Champions Online doesn’t have much of an endgame, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to most MMOG fans out there reading this, as many MMOGs don’t launch with one, and some existing ones don’t really have much of one even to this day. Cryptic Studios’ answer to endgame content is the UNITY System, which is just a set of daily missions that you earn tokens from to spend on overly expensive item rewards. The missions almost all take place in instances you’ve already seen before, and once you’ve done the content for the day, there isn’t anything else to do.
Finally, we have the game’s controls and UI. Champions Online has many options for controls, with presets for gamers of all different types. You’ll be able to choose from presets such as “Like Fantasy Games”,” Like Shooters”, or even “Like Superhero Games”, so there should be something for everyone. And while this is all great, there are some control issues to be had. For one, the tab targeting in Champions Online is absolutely horrendous. I won’t mince words here. It’s probably the most frustrating targeting system I’ve ever encountered. There is absolutely nothing like tab targeting at a critter directly in front of you and having the game instead target a critter all the way across a valley on the other side. There are several tab targeting options, too, but none of them seem to ameliorate this issue. The tab targeting issue is exacerbated in PvP, where you will often target player placed objects or pets when trying to cycle through targets, making things all the more frustrating.
The UI is equally shoddy. While you can move some things around by pressing F12 in a system very similar to Warhammer Online, the overall UI is simply clunky and uninformative. There aren’t a lot of options to tailor it to your liking, the combat log is fairly useless and continues to snap back if you try to scroll up, and there is simply very little information being fed to the user. Buffs or debuffs underneath your character portrait do not give you the precise effects they are having on you, so it is impossible to tell how potent or ineffective they are. Abilities that rely on “stacks” such as Defiance do not show the amount of stacks you’ve currently built up, and abilities like Personal Force Field leave the user to figure out how much more punishment the shield can take before it goes down.
The Powers UI is generally just as bad. While you will be able to find out almost exactly how much damage an attack power is going to do based on the UI, you will not be able to tell the damage of pets, or the meaning of certain effects. Powers like Enrage simply say they “Apply Enraged” but don’t tell you what exactly they do, and this issue is pretty rampant across a number of powers. Pet powers only tell you that the power creates a level x petname, but provides no information on what abilities the pet has or how much damage they do. The lack of information provided by the UI compounds the aforementioned powers issues, as it serves as another barrier to players who are trying to make informed character choices and simply cannot do so. The controls and UI get in the way of having fun, instead of being transparent to the user as they ought to be.
Champions Online is very much a game with a lot of potential, but is currently plagued with a myriad of issues, many of which are often exhibited by newly released MMOGs, though the overall lack of content is simply inexcusable. The amount of enjoyment you’re going to get out of this game greatly depends on how invested you are in the game’s concept.
If you’re an MMOG fan just looking for the next great thing with little tolerance for the growing pains of a new MMOG, Champions Online probably won’t do it for you, as it lacks the longevity and depth when compared to other MMOGs already on the market.
If however, you are a comic book geek who loved City of Heroes and you’re looking for the next step in superhero MMOGs, Champions Online certainly does enough better than City of Heroes to warrant the purchase. Keep in mind though, there isn’t much replay value to the game given the dearth of content to level with and the same is true for a level capped character. All that’s left is essentially rerolling and retreading the same content over and over, or participating in the woefully unbalanced PvP system. Thankfully, the leveling pace is pretty brisk, and that serves to minimize some of these issues a bit. In the end, Champions Online is worth a purchase, if just for the first month included with the box, after that, your mileage may vary.