City of Heroes looks unnatural

But we all know graphics mean very little compared to gameplay. Keep in mind in this section that I only played until level five, and I am only comparing the two games up until those levels.

Combat is so much better in CO that I can’t say that enough. SO much better. Now this is partly because I have played MMO’s for close to ten years now, and many of those years were spent playing games that used the now classic interface of 1-2-3, mana, mana potions etc.

Combat in City of Heroes feels familiar, which is not exactly a good thing. Understand I hate when people talk about how much they hate World of Warcraft, and then mention how they spent years playing it. The truth there is that they do NOT hate WoW, but that they just got tired of it and jumped onto the “I hate WoW” bandwagon, so understand that I am a little tired of the feel of that type of combat. That may be coloring my opinion of City of Heroes.

City of Heroes fights also take much longer than Champions Online in the early levels, and you may often find yourself standing there doing nothing while you wait for your abilities to cool down. Once they are cooled down, you can then activate them and use some energy/endurance. This means that later on you will probably be running into situations where you run out of said endurance and must use items to gain more, or rest.

Resting is another part of combat, in a way, where I think Champions Online beats City of Heroes. After several battles in CoX you may find yourself low on health and endurance and in need of a rest.


Resting. As boring as playing a game can get.

This can really break up the flow of the game, though not very often.


Resting in Champions Online. Note the civilian trapped under the debris that I am standing on.

When you need to regain energy in Champions Online you are given a channeled ability, such as Feudal’s rapid sword swings. While you channel this ability you regain energy at a dramatic rate while also dealing damage to the thing you are fighting. This keeps you in combat and having fun.

All of this combat needs to take place somewhere, and while you will be fighting both inside and out in both games, City of Heroes seems to send you inside a lot more often.


All of the missions I received in City of Heroes sent me into buildings like this one, though most of them were not raves.

Champions Online will usually have you fighting outside, saving the inside areas for special encounters such as inside Champions HQ at the end of the tutorial area.


I’ve heard some terrible things about the length of Champions Online and the lack of end game content, but I have also heard terrible things about City of Heroes leveling now that players have the ability to create quests.



Leveling up in both games feels nice, but Champions edges it out due to the sound that plays with it. It really makes it feel more dramatic.

City of Heroes may seem dated, and not just graphically. It’s user interface is alright and you will quickly adjust to it, but there are a few things that just don’t make much sense, such as not being able to rotate the camera with the left mouse button, and not being able to press esc to bring up the menu.

Now, all of this considered City of Heroes is still a very fun game. It’s longer trial will allow you to get more into it, and even experience the travel powers a bit.

Champions Online feels more fresh with the vibrant world (partly thanks to the cell shading) and slightly different combat, though that is to be expected due to their release dates.

If given more of the game to try in Champions Online it might have won out, but with the increasingly interesting storyline I am experiencing in City of Heroes, as well as the massive amount of content already in the game, CoX is the more interesting of the two games.

Of course all of this is before you take into account the upcoming free update to City of Heroes/Villains. Issue 17, due out later this month, will be bringing many enhancements to City of Heroes, including Ultra Mode. Ultra Mode is going to update the graphics in City of Heroes and it looks pretty amazing. It still may not grab me visually as much as Champions Online, but it is more than enough to pull me from that newer title and into City of Heroes. Here are a few pics of the changes coming:



There are bigger pics on the City of Heroes site, so go check that out.


  1. As a former CoH player and a current Champions player, I’d say you have a pretty good comparison of the two games. CO has just slightly more than enough content to get you to max level, whereas CoH/V has had several years to really expand on its content (even ignoring the MA system). I’ve tried to pick up CoH a couple of times in the last year, but I enjoy the combat system in CO so much more that I’ve not been able to spend more than an hour in Paragon City.

    The “trial” for Champions is really poor since, without getting into the second tutorial zone, you don’t get a chance to go to a powerhouse and try out your travel power or anything else. That said, if you want to try an extended demo let me know, they have a referral system that (I think) would let you play further into the game.

    Found your blog through a recent comment of your on Tipa’s blog, some good reading.

    • Hey, welcome to the site and thanks. I’d love to get that extended demo and give it a try, it’d let me continue my comparison up to whatever level the second tutorial area would get to. Email me at Amuntoth at gmail dot com if you can do that.

      Also thank you for the comment. It’s a new blog but I’m trying to get content and readers, so it’s always nice to see a new face.

      Love Tipa’s blog by the way.

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