I was lucky enough to talk to the cast and creators of Monlith’s upcoming action adventure RPG Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego. Myself and other members of media peppered Michael de Plater (Director of Design), Christian Cantamessa (Lead Writer), and Troy Baker (voice of Talion), with questions about the upcoming title which is set to launch on September 28th. Baker, who gamers might recognize from starring roles in The Last of Us and Bioshock: Infinite, had some interesting things to say about the voicing the game’s protagonist Talion and just how important Tolkien’s work is to nerds everywhere.
A few weeks ago I picked up DCU Online with the intention of reviewing it for the site. Sadly I discovered that is was lacking the one thing a super hero game really need to have, the ability to make the hero you really want to make. After toiling with character creation for a few days, I found myself frustrated with DCUO and the overall lack of character customization. While you could get pretty creative, the inability to choose from from more than three body types and a handful of power sets quickly made me lose interest.
Then it dawned on me, Champions online JUST went free to play. Cryptic studios sets the bar for character customization, so I was curious. After a few clicks, I discovered that not only was it free to play, it was also 100% free to download. You can experience the entire MMO with zero monetary investment. Check out my review of Champions Online: Free For All.
- The Customization – As I mentioned on the podcast the other night , there is virtually no limitation to what you can create, and creativity is half the fun. If you wanted to make a 3 foot tall amphibious fish man named “King Guppie”, you totally can. Or perhaps you rather create an 8 foot tall atomic powered robot hell bent on eliminating evil? Go for it! I spent hours upon hours building new heroes and it was a blast.
- The Price – As stated above a silver account is free. Free to download, and free to play. A silver account gets you about 90% of the character customization options as well as the full game world and level cap. What exactly you don’t get will be explained below.
- The Art Style – I’m a big fan of cell shaded graphics, and they work incredibly well for this game world. The game is simple looking, but has the same style animation of the 1990s Batman:The Animated series. Characters are stylized and unique looking, and in all honesty I can say that I never saw two heroes fighting crime that looked even remotely the same.
- Skipping the tutorial – Traditionally the most agonizing levels of an MMO are the first 6 levels. Normally they go fast, but it becomes an exercise in patience every time you want to level up an alt. In Champions, once you’ve done the tutorial once, you never have to do it again. All your alt characters can simply skip the first six levels and get straight to fighting crime.
- Movement powers early – At level six you gain access to your movement powers. Movement powers allow you to quickly reach quest locations or simply traverse the game world. Some of the movement powers I’ve seen are : Flight, teleportation, acrobatics, super jumping, jet boots, grappling hook, burrowing, ice slides, hover disks… the list goes on and on. As a player you should have no problem finding a movement power that actually matches your heroes’ M.O.
- The Story – This is an old fashioned super hero universe. Within the first 8 levels my hero “Victory” found himself in the middle of a gang war. The “Purple Gang” was trying to take some turf from the “Vipers”, and things were getting bloody. At this point in my heroes career the stakes are pretty low, but I’ve already come into contact with some of the most powerful NPC heroes in the galaxy, and they’re making me feel like I’m part of a much bigger story… it’s just plain fun.
- The Loot – While loot in this game exists, it is not all important like WOW. Things may change at a later level, but within the first 1/4 of the game, it really doesn’t matter all that much what underpants you have on.. I like that.
NOT NERD APPROPRIATE
- Clunky – The game was originally released in 2009, which means Cryptic probably started building the game in 2007. The games built in 2007 are already showing their age. The interface isn’t that user friendly, the quest system lacks decent way points, and combat isn’t as tight as it could be.. just nitpicking.
- Not enough voice acting – Some quests are voiced, but the majority are very long text explanations of what you need to do. Hate to say it, but the days of having to read quests are totally over. Just not here.
- Archetypes – So if you have a free “silver” account you don’t get all the bells and whistles that someone with a “gold” account receives. You are forced to pick a hero “archetype” that will define your particular skill set and power choices. For example, the “Mind” gains access to a bevy of psychic abilities and powers, but cannot mix and match powers from other sets in order to enhance his/her repitoire. Really, archetypes are no different than picking a character class such as “rogue” in WOW.
- The Grind – There is not much variety in the quests that I’ve been receiving. “Go into the sewer and kill 70 purple gang members”, or “steal the rusted samoflange from sammy sammoflange”, you get the drift.
- Steep learning curve – The crafting system is crazy, how items impact your stats is a mystery, henchmen, sidekicks and super teams are all well guarded secrets… Very little is explained and you’re sort of forced to figure it out on your own.
So is it worth it? In all honesty what could you possibly have to lose? While Champions Online is far from perfect, I greatly enjoyed flying around the city and tossing cop cars and street thugs. If you plan on giving this game a shot, contact me! I’d love to get a super hero team going again, and sadly all of my hero friends have retired. Http://www.ChampionsOnline.com