One of the points many people are unclear about is how instancing works. I think many people are going into Champions, seeing the first two zones and their relatively low population caps, and then thinking that's as high as it gets. Well, that's wrong.
After beating the Canadian crisis, I was introduced to Canada at large -- a much bigger version of the crisis zone that's packed with plenty of new areas and a new instance cap to boot. I don't know what that top number is, but I had 150+ people in my zone with me. That's pretty much more than I'll ever interact with.
More importantly, however, the zone was huge. Huge huge. Like it's going to take me a while to fly across this zone type of huge. More quests than I knew what to do with huge. The main zones are very different from the initial zones that you're presented with. They feel more like your standard MMO zone, rather than the controlled story feeling of the initial zones.
Of course, while I'm up on the topic of instancing, there is one very nice benefit to having instances -- anti-camp. Say you need to kill a certain villain, but said villain is being camped by 12 people. Well, worry no more! Just switch instances and you'll soon find yourself in the same area with less people and, hopefully, no one camping the quest you need.
Not to get away from the downside of all of this, it's a bit hard to play with your friends at times. You have to coordinate which instance you're going to meet up in and form the party in, but the game will keep you together after the party is made.
Now, speaking of questing...
Quests and distress
No, no, not the bad type of distress, but I'll get to that in a second.
The quests in this game, while pretty interesting to read when you have the time, aren't going to be winning awards. These are the same type of quests you're use to from Warcraft and games like it, with your character going off to find, kill, or collect lots of X. The quests themselves are nothing new or innovative. They are, however, just as enjoyable as any other quest of this type.
What is different, however, is the existence of quests that I like to term "distress" quests. Superheroes are known for saving anyone they see in distress, and Cryptic has encapsulated that same feeling with quests that have no set start point other than being in an area.
For example, my angel was flying over an icy, mountainous area on her way to defeat ice demons when she flew over a group of people trapped under rubble. A small button popped up offering me a new quest, one to save the people down below. I easily accepted the quest in mid-air and quickly flew down to help, using my super strength to pick the debris off of the people and let them get to safety.
This is not a huge jump forward for games, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's another one of those little notes that seems to fall through the cracks when people talk about Champions. It's a nice addition, albeit a small one.
Final thoughts for Champions Online
It's different. Different in the good kind of way. The questing is certainly nothing new, but the way the game approaches itself is. The powers are interesting, the crafting is novel, the storyline isn't bad, and the character customization is over the top in terms of fun.
I know a game is catching people's attention when all of my friends come up to me with nothing but good things to say about the open beta. My friends don't play MMOs much, so when they start talking to me about MMOs, I usually listen up. So far it's all good words -- a good signal for this game if you ask me.
As for my personal opinion, I'm really enjoying the game. Champions Online is a super strength punch of awesome. It's different from other MMOs out on the market and I've been looking for something like this for a while. It's an MMO that feels like a brawler, all mixed up with customization goodness.
Now, if you could excuse me, I need to go save the world.
Colin Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who saved Canada, eh? When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.