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Paragon Studios
MMORPG | Genre:Super-Hero | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 04/27/04)  | Pub:NCSoft
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City of Heroes General Article: Friday Fights: Champions Online vs City of Heroes

By Adam Tingle on August 19, 2011

Spandex, skimpy outfits, and anatomically impossible cleavages - these are the things that make superheroes so good. Whether we are excitedly rasping about web slinging or dreaming of flying through the sky in bright red pants, everyone at some point has wished to have powers that transcend normality, and why not? To be a gallant hero or villain would be top notch, a cut above the mundane, and a hell of a way to pick up the chicks.

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Disappointingly though, in reality no one can really use the power of their mind to murder Patrick Stewart, there is a distinct lack of mutated lizard men roaming around, and there aren't too many billionaire geniuses that have a fetish for winged rodents, no, for such antics we have to look to the world of the MMORPG. Currently the genre boasts three such games, City of Heroes, Champions Online, and DC Universe Online, each with there are own merits and failures - but I've been thinking, just which one is better? Which title grapples and brawls its way to the front, while the rest slink behind like faithful sidekicks? There is only one way to find out, fight!

In the red corner, we have industry veteran City of Heroes, the game that started it all! All the way from California, weighing in at an impressive 7 years of age; it was the title that mastered character creation and the online-'em-up that allowed us to wander around in nothing but a cape and boots - ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you City of Heroes!

In the blue corner, I give you Champions Online - a slow starter that is beginning to pick up momentum, also fighting out of California. It started life as a Marvel tie-in, and has recently increased its powers to include the "F2P" subscription model. Is this young upstart hungry enough to vie for the title of best "Super Hero MMORPG" or will it be found floundering in a sea of silly costumes and lacklustre powers? Without further ado, let's get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuumble!

The rules are simple, each game will be scored in an individual category ranging from graphics to gameplay, the winner will be the title with the most won categories. Remember that this is all good  clean fun, and once the fight has ended leave your comments in the box below; opinions are opinions and everyone's is equal - except if you're a racist, then you're a monster.

Aesthetics

Pretty visuals aren't everything but they sure do help if your avatar has leather hot pants riding up their butt and Viking helmet adorned upon their head. City of Heroes is now one of the genres veteran titles, coming in at an impressive 7 years of age. The visuals have constantly updated with the times, and while there are certainly some interesting sites, and some very attractive looking effects, things are now beginning to creak slightly with age.  A MILF of an MMORPG if there ever was one, but it no longer holds that graphical bang that it once did. A swing and a miss in this category.

Time is simply on its side, and with almost 2 years under its belt, Champions Online is still hot property. The comic book style of the visuals adds a layer of atmosphere whilst being a pastiche of its origins, and the visual effects can be mind blowing. Add to this a palette of vivid colours that spill out of every pore of the game and you have a recipe for beauty. At times the title can look a little bland, and animations can look a tad stilted, but youth firmly beats the competition, and the first round goes to Champions Online.

Champions Online Wins

Gameplay

Any MMORPG can have bags of endgame content, and oodles of complexity and depth, but if it isn’t fun, then you aren’t going to stick around. City of Heroes suffers, again, due to its age in terms of gameplay. Being as it was released in the hinterland sandwiched between World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2, City of Heroes now occupies a strange territory; its differences are apparent but it lacks some of the “plug and play” style charm of newer games. Classes can be ill explained, and the starting experience is a scattering of missions and grind. The combat can too feel a little too ponderous as you wait for hotbar actions to replenish. Of course to make up for this is one of the most unique approaches to the “Theme-park” style, but it lacks the get-up-and-go dynamism of newer games.

If you are simply planning a lazy weekend, Champions Online is a good selection to accompany your malaise. The character creator is a lovingly crafted box of tricks which allows for insane creations, and the combat is fast, frenetic, and super powered. Hotbar abilities can be held to charge up, super powers allow for a number of different travel abilities from a very early level, and the hunting zones vary from sprawling metropolises to arid desert lands. It can feel a little shallow at times, and does too share the same ill-explained drawbacks of City of Heroes, but in terms of pure enjoyment, Champions Online is your go-to-MMO when it comes to updated gameplay. Youth once more upper cuts age.

Champions Online Wins

Innovation

City of Heroes invented the superhero genre, and has ever since built upon it with free expansions and the Villains add-on. When Cryptic designed their original caped-crusading title, they managed to create a very unique, but also influential title. The character customization tools were second only to the developer’s second attempt, and as gamers we could have asked nothing more from a super-powered MMO. Not only did City of Heroes make the mould, but they have broken it, rebuilt it, and re-forged it numerous times, with more shiny, sparkly, and fancy bits added every time.

Champions Online was a disappointment at time of release. As Cryptic’s first attempt was so groundbreaking, this title had a mountain to climb before anybody could stop lauding its older brother and take notice. With Champions Online, the developer basically delivered a slightly more refined, and updated take on their original, with fancy graphics and the like, but sadly it emulated rather than surpass what had gone before. Still good in its own right and is definitely getting better, but the real innovator was City of Heroes.

City of Heroes Wins

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