The Latex Menagerie
I was twelve when I first walked on water. And I was just a bit taller than a chair when my Master discovered me in the city and promised me that my powers will help me see the world with different eyes. I spent fifteen years of my life in a cellar, trying to accustom myself with the sticky latex, learning to levitate with my eyes closed and to melt metal with only a stare.
I talked to myself in the mirror for fifteen years, pulling threatening or serious faces and making promises to the whole of mankind. Then one day, I told myself I am ready to show the universe what I’m capable of. The Master let me go with a content smile and the same content death. It’s okay, I said to myself, I will soon be the idol of the weak and the air will fill with cries for help. I will be irreplaceable. Unfortunately, from that cursed moment on, when I stepped in the light of day, I realized that the world is a super-hero funfair.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Champions Online, the dimension of reality in which uniqueness is no longer superlative, but rather has a degree of comparison. Invented by the experienced scientists at Cryptic Studios, the same who have formerly entertained us with experiments like City of Heroes/City of Villains, Champions Online is a veritable dream machine. Your only limit is your own imagination: leave behind the cyborg or tormented demon clichés and dare to dream armed Playboy bunnies, mechanized apes, electric sharks and, why not, mini-Vin Diesels (mini-Riddicks).
We even have a solution for those whose imagination is a big black hole. Thus, using our random super-hero generator, you can easily find you idol in life, or you can at least have a straight-forward start. And, as a bonus, you’ll get to explore a dozen of archetypal powers which can be combined to create infinite super-power sets, specially destined to “the most-unique” of heroes.
Maybe you want a socialist engineer to spawn zombie continuously, or a housewife who can light the cooker fire with her own fingers. Everything is possible now. And, because personal examples are always the most convincing, I myself found the sense of existence in a reptilian Succubus who uses the power of darkness and sexy thighs to make her enemies tremble.
Massive Single-player Online Role Playing Game (MSO-RPG)
But literature teaches us (here’s a first example: Thomas Mann – Death in Venice) that behind the colorful glamour of life, a putrid kernel is always well hidden. In vain did I take my virtual Absynthe to save the world, because you simply don’t have who to save the world with. Socializing is dead. For the first five levels, I thought that everything is due to the fact that I’m in the beginner’s zone, which is full with tutorials and which reflects, at a micro-cosmic level, everything you can do in Champions Online. I blamed it all on the instances, which are rather smaller than usual in these introductive zones and then I waited patiently to be welcomed in the REAL world.
In order to understand Champions Online though, we have to remember that if you want to create a super-hero multiplayer game, it has a huge problem right from start: the condition of the main characters (read, the hero alone is enough to handle supreme evil). You can’t throw 100 super-things into a room and expect the 100 full of themselves identities to willingly collaborate. So, a game like Champions Online needs a confidence boost. In other words, it needs missions of a cataclysmic level in order to encourage all the heroic figures to look around.
Unfortunately, the game offers a lot of World of Warcraft like objectives and silly small quests, like saving a kitty from a tree. It’s not just that the difficulty is targeted for a three-year-old, but the enemies too, after several gameplay balancing patches, fall instantly, just because the developers want you to feel like the super-hero that, ironically enough, you actually are.
Death doesn’t bring any severe penalty, as it just limits your attack power and regeneration rate for a short amount of time. It’s a pity that not even technically speaking, the game doesn’t manage to support group-fights: the Looking for Group channel is limited to the instance you are playing in, although there might be just as many players in other instances that are looking for partners for the same quest. And the loot system still isn’t popular, after all those patches. Thus, any Champions Online reunion seems random and filled with boredom.
Of course, we can always hope that “if you can’t join them, beat ‘em”. So, if we can’t socialize, we should always be able to turn towards PvP, the last chance of humanity for fun. The same unwritten rules of the super-hero mess up the duels too. Not to mention that there is no duality in Champions Online.
I’m not necessarily talking about player-controlled villains, but rather about certain “political views” to allow the mix and match of all the players out there. At one point, it becomes rather funny to see the sheer amount of scary demons trying to help an old lady cross the street, or how they follow puny couriers all around the city. Not to mention that the Champions universe has a severe lobotomy: everyone is trying to somehow shake off the amnesia, running or flying around like ants.