Cryptic Studios' debut effort "City of Heroes" released to much fanfare in 2004. While no one really knew anything about the company, the game carved out a niche for itself in the MMOG space as the first and only superhero MMORPG. Lauded by critics and fans alike for its flashy powers and out of this world character customization, Cryptic Studios had a real success on their hands. Fast forward an expansion, an IP sell off, and five years later, Cryptic Studios has returned with their spiritual successor to City of Heroes: Champions Online.
Like City of Heroes before it, Champions Online is sure to turn some heads due to the amount of customization options on offer, and this extends beyond simple visual customization. You see, in Champions Online, there are no classes. You'll get to select from a number of frameworks when you begin creating your character, such as ice, fire, gadgeteering, sorcery, or even power armor, but you're not limited here either. Those who find the available framework options too restrictive can opt for a custom framework, which allows players to select their first and second powers independently. For example, I may want Ice Shards as my first power and Fire Strike as my main blast power.
Statistics also carry much more weight in Champions Online, and there are several to consider. On one end of the spectrum we have strength, which grants a bonus to melee damage, knockback and knockback resistance, and aids in getting out of tangible holds. On the other end, we have a statistic known as Presence, which boosts buffs, pet health, and affects threat generation (either positively or negatively depending on your role, we'll get to that later).
When you choose your framework, a pre-selected innate characteristic is also attached. Each framework tends to benefit more from different statistics, so the game allocates you a package of statistic points focused on what the developers recommend for a particular framework. Now, if you opt for the custom framework, you can choose from many different types of stat packages that suit your concept or aims in function.
Later on, you'll also choose from two different statistic focuses known as super stats. Super stats are statistics that grow with your character. For example, if you choose Super Endurance and Super Constitution, these statistics will grow as you level up. Super stats also determine what statistics drive your damage. There are some caveats though. For example, melee powers do gain an additional bonus from strength, and pet powers benefit greatly from presence and intelligence, as presence boosts pet health, and intelligence augments pet damage. There are many things to consider here, and this is just another way that Champions Online allows you to customize your character and make it more your own.
Powers are also customizable. You'll be able to alter a power's color and emanation point right off the bat. Want to shoot your fire blast from your head? Champs will let you do it. Outside of aesthetics, powers can also be customized through the use of Advantage points.
Advantage points are granted as you level up and allow you to fine tune each power to your desire. Each power has a quota of five advantage points that can be committed to it, with each advantage running anywhere from one to three points in cost. With only so many advantage points in total, and a limited quota per power, your choice in where and how to spend your points is important.
Phew! All that and we haven't even touched on the game's physical customization options! So, what kind of characters can you create in Champions Online? From all the characters I've seen throughout the beta, as well as my own friends' creations, I'd say just about anything. I've seen everything from street sharks and battletoads, to robotic werewolves.
You'll be able to select from a variety of premade body and face types, or customize each with a smorgasbord of body and face morphing sliders. You'll also be able to choose a demeanor and stance for your hero as well. Are you perpetually angry, a'la Max Payne? Or are you cheery all the time? Do you want to stand around like a vixen? Or are you bestial and would rather walk around on all fours? In Champions Online, just about anything is possible. The range of basic customization options run the gamut from robotics, to bestial, to supernatural parts, and just about everything in between. One real standout feature of the basic customization options is the simple fact you can design your character asymmetrically. Do you want a leather glove on one hand and a big gauntlet on the other? Go ahead. You're even able to customize your eyes, with the ability to choose different eye types, add glowing effects, and colors. Want swirlies, or even smiley faces for eyes? No problem.
Once you're done customizing your character, you'll choose a name, a backstory if you want one, and enter the game. Oh, by the way, name conflicts are a thing of the past, too. No longer do you have to worry about some goober that squatted your desired name on every server in existence. Champions Online ties your name to your display name, which is a single name you choose across your entire account. Think of it like City of Heroes' global names. So you can be Jabberwocky@MrZombie, while someone else might be Jabberwocky@Ninjarobot. Speaking of servers, Champions Online has only one main server, with each zone split into many instances.