Missions & Content
Champions Online doesn't break the mold in this department. You'll find your standard fare quests typical of any MMOG here, though many of them are chocked full of characters breaking the fourth wall or littered with pop culture references. In addition to regular quests, you'll also find Open Missions, which are Champions Online's version of Warhammer's highly praised Public Quest system.
If you've spent any time in City of Heroes, you'll also recognize the "paper missions" in Champions Online, though they function a bit differently. You don't have a newspaper or police scanner this time around; instead, citizens will come to you asking for help, or will alert you to a crime when you rescue them from thugs.
Another key difference between Champions Online and City of Heroes is the shift of focus to overworld missions. Most of the quests in the game take place out in the world a'la World of Warcraft, with instances being sprinkled around at key points. This may or may not be your cup of tea, depending on how tolerant you are about kill stealing and such. I personally didn't run into the issue very much, but your mileage may vary.
Choose Your Nemesis
One of the features Cryptic Studios is most proud of in Champions Online is their Nemesis System. At level 25, you will be able to create your own nemesis, with most if not all of the same visual options available to you when you create your own character. You'll also get select your nemesis' power framework, choose from a selection of pre-determined minion types, as well as their own power frameworks, and finally the "type" of nemesis. Is your nemesis a savage? Is he a mastermind? This choice determines the type of dialogue you'll hear when you run into your nemesis. I was only able to experience the first part of the nemesis story arc in the beta test, but what I got to see was pretty impressive.
Player vs. Player combat in Champions Online is limited to instanced scenarios. Much like Warhammer Online, you'll be able to queue up anywhere in the world for several different scenarios which are broken up into tiered brackets.
In tiers one and two, you'll only have access to a team deathmatch styled cage match arena. The first team to 15 points wins.
In tier three, the B.A.S.H. scenario opens up. B.A.S.H is an FFA scenario where you'll compete for the highest individual score.
Finally, in tier four, you'll have all the options from tier three at your disposal, along with the addition of the Apocalypse PvP mode. The Apocalypse mode takes place in the game's high security prison, Stronghold. This mode is basically a twist on team deathmatch, where players on one side take the role of villains trying to escape the prison, while the other team takes the role of heroes trying to stop them. The twist is that NPCs are involved here, including the signature heroes and villains of the game. The corridors are also lined with turrets, and consoles that can be used to call in additional reinforcements.
Again, like Warhammer Online, you can level up through PvP, which is certainly a welcome change. You'll also earn acclaim from PvP matches which can then be spent on PvP specific gear and costume parts. For example, I unlocked a pretty snazzy bronze boxing or wrestling style belt during beta that I was pretty proud of.
Like many recent AAA releases, crafting doesn't appear to be something that players would be able to pursue exclusively, though there is a fully featured crafting system in place. You'll be able to choose from three different specialties: Mysticism, Science, or Arms, with each specialty focusing on different types of stats.
The process of crafting is pretty simple, you just gather resources from nodes out in the world, learn recipes from a trainer or through experimentation (deconstructing of items), and craft away at a crafting table. You'll be able to craft bags for more inventory space, equipment, consumables including gadgets and heals or buffs, and even power replacers that enhance or replace the visual effects of a power, as well as grant proc effects. At higher levels of crafting you'll even be able to craft customized gear with statistics tailored to your needs.
Champions' flavor of endgame content will have you joining a group called UNITY and tackling five daily tasks dispatched to you through a special computer. You will earn merits for each task you complete, and if you complete all five tasks for the day you will unlock a special mission instance to earn even more merits. These merits can be traded for extremely potent gear or even access to other special dungeons. I wasn't able to see much of this system, as I was only able to complete a few of these tasks during the beta test, this was due to the fact that some of the tasks were located in zones unavailable in the beta.
That about wraps things up for our Champions Online preview. Check back for our full review later this September!