Co-Op Casual Friday: Champions Online

3/4/2011 at 11:17 PM

For Co-Op Casual Friday this week, we turn our heroic gaze to Champions Online, a super-hero MMO that recently adopted the free to play model.  MMOs might seem an odd choice for a "casual" article, but one thing we like to focus on is games that appeal to kids.  Champions Online does that in spades, and for a very reasonable price that will surely appeal to parents as well.  Read along as we detail the first adventure of our family's father-son team, which has now been officially dubbed "The Dark Duo".

The day that Champions Online went free, I began the lengthy download before we went to school.  Alas, the servers were getting pounded, for when we returned, it was unfinished.  My nine year old boy was devastated; we had been looking forward to launch day for weeks.  By the time everything was installed and ready to go, it was a mere half-hour before bedtime.  Not long, but I figured he could at least make a character and play around for a bit in that time.  However, he instead dedicated the entire session to character creation, complete with a detailed background story (think Batman meets Hawkeye, but with a big sword) which he typed in himself.  His avatar, known by the rather generic name "Dark Fighter", had been created, but it was now time to get his creator tucked in.  Connor went to bed and likely dreamed of dispatching villains with his virtuous might.

I took the time to create another account, and, to match my son's character, created "Dark Scarab", a clone of a character I created in City of Heroes years ago.  (He's basically The Beetle combined with Dr. Fate.)  I logged in and messed around for a few minutes, saving the bulk of my playtime to share with Connor.  In the meantime, we told each other stories about our new heroes, and had a rather passionate discussion of who was the main hero and who was the sidekick.  We eventually compromised on an equal partnership, so no one had to be lame like Bucky.  (Though Mr. Barnes is a really interesting character in his own right, these days.)  

We managed to log in, and found the proper instance of the starting zone to share with each other.  We entered the metropolis of Millennium City, which was in chaos after the arrival of a fleet of alien spacecraft.  Grotesque creatures roamed the streets, and the once beautiful town had been reduced to something out of a warzone.  After talking to a few fellow citizens, including the Mayor and a handful of other superheroes, we set off to assist the Millennium City Police, who were hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched.

The first few creatures we ran into fell quite easily.  Dark Fighter's blade made short work of their pitiful defenses.  The arcane bolts that Dark Scarab tossed defeated these enemies before they could even close in on him.  Feeling like a pair of Supermen, we headed farther away from the safe harbor that the police had set up.  Our first real detour took us inside a blasted office building, which had been reduced to a hollowed out shell of rubble and debris.  Walking in and around the mounds of wreckage wasn't difficult, but seeing the locations of all the aliens was.  Often, we were ambushed by two or even three of the creepy monsters at once.  This led to a few tense moments, but nothing our noble ambitions couldn't handle.

At this point, we ran into our first real challenge.  As we exited the back side of the shattered building, a horrific hulking alien bounded over to attack us.  Glaring yellow eyes stared at us blankly, without much hint of intelligence.  The back of the thing was covered in spikes, and its lanky arms ended in a set of wicked claws.  Strange tubes on the arms indicated chemical or cybernetic enhancements of some sort.  With nary a thought for our own personal safety, the Dark Duo engaged the alien monstrosity in combat.

As you can see from the depiction above, our haste and thirst for battle nearly lead to our tragic undoing.  Dark Fighter landed a series of mighty strikes against the bizarre beast, but Dark Scarab got just a bit too close while launching volley after volley of arcane bolts.  With a mighty roar, the alien swept the unfortunate mysticist backwards off his feet, where he landed with an undignified thump.  Steady as a rock, Dark Fighter bravely kept at it, and by the time Dark Scarab got to his feet, the enormous otherworldly menace fell to the ground in a heap.  We had won!

Emboldened by our victory, we rounded a street corner, and found a poor, defenseless woman cowering in a doorway.  The hysterical lady begged us for assistance in making her way back to safety, and of course Dark Fighter and Dark Scarab offered to help without hesitation.  A few tense moments ensued, with an attack by flying, batlike aliens giving the biggest scare.  However, our two heroes prevailed without much trouble, and the woman, relieved, granted us an experience point reward, enough to take us both to the second level of super-heroic power.

Champions Online has been a great experience so far.  The game engine doesn't push our older second computer when set to the lowest settings, and the limited privileges of a free to play account are more than enough to satisfy our superheroic appetites.  The game is fairly intuitive, even for a nice year old, and gameplay itself is fast, fun, and engaging.  MMOs are always great cooperative experiences, and Champions Online is no exception to that rule.  I look forward to making many more memories with my son as we chronicle the adventures of Dark Fighter and Dark Scarab, known henceforth as the Dark Duo!