Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Champions Online: Dislikes

Now we come to the fun part of reviewing new games: ripping up all the bad parts. To be honest, the greatest part I dislike about Champions Online revolves around one issue: Gear.


In CO, there 9 gear slots:
  • 1x Offensive Primary
  • 1x Defensive Primary
  • 1x Utility Primary
  • 2x Offensive Secondary
  • 2x Defensive Secondary
  • 2x Utility Secondary

All of these slots are pretty much the same: a few stats with some defensives. Most gear has zero effect on how your character looks, and is basically a stat slot. There are a few items which modify how your weapons or powers look.

I find that having gear have an effect on how your character looks is important to me. I like getting a new helm, or a new chestplate or shield. I like that visual reinforcement. Getting a random stat stick with some arbitrary, meaningless name just doesn't appeal to me.

As well, because there are so few slots, you upgrade them at a far faster rate. It's not like getting a weapon in WoW and then getting some use out of it for a few levels while the other slots get upgraded. You barely use an item before it's trashed.

Quests and enemies drop items of the same level as they are. A level 18 quest gives a reward that requires a level 18 or higher to use. Similarly, a level 18 mob only drops gear usable by level 18s or higher. This contributes to the high gear turnover. Additionally, it means that if you start punching above your weight, doing higher level quests, your inventory fills up with gear that you can't use yet.

Finally, mobs don't drop trash, they only drop items. The cumulative effect of this is that it feels like every few minutes you find a new sword that is slightly better or slightly worse than your current sword.

I just find the gear system very annoying and a big hassle. Unlike in WoW, where getting a new piece of gear is an actual reward and something to be anticipated.


The inventory system is a pain as well. You can't open all bags at the same time, and upgrading bags is a major hassle.


Crafting is a waste of time in this game. It just doesn't organically flow. You end up with bags full of ingredients, and can make nothing useful. I've pretty much ignored crafting after experimenting with the first couple of characters. The game is much more fun when you do that.

Other Issues

Outside of those three sub-systems--which really all have the basic gear design at the heart of the problem--there aren't a lot of other problems with Champions.

Chat could be improved and made easier to use. The general performance of the game could be improved. I play with low-quality graphics to get a decent framerate. There are occasional graphics glitches, my weapons sometimes disappear in combat.

Sometimes there are issues figuring out when you can use an ability after another, often relating to ability animations. For example, I have an ability that allows me to leap backwards out of melee range, Breakaway Shot. I find this ability never seems to work the first time I press the button.


But on the whole, the Gear, Inventory, and Crafting systems are the only things I seriously dislike about Champions Online. The core character creation, powers, and basic gameplay are a lot of fun. Champions Online is definitely worth checking out, especially if you've gotten a bit tired of orcs-and-elves fantasy.

Two caveats: I haven't really tried PvP or grouping, so I have no idea how the game works in those situations.


  1. But some gear does effect the way your character looks. I picked up an item that once equiped, I was able to head to the tailor and turn on twin blades that had a fire effect on them. You do have to turn the effect on by going to the tailor, but it does effect your character.

    This is also true of items you craft that have a spell effect on say a bow or gun. Not very different from the way enchanting works in WoW, except you have to turn the effect on.

  2. I dislike this game because I feel there is no group dynamic and PVP is very unbalanced.

  3. A few comments:

    1) Gear - I actually like their system. The two big reasons is I never have to look like a hobo, and I get enough gear replacements that I won't start to feel underpowered. (Ex: In WoW, I've had melee characters stuck with an old weapon that really kills their performance. Not fun.) What I do is just play until I head back to a store or my bags are full and deal with upgrades then. (I agonize over gear too much, so handling it all at once suits me better.)

    2) Crafting - The good thing about crafting is it is easy to keep it up to your level and you can create stuff you can actually use. When you hit mid-level crafting (200+) you start learning how to make custom items with primary / secondary stats of your choosing, and potency depending on how many resources you put into them.

    My biggest gripes about CO so far:

    1) Melee is highly disadvantaged. Their abilities fail when the target moves (or is knocked) out of range and endurance is still consumed. (This is really dumb when using charged melee attacks.) Not only that, but melee characters are subject to mobs' high damage melee and PBAoE attacks while having the same defenses as a ranged character.

    2) Groups don't 'gel.' Teaming with friends feels more like 5 people soloing together rather than 5 people working together to accomplish something. (Btw, my friends have a lot of knockback, and my best abilities are melee... Yeah.)

    3) I know their group quest sharing is standard fare for MMOs, but it's really hard to just group with friends and accomplish something outside of a Lair. (I'm spoiled by CoH/V in this regard.)

  4. Having gear be the same level as the quests/mobs started to mean that I was replacing gear before I had even equipped it. When I started doing quests that were higher level than I was, I held on to the best pieces to equip them once I leveled up, but then I would find better pieces of that same level, and found myself wishing I could have a tooltip to compare items I wasn't actually equipping.

    I thought the crafting problems were just because I picked the wrong one for my powerset. 95% of what I learned was either power replacements for powers I don't use (there was like... one for electricity, all the way down on the list), or various equipment with stats that were almost completely useless for me. The only item I actually used from my crafting was only because it was a secondary item that was apparently itemized as a primary item, and had WAY too many stats for its level.

    But then, I didn't really see much of a point to getting better gear, since I was already plowing through 2-person quests two levels higher than I was.

    I would have liked if there were more group instances at lower levels, too. I kept checking the second panel of the PvP queue (the one that said it was for instances) but there was never anything there. The one time I ever had to group with anyone, it wasn't so much a "group" as a "run around and shoot at anything that moves."

  5. The primary reason your character doesn't change with gear is because it's a Supers game.

    While over history some Super Heroes have changed their appearance, their main theme look remained the same.

    As genre, Supers get better with skill, training, radiation accidents, not so much with gear.