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Where have all the Villains Gone?

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Champions Online: Where Have all the Villains Gone?

MMORPG.com Champions Online Correspondent Dana O'Shea writes this look at the lack of playable villains in th upcoming game from Cryptic Studios.

Heroes, but where are the villains?

Champions Online is made by Cryptic; Cryptic made City of Heroes; and City of Heroes made super-heroes come to life. I loved City of Heroes almost as much as I loved the expansion - City of Villains. I am not the only one; to this day CoH has a strong, loyal fan-base after several years. I have found that, though from time to time I left to pursue other games, I would come back to try out all the new toys that some new update had given us. At release City of Heroes was a long way from being the game that it is now. It took years to let it evolve and grow with the needs of the gamers. Cryptic treated us well. The biggest development along the way was surely the introduction of City of Villains. CoV appeals to the darker side of the super-hero fan with its sinister plots and lawless city. Yes, you will find police, but you will defeat them in battle right after you have taken care of the guys they were trying to arrest. Yet City of Villains added more than a new setting to show off your super-powers - it gave the do-gooders some quality evil to crusade against.

Champions Online Screen

So, is Champions Online something new or just City of Heroes 2? Will that same evil be present to crusade against? In this area, it’s possible that Cryptic has taken a step back. City of Heroes, as said before, has City of Villains and therefore a strong player controlled struggle between two factions whereas Champions will see us all on the heroic side with only one faction.

The decision not to include player controlled villains appears to have been a calculated one and this can be seen in what I consider to be a great feature called the "Nemesis System” where you create your own villain to fight against. This means that the war between good and evil goes much further than just picking a side, it is woven into your character and their future. This way, we are still creating villains and we get to be the good guys who always win... hopefully. Through grouping, we even get to share our villains - it would be an honor to have someone team up with you and have a great time because you are good at creating nasty evil characters.

One of the positive features of all characters being in the same faction, is that anyone can team with anyone. Sadly, with most games divided into sides there can be an imbalance in character types on each side. Maybe all of the healers want to be good, or all the brutish tanks want to be evil. With the heroes-only approach it is certain that a lot of players will make sinister heroes such as demonic beasts or deadly assassins, but they will have to make the concession that at the end of the day they are the good guys. Just how much the Nemesis system allows for evil sub-plots remains to be seen but there is the potential that it could keep the nasty heroes happy.

Champions Online Screen

What are we building our characters for? To fight crime of course! But how will we be doing this? With only the one faction, we probably won't see big Player vs Player zones. But (here's the good bit), we will have a strong underground Arena circuit where brave heroes battle one another to see just who is the strongest. It is worth adding though that City of Heroes has an Arena system that sadly didn't see much use, yet I have hope that the new incentives and rewards that are being put in for CO PvPers will mean that it's easy to get a match. Of course, PvP isn't for everyone and there is a good chance that the majority of heroes don't see the need to beat up their comrades, but if at least a few more play than did in CoH, it has the potential to be an appealing aspect of the game.

Arena combat could be an art-form with all the character customisation that will be available. Without the restrictions, no longer will we be able to size up an opponent by simply knowing their class or archetype. What looks like a fragile "damage-dealer" could very well be a "tank" with ranged attacks. Or, maybe the "healer" has powerful melee attacks and is the most dangerous one in the group. With the endurance system being very different from the CoH one it is also a factor that some power-types will need to build up the energy needed to use some of their more powerful abilities while others may be able to use them earlier but will tire more quickly. Combine all this with team-work and a match in the Arena could be an excellent focus for super-groups to learn the abilities of their friends and how to best work together. Surely, the character-building freedom will see some very appealing options for the power-gamer and the hard-core PvPer.

Player v Player gaming is an excellent reason for playing high-level characters and giving good rewards for success means that there is a lot of incentive to be the victor. Hopefully the items earned will be good enough to justify spending a lot of time proving yourself in the arena. Still, the arena system in City of Heroes was really great fun apart from the fact that there was only the joy of winning as a reward. If it were possible to gain experience or money this way it perhaps would have been a success.

Champions Online Screen

The greatest reward? Victory! And the prestige of being that hero who rules the underground arena should let you fly through the city with pride! There will always be the means of proving to others just who is the most powerful warrior defending the lands. Or, that acclaim could come from other players who have seen the enemy you battle against and choose to rally to your cause and help defeat your impressive Nemesis.

We may all be heroes but there will be conflict, there will be battles against fellow heroes, and there most certainly will be villains.