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A Look at Gear

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Champions Online: A Look at Gear

MMORPG.com Champions Online Correspondent Dana O'Shea writes this look at gear in Cryptic's upcoming superhero MMO.

Are you the sort of hero who needs to have the fastest jet-pack in town? Maybe your cape looks cool but you need something that's resistant to gunfire? Perhaps your idea of a superhero involves some sort of flamethrower... or an enchanted pair of gloves? If this is starting to sound interesting then perhaps you want to take a look at the gear in Champions Online.

As the hero progresses they will improve their abilities in several ways. The biggest difference will surely come from gaining levels and new ranks for their chosen powers, but also as the young hero travels and becomes an established champion they will have other ways to become more powerful.

The gear itself is essential to all of this despite the game being set for superheroes! And yes, we will need it. There has been some discussion about whether or not superheroes need equipment but with Champions Online Cryptic Studios have implemented a system that could well keep everybody happy. Items will come in many forms such as weapons and armor, but also scientific alterations, or mystical enchantments. They might be something like a means to accelerate your metabolism, or scientific procedure to boost your physical strength. Maybe you will find a magical ring that becomes a part of your hero's story. They could also teach you new abilities like special combat manoeuvres or defensive techniques. There will also be items that reveal new story content to further the hero's place in the world.

Champions Online Screenshot

Central to gear in Champions Online is the "upgrade". Upgrades are equippable on various slots like armor pieces in many other MMO games. There will be primary and secondary equipment with the primary slots granting the greatest bonuses, but secondary slots will finish off the character's gear giving you plenty of room for cool new stuff. So upgrades might come in the form of a chest-piece, a ring, or boots, or any other item. These can improve your hero's characteristics in various ways. Upgrades can be expensive; however, not only because of the cost of purchasing them but especially since the main part of the death penalty is upgrade "degradation". This represents the idea being that if you wear a high-tech helm or some other piece of value that being defeated may well leave that item damaged and it will not function at full strength until repaired at a cost.

Perhaps even more appealing are "power replace" items. These can be added directly onto a power and give the wielder additional benefits for just that one power. This represents a hero defeating a significant foe and taking a powerful artefact from the enemy's hands. The hero then has the choice to use the prize as their own power, assuming that it is some sort of bigger, badder version of what they are already using. A hero might start their career with a freeze ray, for example, and then battles an evil scientist who has created a more devastating freeze ray in the form of a freeze cannon. When the evil scientist is eventually brought to justice the hero can claim the cannon as a trophy and it can become a part of his history. However, this does not only apply to technological items. Instead of a freeze-ray the power replace item could well be just about any sort of super-item - maybe a sword, or enchanted boots, or power armor, or a helm to enhance mental powers etc.

It is not all about weapons and armor so let's not get confused with the normal fantasy MMORPG. For the most part it looks like equippable items are going to be broken into categories: Arms, Science, and Mysticism. From this broad range it should be possible to enhance any choice of super-powers that your character may have. Basically, finding good loot is an enjoyable part of online gaming and if implemented well it could even work with a superhero setting.

Another big reason for finding new gear is for aesthetic reasons. Many upgrades will add a new piece in costume options! And, even if you destroy the item that gave you the costume piece you will keep the option for its appearance at the tailor for the life-time of the character. With one of the most important features of this game being the full amount of customisation in appearance, however, a lot of players won't necessarily want to put a different item on that may not work with their current costume. This has been easily fixed by giving the player the option to "turn off" any upgrade and keep all its benefits without having to actually see the item and instead have the piece you chose at creation.

Champions Online Screenshot

An important term is "meta-gaming". This is basically using information from outside the game to affect your character in the game. This might mean that though your character spends a small fortune on a new cape at the auction house that boosts their statistics it is not a part of their "in-game" personality. You can just turn off the appearance and decide that all of his power is part of his inner-hero. Still, someone else might want to have a character that is more a gadgeteer and proud of every new toy they find.

Constructing your costume when you first make the character is still a powerful tool in your choice of character. Some people prefer the idea that absolutely every costume option should be available at level 1, but getting new items to add to it can be satisfying as a gamer. Either way the outfit you design in the first place is certainly going to be the defining decision.

So, at creation your character is free to be made with or without special equipment, and will certainly come across a lot of interesting stuff during their career that can be incorporated into their story. Whether or not that gear becomes part of the character or is just something that is used for its bonuses and "turned off" is entirely up to the player and should have enough versatility to suit any hero.