Editorial | 3/7/2011 at 7:45 PM

MMO Co-Opportunities Volume IX: Champions Online

When Champions Online (henceforth CO) released in Fall 2009, I played it a few months with several friends. Back then, CO was solely a subscription-based game, but it recently switched to a Free-to-Play model. I haven’t experienced the F2P model first-hand, so my impressions encompass the full package (which is now for Gold subscribers), not the F2P experience (which is for Silver members). For this issue of MMO Co-Opportunities, we’ll be focusing on the unique customization system of CO as well as the ability to do Nemesis missions with friends.

CO was created by Cryptic Studios, the folks behind City of Heroes/Villans. It was meant to be a spiritual successor to those games. Like CoH, CO has an extensive character customization system which is really a must-have in a superhero game, in my opinion. I spent many happy hours messing around in the character creation window just for fun and I found that pretty much all the heroes in the game look extremely different from one another due to this extensive customization system.

The customization isn’t merely skin-deep, however. When I played (and I understand that now this option is still available for Gold subscribers, but not Silver), whenever you got a skill point, you could purchase whatever ability you wanted from the many different power sets (e.g. Archery, Fire, Dual Blades, etc.). You want a hero that uses kinetic weapons and guns? You can do that. Notice an awesome ability in a different tree? As long as you meet the requirements within that power set, you can grab that, too.

As a nice detail I found particularly delightful, you can customize the colors on many of your active abilities, so even if you’re grabbing skills from different power sets, you can make them look like they all belong together through making their colors match. You could also pick which Super Stats you wanted on your character. Your Super Stats effect the damage for all your abilities, but the different stats do different things. You want to focus on crits? Pick Dexterity as one of your two Super Stats. Do you do a lot of healing? Pick Presence, then.

This skill and stat customization system provided a unique co-opportunity to me, one that I have seldom experienced in other games. I often roll healers in MMOs (which pretty much screams group-play), and for CO, I selected many of the healing and support skills. I also chose Archery, as I have a soft spot for its aesthetic. Since I was doing a lot of healing for my group, I picked Presence as one of my Super Stats, as it passively boosts healing and decreases threat while in a non-tank stance. I’m definitely used to stacking the healer stat in MMOs, but as a natural consequence my damage usually suffers severely, or (I simply don’t have very many damaging abilities, depending on the game). This was definitely not the case in CO. Since Presence was my Super Stat, I could stack it AND increase my damage on all my Archery abilities! I could switch between damaging enemies and healing my teammates at will without having to worry about how one was suffering from neglect stat-wise. I really enjoyed that I could pick a Super Stat to stack based on what passives I wanted to stack, but at the same time it would boost my damage. This definitely enhanced the group play experience for me.

Another neat cross-over between personal experience and group play involves the Nemesis system. Each of your champions in CO has a Nemesis, which you also handpick what general skills he or she uses as well as his or her appearance. Throughout the game, you’ll get Nemesis missions or quests which involve your Nemesis stirring up trouble (e.g. robbing a bank, kidnapping the mayor, all that kind of good villany stuff). You must confront your Nemesis and save the day. I’ve played a couple games that have similar systems, but the things you do you usually have to do alone, since its a personal experience. Not so, in CO. You can bring your friends to help you out in true superhero team fashion. I really liked being able to show off my Nemesis to my friends as see what kind of Nemeses they had created. I just found it to be a really nice touch for grouping when I’ve seen other games not allow grouping for such cases.

CO certainly has many other great grouping opportunities (they have group story missions and challenging lairs, for example), but these are the ones I found to be delightfully unique to CO. If you play or have played CO, what are your favorite co-opportunities of the game?