You could be forgiven if you haven’t played or paid attention to Cryptic’s Champions Online for a while. Heck, some of us here at MMORPG have lifetime accounts and we haven’t checked in. But that should all be changing as Cryptic is refocusing in on the superhero MMORPG with loads of new content in the coming months. We sat down with Lead Designer Randy Mosiondz to discuss the new Supervillain Onslaught content update due out in September.
For a while it seemed like Champions Online was left on the vine, but it seems that Cryptic hasn’t forgotten their superhero roots after all, and are indeed committed to breathing new life into the underappreciated MMORPG. Supervillain Onslaught, due out in mid-to late September (with the update hitting PTR as of this writing), brings something a lot of players have been asking for since launch: the ability to play supervillains.
Hold your horses though, as this isn’t a major whole new game like City of Villains. Rather, as Randy illustrated during the call, it’s sort of dipping the game’s toes into those waters, by letting players play the signature villains of the Champions universe for limited periods of time, all while earning rewards for both your hero and tokens towards more villains to play as with the Onslaught mode.
Lore-wise, it’s perfectly Golden Age like the rest of the game. A mad scientist known as Teleios has crafted this cloning gadget known as the Onslaught Device, which will literally turn heroes into copies of supervillains, who then run around Millennium City and wreak as much havoc as possible before the heroes can bring them down. (As for why you, the hero would willing use this device, well… let’s just suspend the disbelief for the sake of fun and assume you “accidentally” use the device.)
Mechanic wise, once you activate the device you’ll be turned into one of three villains of your choosing (Grond, Avatar, or Medusa), but by playing the Onslaught mode you’ll earn tokens to unlock more and if the new patch is a success they’ll be adding more and more to the mix as well. You’ll then be directed to targets throughout the city where you must destroy anti-villain units like the new UNTIL Defender power armor units. You’re essentially a raid boss, roving about Millennium City, and it’ll take from 5 to 10 player heroes to take you down. And yes, this is the wide open zone of Millennium City, not an instanced version so there can and will be other players activating their Onslaught Devices at the same time. It’s going to be hectic, fun, and most importantly, a refreshing way to let the players be the bad guys for a change without the team having to make all new rules and storylines the size of a full game. So while a City of Villains type expansion isn’t completely out of the cards, since the team is just now renewing their pacing and focus on Champions, I’d not expect it anytime soon. Frankly, as the “bad side” of MMOs is always hugely underplayed, I much prefer this Monster Play style of villain gameplay.
Subscribers and lifetime members will get one (1) Onslaught Device a day to use, and you can earn additional Onslaught tokens and Supervillain Unlocks by fighting the villains, earning Guardian tokens through so doing, and so forth. So while subscribers and lifetime members will get them for free as perks of their paying status, the free players can still earn them just by partaking in the Onslaught fights. Supervillain unlocks cannot be purchased on the ZEN shop, but Randy and team are still thinking about putting them in as an item for lockboxes.
There’s also a whole new set of Onslaught gear and items coming to the game with the update, which is what you’ll spend your Villain Tokens on. So you’ll play as the Villain, but earn gear for your hero. Conversely, playing as a hero and taking on the villains will earn you Guardian tokens to earn more Onslaught Play Tokens
devices and more Villains to play as. Make sense? The idea is that they want all players to play both sides, because they’re both fun with plenty of rewards to be earned.
Each session as a villain will last about 10 minutes or so, so a villain won’t be your “main character” suddenly replacing the time you spend in game with a hero. And if the heroes rally and take you out sooner, that’s OK because you can still be a hero and fight other villains while you wait for your next onslaught token to come in. What makes the hectic nature of these One versus Many fights more chaotic is that villains will be able to attack each other, as well as heroes. Randy expects there to be plenty of crazy fights over different Onslaught objectives, and frankly… we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I asked if Neverwinter’s success on the XB1 (and soon PS4) was one of the driving reasons behind revisiting Champions. Could the superhero MMORPG be making its way to consoles finally, as it was planned for the Xbox 360 originally? His answer was a coy “We’ll see. No definite plans yet, but we’re always open to the idea.” I suspect if their renewed focus on the game pays off, we just might see that happen. After all, CO was one of the first PC MMOs to widely adopt a controller gameplay scheme, which still shines today.
So there you have it, folks. Supervillain Onslaught is the first of many new updates coming to Champions Online in the coming months. Cryptic has obviously suddenly remembered that people like superheroes in their MMOs and that there’s a general lack of options for those who long for City of Heroes to come back. Can Onslaught get you to try CO again when it launches this September? We’ll certainly be there, because who doesn’t want to play as Grond and wreck some goofy heroes for a while?
Editor's Note: As with all things in development, the team is going to be iterating a lot between now and launch, so things may change between now and then.