Champions Online Retrospective: A 13 Year Old MMO Worth Trying

Those looking for a retrospective on a free and fun MMORPG has to take a look at Champions Online. A game where you incarnate a personally customized superhero in an engaging universe based on the tabletop game Champions.

Champions Online Retrospective: A 13 Year Old MMO Worth Trying

Champions Online is an MMORPG released on September 1st 2009. What started as a pay to play became Free in 2011. But what does a 13 year old game have to offer as of late 2022 compared to other MMOs? In this retrospective, we will take a look at where Champions Online still shines, and where it is failing. 

This article has a reason to exist. By the end it will be made clear what the game lacks and yet why one should try it out.

The World of Champions Online

As with all MMORPG, Champions Online has a very built in universe adapted from the Champions Tabletop game published by Hero. The game takes place in a fictional version of Earth. Where super heroes help out against threats the police cannot handle on their own. The main area is Millennium City. A city built from the remains of Detroit after a super villain by the name of Dr. Destroyer attacked it. This city is where the beginning, middle and end of your character’s journey takes place.

Between these trips to this town to solve local gangs issues or hang out with other players. You may be invited to help out the Nevada-inspired Desert and Canadian Wilderness against various threats. There are also dangers to face on Monster Island and within the ancient civilization of Lemuria underwater. There is Vibora Bay, a Florida-inspired city where the greatest threats await. And finally, once you reach level 40. The threats become interdimensional. You will be invited to fight a war against the Cosmic threat that’s the Qliphothic Realm’s residences.

“Millennium City, a gleaming city of the future. A triumph of human engineering and a testament to the human imagination.” -Defender

Each of the mentioned areas have their own stories that tend to connect to various, sometimes repeating, adversaries. Either through the main missions, the adventure packs, and server events. There is a lot to discover about the universe and the foes that try to subjugate, or end it.

Gameplay: Be Your Own Hero

Champions Online is a game that puts a lot of focus on customization choice. From what power you have to how your character looks in every detail. And for you to use said hero. They prepared a lot of content for you to do while leveling up.

Freedom in Creation and Progression

The selling point of Champions Online right from its launch date is customization. Not only do player have a choice of different sets of power (“archetypes”) for each role. (Ranged, Tank, Melee, Hybrid and Support.) But you would then be able to change the appearance to your desire. Even as a free to play player, you have a large select of costume choice. Not just the clothes, but its textures, patterns and colors. If you don’t feel inspired you can always randomize based on preset themes. With this you can go from a handsome hero, to a beastly one, or a mix of both.

What the archetype selection screen looks like while creating your first character.

What the archetype selection screen looks like while creating your first character.

After passing through a tutorial, you will be guided to your first set of quest line on Westside. But once the area is saved. You will be given access to two missions leading to two new areas: the desert, and the Canadian wilderness. From then on, you will be thrown into loads of questline you can choose to follow. Players don’t have to complete everything to gain access to the final areas, just enough level ups. By level 30, players will have access to Monster Island and Lemuria. And by level 35 they will access Vibora Bay.

Screen taken while battling an Open Mission's boss on Monster Island.

Screen taken while battling an Open Mission’s boss on Monster Island.

Players will want to do quests until they reach level 40. Being the maximum level, end game content will then await them. From tougher lairs to raid-like bosses in the form of “Cosmic” enemies. And other various activities dealing with foes as strong as your hero, if not better. Each with its own narrative. It’s hard to get bored especially if you play with friends.

Is It Pay to Win?

It’s worth asking the question: is Champions Online pay to win? Not as much as one may think. There is a life-time subscription price that gives you every single archetypes. And gives player the ability to mix different archetypes together with the freeform archetype. But these features aren’t necessarily locked just for those that can fork over the cash.

After reaching level 40, your objective will become to grind Questionite, a currency that can be turned into Zen. Which in turn, can be used in the Zen Store to get features like: more character slots, archetypes, additional costumes. And for those who grind long enough, can get the supreme character slot: Freeform. It takes some dedication but is far from being impossible. Especially if you get a team together to farm daily quests that awards you with Questionite.

Ever since I started playing in 2012. I went from having 2 characters slot with only the bare minimum of archetypes. To 12 character slots, 6 of which are freeform slots. And never have I paid anything.

Player Base

The most unfortunate aspect of all MMOs is when the player count is low. Fortunately, Champions Online always managed to leave a low yet modest amount of players. To this day there are still enough players to do 5-team lairs every day, raid bosses in the form of Cosmic enemies. And do adventure packs together. But what aspect is dying then? The PvP scene. Areas meant for player versus player confrontation tend to be empty. There also hasn’t been much major update on the game for a long time aside from new items, revamping lairs and cycling events.

Server population from October to November 2022 according to mmo-population.com.

Server population from October to November 2022 according to mmo-population.com.

It is not to say there is no hope for the game. All it needs is a new batch of players to enjoy it and spread the word about this MMO. Perhaps a higher amount of players will revive the PvP scene, and encourage the developers to give out more content. For now it has enough content and players to do everything there is.

Conclusion

There is much more to be said about Champions Online, but as it’s a retrospective and not a full on review. I will simply let curious players try it out for themselves. It’s free, accessible on Steam and on the Arc launcher. Having followed the game since nearly 10 years I have seen a very positive change in the game. It’s still as fun story and gameplay wise as it was back then. The only real change is the rare addition of new content and revamping older aspects to give them new life as end game content. As for the game itself, it has become more free to win in recent years. Features gold subscribers get cost less in the Zen store than it was in the early days. 

The thing that brings down this game is its low player count compared to most MMOs. Not that it’s bad or boring. From my own understanding the game has always been under the radar. I myself did not know of the game’s existence until some Youtuber used this obscure game as a platform to announce an unrelated event to the viewers.

So it’s with hope that I made this retrospective. To shed light on an easily missed Super Hero MMO, overshadowed by the likes of DC Universe Online and City of Heroes. Despite offering one of the best super hero experience, even 13 years later.

The game is available for free on Steam and on the Arc launcher.

Champions Online: Free For All Trailer

Source: mmo-population.com

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