Monday 23 August 2010

Wot I'm Playing: Champions Online

Champions Online seems to tick so many boxes. There’s the character creator for a start, vast arrays of crazy options you can lose yourself for days in. Then there’s power selection, where you’re not locked into a fixed class but are free to select from a wide array of offensive, defensive and various utility powers, and combine those with stances to fulfil different roles; you’ve also got fantastic travel powers for getting around. The world seems to be a good size with areas like a metropolis teeming with villainy, an irradiated desert, a frozen wasteland, suitably superheroic settings. There’s loot and crafting, fast paced action, public quests, drop-in PvP, so much good stuff, and yet… somehow it seems to add up to less than the sum of its parts. Having a lifetime subscription is great for popping in now and again, and if nothing else is really gripping me I’ll bounce in and dispense a bit of justice, but it never really grabs me and keeps me in, a bit like Guild Wars in that respect, games I never really managed to stick at.

It’s hard to put a finger on why it doesn’t quite work for me; I think one aspect might be the genre. Since City of Heroes got me back into comics a while ago I enjoyed the first two volumes of the self-contained Ultimates series, but I couldn’t get into any of the more continuity-heavy mainstream superhero series I tried. I still pick up a few trade paperbacks here and there, but mostly standalone books like DMZ and The Walking Dead that don’t feature superheroes, so the hero genre doesn’t have an especially strong draw and the Champions lore and setting hasn’t particularly grabbed me. There are some nice little vignettes, like the town of Snake Gulch populated by robotic cowboys gone haywire (very Westworld), but overall it seems a bit generic. The forthcoming DC Universe Online at least features iconic characters like Superman and Batman in the rather spectacular recent trailer, and I understand there’s going to be an accompanying comic, though I’m not sure if, or how, they’re going to fit in hordes of player character heroes. Perhaps it might have that indefinable x-factor that Champions doesn’t quite seem to.

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