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Free-2-Play: Is It Worth It? (Champions Online: Free For All)

Champions Online is a Superhero MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) from Cryptic Studios. It was released in September, 2009 and was originally a paid subscription service. In January of 2011 the game became free-2-play and a majority of the content was made available to non-paying members. Players wishing to still pay for the subscription became gold members with access to more options, while non-paying silver players can still get a fair chunk of the games content.

So how do they make money? – The game makes money in 2 ways. One; by the subscription fees that gold members pay that gives them access to more archetypes, more character slots, more costume parts and access to the expansion packs for free. The game also has a micro-transaction system that allows players to buy items individually or in packs. Certain premium items must be bought through this shop regardless of rank. The last major difference between gold and silver accounts is that silver accounts can look at the entire forum but have only a few places in which they are allowed to post in.

Visual’s and Sound

The game uses a special engine made by Cryptic Studios for all its MMO games which features a special kind of cel-shading that they call ‘Comic Shading.’ This gives the game and more specifically the character’s a high textured comic book feel to them that looks great. This is utilized well in the characters costume customization which is incredibly deep. The level of detail you are able to put into your character is mind boggling at times as you not only effect the build of you character but you can change details in each part of your costume. The equipment in the game do not have any sort of models themselves so you don’t have to worry about your gear blocking the look of your awesome hero. This also makes it incredibly difficult to find characters that look similar. Note: this is with a silver account, which in comparison is limited in options to a gold account.
The sounds for the game mesh well with the theme. The voices for NPC’s are a bit cheesy but in a good way that matches well with comic book characters. The effects for attacks while simple, matches with whats happening


Champions Online is a much more action oriented MMO with some attacks and blocking refilling your energy so you can use more powerful attacks more often. An interesting thing about attacking is that you have the ability to charge up or control the length of some attacks by holding down the attack button. For example if you shoot an AoE Fireball you hold down the button it is mapped to, to charge it. This increases the damage but also increases the cost of the ability. This brings about an interesting play on energy management and strategy. Abilities are gained as you level and don’t cost anything to acquire. You gain new abilities in an area called the Powerhouse and you are able to test out the powers to see if it matches your playstyle, then go back to the trainer to rearrange it. The custom ability that comes with the classes come in Advantages, which are skill points that you get as you level that can be spent to give abilities either new effects or enhance them overall. Very early on you also get a travel power which adds another level of fun and immersion as you can choose how you want to get around. I personally had a blast with the base flying power.

The item system in the game is very simple with only three main categories you equip; Offensive, Defensive, and Utility. You have 3 slots available for each category with one for a primary item and 2 for secondary items. Items typically come in one of three types Arms, Science and Mysticism, which corresponds with the 3 crafting schools of the same name. There are also items called Devices, which are made, picked up or acquired for a quest that can have a variety of effects. Most if not all items that you will equip have no models for themselves thus will not interfere with the design of you character. The only exception is with the disguise devices which are really only used for quests. As an added note: USB controllers can be used, however the in-game layout is catered towards an Xbox 360 controller.

Is It Worth It

Yes. The core gameplay for the game is solid and its action oriented combat system is a nice break from standard MMO combat. The item system can be a bit confusing despite it simplicity, and the quests are easy to follow. Getting a group made is simple but sometimes the quests will not track properly and you will be forced to redo them while working with a group. If you’re a fan of either comic books or MMO’s you will find some enjoyment out of this and not have to pay a dime to play.

Pros: Deep character design customization, action oriented combat system
Cons: Lack of originality outside of the combat system, questing with groups can have technical problems.

Categorized Under: PC