Welcome to the second review in pieces. Today I will be reviewing Champions Online levels 6-10. Will the review be better or worse as you ascend the ranks in Cryptic’s second Superhero MMO? Find out after the jump.
When you finish the five level tutorial you are given the choice between going to the southwest desert or the Canadian wilderness. I chose to go to the south west United States simply because that is where I am from.
We are treated to a nice little scene giving us a rundown of the state of affairs in the desert. The story continues to be cheesy, but we’re getting a little darker. Radiation fallout has destroyed the landscape and irradiated former soldiers have taken over nearly the entire base. Luckily the massive superhero training facility remains untouched.
It is inside the training facility that you get your travel power, one of the best experiences in Champions Online. There are 13 travel powers in Champions Online and each one feels very different. Theoretically they are all balanced, each having benefits and weaknesses. For instance Super Speed is a lot faster than flying, but you are stuck on the ground and it may actually take you longer to get some place if you have to go around a mountain or something. This is fine and expected. Sadly however there are some unintended weaknesses for some powers. For instance, if you want to run in Super Speed you need to make sure your computer can handle it. At the rate you will be moving a mid-range computer may have trouble keeping up with rendering enemies and terrain. Nothing kills the experience of running super fast like stuttering lag.
As far as the graphics go it’s going to depend on the area you chose after the tutorial. I can’t speak for the snow covered lands of Canada yet, but the Southwest desert looks pretty good. There are some odd graphics such as a sudden blue tint to everything around a ghost town. While this is a cool effect, it is rather jarring when you go from the orange/brown of the main desert into the ghost town.
Aside from graphics one of the first things you will notice is that fights have become harder. You will usually be facing at least three opponents and unless you get lucky in character build and health drops you are going to find yourself hard pressed to stay alive. This isn’t bad as Champions Online lets your health and mana recharge quickly.
It is in this level range that you can find your character build gimped if you aren’t careful. Be sure to take what is called a passive defense ability as soon as you can or you will find yourself dying often. Once you have picked and slotted a passive defense you will immediately notice that the fights are MUCH easier than before.
Once again responding to player criticism, Cryptic has taken the respec feature, once available only in the cash shop, and added it to the main game. You can go to a trainer and unlearn abilities in reverse order from the order you learned them in. So if you need to unlearn the second ability you got, you are going to have to learn all the ones you got after as well. This actually provides a natural increase in cost as you level up.
Another thing to pay attention to, since the game never mentions it, is your character portrait. If you see a little lightning bolt on the left side of your portrait that means you have training points to spend. As the game never really tells you this, and it dumped you at a training station as soon as you needed one, some people may find themselves not going back for training every level like they should.
Crafting is also introduced in this level range, though not much is done to explain the crafting system. That may be fine in your typical fantasy MMO where a tailor is probably going to make cloth armor, but in a Superhero MMO it would be nice to explain what you were getting into. Instead there is a quick quest where you are taught how to break down items into materials for crafting. You can access your crafting panel by interacting with a crafting table. Making items isn’t especially satisfying as you will never see any of them on your character, which makes sense for a Superhero MMO but it doesn’t make the crafting any better.
The combat actually gets better as you increase in levels, gaining new buffs, passive abilities and attacks. Add to this the travel powers and the game takes a big turn for the fun. Sound quality remains good though you will continue hearing the odd sound loop, especially if you are around a radio.
Mob design is great, from the irradiated soldiers and civilians to the wild west ghosts, your enemies are as detailed and interesting as you could expect. Each mob seems to contain some combination of melee and ranged, though this is understandable in a game where anyone can fly.
Some of the powers you gain access to at this level start to look really cool, and luckily you can keep learning and unlearning powers for free as long as you don’t leave the training hall. They also have floors designed as an obstacle course (for deciding whether you like your travel power), defense tests and a “danger room” where you can fight mobs to test your current abilities. If you are unhappy with something, or just want to try another power, you can swap it out freely until you leave.
Overall the game is improving, though they stop explaining new functions entirely in some cases. The combat, the games strong suit, gets better though the constant orange of the desert zone starts to get old quickly.
Rating for levels 6-10:
Gameplay: 9.8 out of 10. The combat gets better, and the travel powers are a lot of fun. Some of the travel powers will be a bigger hit on your system than others.
Graphics: 8.9 out of 10. The graphics are still nice, but the large, boring, almost all orange landscape of the desert area really gets old fast.
Sound: 7.5 out of 10. The sound remains strong through levels 6-10 but they don’t get any better.
Unique: 8.0 out of 10. The game still has some interesting elements but the desert area is tired and reminds of an orange level from another popular MMO. The mobs are unique and interesting, and the ghost town really does a lot to keep these levels interesting.
Overall: 34.2 out of 40. Still a great game but it’s gone down a tiny bit. The travel abilities and some new powers keep things interesting but the newness begins to wear off and some rough edges are showing. Unfortunately you can’t get levels 6-1o in the demo, but get into the demo and then into a supergroup and you might find a lifer with a spare code lying around. It’s worth the time if you can get it.