There has been quite a bit of noise about Champions Online the past few days due to the NDA being lifted, both on mmorpg.com and more interestingly (to me) my own little gaming clique. See, lots of people talk about "true sandboxes" or "hardcore PvP" or "WoW-Killer" games. My group has a similar concept and that is the CoH-Killer. For my gaming crew, CoH set the bar for the MMO experience with its character customization, its fast, flashy action, its "Oh Wow I Can Fly" movement powers, its ease of access and convenience of play. Now, that's not to say that CoX is without its flaws; it has tons of huge, gaping flaws. However, it is the one game that kept us all playing together for more than 2 years, the one game that could drag my dad and my son into MMOs for any length of time, the one game that turned my ultra-casual gaming friend into a drooling, rampaging 4-boxer. So, even with its numerous flaws, for my group at least, CoX sets the gold standard.
But CoH is old and tired and most of us have seen it all before. A lot of what drives the MMO habit is a search for novelty and for many of us, CoH is out of tricks. So, you can imagine my group's excitement as we approach the release of the supposed spiritual successor to CoX. Champions Online is developed by Cryptic, and has behind it the same creative brains that delivered the much-vaunted CoX. So I think for us, this game was the Second Coming of CoX -- the Next-Gen, New and Improved, Now with More Awesome, Prodigal Gaming Messiah... City of Cooler Than City of Heroes.
And then, the Open Beta started and the NDA lifted.
Of course, there was the FilePlanet woes, and the patcher woes, and folks had some trouble getting the game installed, and others had trouble getting into the game. Pretty much everyone in my gaming group had issues as well and that gave them a little bit of anxious waiting time to sit around and ...
... READ THE FIRST WAVE OF REVIEWS!!!
I love the first wave of post-NDA reviews. (I enjoy thunderstorms and blizzards too... and Pina Coladas... and getting caught in the rain.) There is just something about the post-NDA “I am angry because my latest Gaming Savior turned out to be Just Another MMO and I Am Personally Offended” crowd that makes for interesting lunch-time reading. Pretty much every recent MMO release has had this bit of bile and CO is no exception.
Now, I pay attention to a lot of MMOs and I knew what was coming. A few of my friends didn't expect such a negative outpouring and were swayed by the reviews. A flurry of emails followed where people chatted about what they expected out of CO, how it compared to CoX, and the points made in the reviews... at one point I realized that many (if not all) of the negative points centered around stuff like
Repetitive combat where you bang the same sequence of keys over and over
Serious PvP balance issues
Serious PvE balance issues
PvE content that quickly becomes trivial
A weak/non-existent endgame
Nothing to do but fighting
All builds require X power(s)
No variation in builds
Teaming making the game too easy
No point to teaming
Crafting is dull
Crafting is useless compared to drops
Strange... take out the crafting one and you could pretty much apply all of those negative points to CoX. Add in crafting and you have... every other MMO in existence. I find it telling that, if you read forums and reviews, most of the popular and successful MMOs have a very similar laundry list of problems as do failing MMOs. First off, most games copy heavily from each other, and they still all copy from the Everquest generation games which all copy heavily from text MUDs and BBS games. Second, for every feature in a game that you enjoy, someone else just absolutely hates that feature... to the point where they will post about it, argue about it and call you a fanboi for even mentioning it. Just remember:
YOUR FAVORITE GAME SUCKS!
And Champions Online MIGHT suck, but even with all of the post-NDA folks spewing bile, you won't really know until you try it. Now, through the first day of this drama, my computer has been dead, so all I could do is be jealous that my friends would be able to see this new, incredibly flawed game before I would. I managed to cobble together a machine though, and have the game patched and ready to go, so I am anxious to try CO and see what all the fuss is about. Expect a mini-review soon.