Champions Online Exclusive First Look

With great power comes great gameplay. We check out Cryptic Studios' new cross-platform superhero massively multiplayer online game.

No more heroes? Don't tell that to Cryptic Studios, the renowned massively multiplayer online game developer that created City of Heroes. Next up for Cryptic is Champions Online, a new superhero MMOG based on the classic pen-and-paper role-playing game from Hero Games. We stopped by Cryptic's office to get a first look at Champions, which also happens to be a cross-platform MMOG. That's right--Xbox 360 players will be able to jump on Xbox Live and play with (or against) PC players. Be sure to update your Super Friends list.

In Champions, you will create and customize your own superheroes and delve into a rich comic-book-inspired universe. For those not familiar with the pen-and-paper RPG, it was created in 1981 and was an instant hit, allowing players to craft their own superheroes using a unique point-based system. Cryptic, with its obvious interest in comic-book-themed games after making City of Heroes and the City of Villains expansion, bought the Champions IP outright and now licenses it back to Hero Games. Fear not, tabletop fans; Cryptic promises not to meddle with the successful Champions formula, and the next edition, slated for release next year, will feature rules for transferring your Champions Online hero to the tabletop game. Having this kind of creative freedom must be refreshing for Cryptic after Microsoft unceremoniously canceled the Marvel-licensed MMOG that Cryptic had been developing.

Ever wanted to whip out a purple force field of energy squares? Now you can.

While the Champions universe is nowhere near as well known as that of Marvel or DC Comics, it's equally as rich. Superheroes and villains have existed throughout history, from Hercules and Achilles to Medusa. But in the 1940s, a Nazi mystic accidentally flooded the world with magic, and now the superhero population has grown exponentially. The story of Champions Online takes place after the Battle of Detroit in 1992. The evil Dr. Destroyer, in his will to dominate, called down an asteroid that destroyed nearly the entire city and killed more than 60,000 people and dozens of superheroes. Dr. Destroyer disappeared and was believed dead. From the ashes of Detroit rose Millennium City, a city of gleaming skyscrapers that is known as the City of the Future and is also home of the superteam, the Champions. Leading the Champions is Defender, also known as James Harmon IV. A computer and engineering expert, he created the ultimate suit of powered armor, armed to the teeth with artillery and heavy weapons, in his quest to protect the innocent and punish injustice. But now, a mysterious figure claiming to be the original Dr. Destroyer has appeared and is threatening Millennium City and its peaceful way of life. That's where you come in.

We didn't get to see the hero creator tool in action, but rest assured that it's more fully fleshed out than that of City of Heroes. A hero can range from three feet to eight feet in height, and almost every body part can be customized, from eyebrows to a bosom that will raise your eyebrows. Aside from the assortment of costume options, you can choose your hero's stance and animation style, such as a traditional, barrel-chested hero or a knuckle-dragging beast. Even your attitude plays a part; facial expressions will easily distinguish stoic heroes from wisecracking sidekicks. But what's a hero without superpowers? There are 13 power sets, including powered armor, beast, darkness, and the ability to summon dark energy and drain your enemy's life force. Each set has its own list of individual powers, such as force fields, electric bolts, energy swords, or ice beams. You can mix and match powers as you like so you're not restricted to one power set. Want ice beams and fire balls? Make it happen. You can also write your hero's backstory, choose his or her own personal kryptonite, and even create a personalized archenemy that will pop up occasionally in the game to foil your plans. There are even rumors of being able to create your own secret identity.

In our demo, we watched Cryptic play through Monster Island, the project of the grandson of Dr. Moreau. His experiments have predictably run amok, and Cryptic's power-armored character created for the demo made quick work of the enemies using a combination of melee attacks and laser beams. The controls were designed with the Xbox 360 controller in mind--even developers play the PC version with a USB gamepad--and powers are mapped to the face button. The main attack is a simple power that causes minor damage but builds up your super power meter. The meter acts as currency for your three other powers that cause major damage. All of the combat is in real time and plays out more like a traditional action RPG than an MMOG, which is sure to please console gamers who aren't keen on queuing attacks.

The Monster Island demo lasted only a few minutes, but we did learn about some of the other locations in the game. Heroes will receive missions and quests from the Champions and other characters in the universe and then duke it out in deserts, tundra, jungle, alternate dimensions, outer space, and, of course, Canada. Thankfully the Canucks will have Justiciar, the cybernetically enhanced hero and leader of the Toronto-based superteam Star Force, watching over them. Cryptic wants every area to stand out visually, so each will feature a "point of interest," something that's visible from any location on the map. Similar to the Citadel in Half-Life 2, giant mountains, telescopes, or huge fortresses will loom over their respective areas.

Facial expressions and mustaches will define your hero.

Secret societies abound, such as Viper, which is a group of English noblemen that worship a serpent god and aspire to dominate the globe. Aliens and undead monsters seek to enslave humanity, while the robot Mechanon hopes to destroy all organic life on Earth. To combat such treachery, you can team up with four other heroes for player-versus-environment action, form a guild of superfriends, or even invent your own items with the crafting system. Cryptic didn't say much about player-versus-player except to say that you'll have plenty of opportunity to beat down other heroes.

As is the case in comic books, the art style sets the mood of the universe. Champions Online is vibrant and clean, with bright colors and flat textures--a moving comic. You won't find any normal mapping here or any attempt to look more "real." When you approach an important battle, the skies will darken, the music will intensify, and you'll immediately know that you are about to engage in an epic struggle.

Our own epic struggle is waiting to create our own superhero and play Champions Online for ourselves. In the meantime, check out the exclusive new gameplay footage of Champions in action.

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Discussion

120 comments
norcovball6
norcovball6

So had a question at work today if Champions is only going to be online play and i'm assuming yes bc its a mmo.

undyingwildo69
undyingwildo69

ya same here ill but it if theres no fee.....well at lest not no f**kn $15 and month like WoW.

Jackyll87
Jackyll87

Will buy if there is no monthly fees.

yomama15
yomama15

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

yomama15
yomama15

"gamah_killah": Dude, shut up, your the kind of "extremely ultra violent gamer theat gives gamers a bad rep with those rich **** and s-k-a-n-k-s in Washington.

grambyte
grambyte

These graphics aren't really all that are they now. Sounds better than it looks.

Agulf
Agulf

another comic hero style MMO. I'm just hoping to see some cross-overs in the future, like in comics. Like having a halloween event where the villains from city of villains come over for a fight...

Memoryitis
Memoryitis

Ah yes another MMO, I see unbalanced chars, lags, crashes, bugs, bots, hacks, and monthly fees, mods

GM-Lucra
GM-Lucra

The graphic art style makes the game trully feel like a real comic book and the thought of making your own archenemy is just amazing. With a large set of options this game looks like it could be an awesome one.

snbatman
snbatman

It's based on comics, fo course it's going to look more cartoony that most PC games coming out these days.

Eiriken
Eiriken

Will I try it? Probably. Will I leave COH/COV for it? Probably not.

Hungry_bunny
Hungry_bunny

Not interested if there's any kind of monthly fee.

Squall_gunbl
Squall_gunbl

nothing wrong with a faster pace pc game. as long as it doesn't feel too dumbed down skills set wise. I'm hoping for something like, "hold down ? button to change the other skill buttons to something else.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

I'm really looking forward to this.

ascalon94
ascalon94

sounds cool just i dont like the grahics

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

could be a bad game after all or a good one..depending how they do it

Cube_of_MooN
Cube_of_MooN

This game could easily end up as a flop...

hesel
hesel

The cel-shading reminds me of Team Fortress

carstairs
carstairs

I don't know...cross platform MMO's are difficult...

Jonnybiz
Jonnybiz

YaY! PC gamers get to show their superiority over console gamers

kinglows
kinglows

i bet this game will be a best seller yep!

IDarkNight
IDarkNight

looks good this game. I'll w8 for more information

yomama15
yomama15

I'm a big COH/COV fan, and for those of you who think this is going to be a rip-off of that game, in way your right and in a way your wrong. Sure graphics may be a bit cartoonish, there may not be as many powersets as in Cryptics previous work/s, you may only be able to group up with half as many people as in there previos work/s, and it may be a bit watered down(Which made me a bit sad, :(, butyour overlooking the new features which makes it different from Coh/Cov(I would love to list them all, but I want to see what you stupid uber haters say).

zxssded
zxssded

so basically its like coh and cov

AnnoyedDragon
AnnoyedDragon

"The controls were designed with the Xbox 360 controller in mind--even developers play the PC version with a USB gamepad" And PC gamers would want such a game why? There are plenty of PC orientated MMOs out there.

Jin_Kazawa
Jin_Kazawa

No comment on this game. It will probably suck. The cartoony look already sucks big time. Expect huge amount of minors in this game... 5-8 yr olds. Champions online will stay awaaaaay from my pc.

oflow
oflow

Nice, the cell-shading looks awesome...I've always wondered why they dont make more comic-book based games this way.

jrco666
jrco666

ZhugeMarc-You asked me if Cryptic could rip-off they're own game. What else can it be called if they take previous work, and give it a new look? Fact is Champions Online at its core is COH, and so my answer to you is yes. COH/COV belongs solely to NCSoft now anyway.

mega_monsta
mega_monsta

@ColdfireTrilogy with a keyboard? Final fantasy 11 is already out for 360 one of the most complicated mmos out. And you could plug a usb keyboard into the 360? And don't forget the messenger kit for the 360?

snbatman
snbatman

@Hyuuga227 For the PC, this is definitely pay to play. Why does everyone think MMO's are going to be free to play? Not everything is Guild Wars or Runescape. @ColdfireTrilogy It's being developed with the PC and 360 in mind. If you like complicated controls just so you can feel l33t, kudos to you. I think most people prefer a simple, effective, but still powerful UI. I trust that the UI won't be so simple to render players ineffective during combat.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

Well if its gonna be natively played on a 360 controller .... ill pass that pretty much means the simplicity is going to be a lot less than the MMOs im used to... how does one type ...

H0RSE
H0RSE

[QUOTE="omnifas"]And they better have a batman type Hero that is human and uses wit over power. Otherwise Bye bye Im not buying.[/QUOTE] in the pen and paper game, you could select a gadgeteer class, and martial arts...which is what batman would be. I also heard that unlike in CoH, you can actually use items and things that show up on your costume.

mobius-12
mobius-12

I don't think there would be a monthly fee if you play on 360, one of my friends told me that for Huxley ( another MMO on 360) the Xbox Live fee would cover it, but I don't know.... I hope so anyway.

FMunro3251
FMunro3251

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Hyuuga227
Hyuuga227

Does anyone know if its gonna be free to play or if there's a fee?

majidok
majidok

1 . The guy in the second picture reminds me alot of facebreaker characters . 2 . Great gamespace background , thnx GS :)

andru183
andru183

yep after alone 4 im never goina get hyped up about a game that isnt getting covering reviews or demos of some kind

destrozz
destrozz

Looks good, but I want to see more before I get hyped about it, knowing AoC will be release next yr also.

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

This looks amazing. A game I would be willing to shell out a subscription fee for. I'm hoping they don't go the way of a $60 game or a $15 a month subscription fee. Maybe $45 and $10?

kakotan
kakotan

I really like COH and COV but im kind of set back by the cartoon graphics of this game and how the charecters looks to much like Freedom Force and the MUA for the X-box 360 (Both were wonderfull game tho i loved them) With CoH and CoV it is more comic book looking and the charecters look real not like action figures. I would like to say I am a lil excited about this game and the concept but from watching that video it looks like it will not be the open large zone areas like COH/COV. Just hope the questing and flow of the game will be a lil better cause COH can be same thing over and over and over again. I like idea of MMOs on a console but it better be ready to hold a un exspected amount of ppl and I hope they will at least give us the 1st month free. Only thing with console mmos is no modding but thats not a big deal really. Hope you can pull it off guys, BTW that pic of the guy with the black hair near bottom of page, he looks like Mr.Imposible that was ok animation but ppl like the heroes to look real and not cartoon

AnnoyedDragon
AnnoyedDragon

MMOs are not the best of ideas for consoles... Console hardware achieves higher performance than its PC counterparts because of predictability; in a MMO there can be an infinite number of players and effects on the screen at any time, there is no way of fully optimising live performance.