It's no secret that Champions Online is rolling out with its free-to-play update tomorrow. In addition to everything offered for free members, there's just a ton of new stuff. While this patch isn't quite Revelations in terms of content, it is one of the biggest full expansions Champions has seen.

Whether you're a returning player giving CO another shot, a new player checking out all the free stuff, or a current player itching for a rundown of all the added features, we've got you covered. With this full review of all of CO's latest features, you'll be well-equipped to start your new adventures in Millennium City and beyond.

Archetypes in a nutshell

We've discussed the new Archetype system to some degree before. Essentially, Silver (completely free, non-subscribed) members will be able to select from one of eight pre-defined character classes. Each Archetype has a unique set of powers, each conforming to a particular theme. They are:
  • The Grimoire: Spell-casting team support character. Has a wide variety of options, including crowd controls, heals, and strong attacks, with a team aura that raises the stats of party members by a pretty large amount.
  • The Marksman: Energy-efficient archer, well-suited to AoE attacks. A little more durable than some of the other damage dealers, but her damage is quite a bit lower.
  • The Soldier: Wields a wide variety of firearms and modern weapons. Not particularly good at area attacks until very late, although buffs to some of his key AoE attacks give him some playability.
  • The Inferno: Offensive powerhouse with a wide array of AoE fire attacks. Probably one of the best Archetypes; worth playing if you like the fire-themed powers.
  • The Behemoth: Single-target super-strength hero; lacks reliable AoE attacks but is very durable. Even though the super-strength theme may appeal to some people, Glacier is probably better in every way.
  • The Mind: Durable team support hero with heals and an awesome defense aura. The Mind is slow to level solo, but he gives such a huge benefit to a team simply by being present that his best bet is to find some friends.
  • The Glacier: The best Archetype tank by far with great AoE powers, snares, and crowd controls. If you're interested in playing a tank-like character, Glacier is exceptionally good.
  • The Blade: Generally considered to be the weakest Archetype. Because it received a number of buffs right before this post was written, the new improvements haven't been explored enough yet.
There are also two Gold Archetypes. Silver members can purchase them for Atari Tokens, while Gold members get them for free as long as they are subscribed.
  • The Savage: A regenerating hero with feral claw attacks. More survivable even than Glacier, but has much worse AoE damage output. His single target damage is very good once he unlocks Massacre.
  • The Specialist: A dual guns/swords hero, and not a very good one. He lacks a lot of the offense of other Archetypes, and while he eventually gets decent defense, it comes awfully late.
Overall, the best Archetypes to try are Grimoire, Inferno, and Glacier, and if you have friends to play with, Mind is also very good. Most of the others are playable, although I'd veer away from Specialist (at least until it gets buffed).

Characters can also make a one-time conversion if their subscription status changes. If you decide you want to upgrade to a Gold subscription, you can convert your Archetype heroes to fully customized Freeform heroes. If you decide you want to let your subscription lapse, you can also convert your Freeform heroes to Silver Archetype heroes. However, this can only be done once per character, and you cannot use characters converted to Freeform if your Gold subscription runs out.

What content is available?

Silver members get to see the majority of the game's content, including a near-total revamp of all of the game's early zones. All six main zones (Millennium City, The Desert, Canada, Monster Island, Lemuria, and Vibora Bay) are available regardless of your subscriber status. This also includes access to all endgame lairs and the Nemesis and UNITY systems.

The Adventure Packs (Serpent Lantern, Demonflame, and any future ones, including the upcoming Multifarian Resistance) are available to Gold members for free. Silver members can purchase access to these sideplots permanently with Atari Tokens (which becomes available for all characters once purchased).

A majority of the costume parts are available to all subscribers, with a small amount being available for purchase in addition to the existing costume packs in the C-Store. Some other costume packs (particularly the pre-order packs) have been made available for purchase as well. Current subscribers will retain all the costume pieces they've currently unlocked.

What has been changed/added?

The first thing that new players will notice is a much crisper, cleaner UI. Everything looks much better and cleaner overall. Some players dislike the new aesthetics, so we've included an example so you can decide for yourself:

The patch notes for the F2P launch include dozens of minor changes to powers and a number of new added powers. Some of the major highlights include:
  • All passives and many other powers now scale to superstats. This means a hero can select Regeneration along with a DEX/INT build and have the same healing performance as a CON/REC hero. Although this leads to build polarization (INT is generally considered too good, for instance), it has a lot of upsides, especially for Regen, Invulnerability, and Personal Force Field.
  • Hard control powers have been significantly reworked. Most hold powers are now "Paralyze" holds, which function similarly to the old hold powers, although their interaction is a little cleaner and they are a lot less useful. Many of the old short-term hold powers are now "Stuns," which last for only a very short period of time but cannot be mashed and are immune to incoming damage.
  • Most power descriptions were made more concise and less confusing. For the most part, this includes more detail on how powers work, but the descriptions are worded better and are easier to understand.
  • Aura passives in general were massively buffed. Aura of Radiant Protection remains very strong, but now the other auras are much more viable, increasing the diversity of support heroes.
  • Knock resistance no longer gives bonus damage when using knockback powers; only knock-immune villains take extra damage from knock powers. This is a huge change for PvP.
  • Many powers were adjusted to have abilities that fit with their descriptions properly. Some, like Heat Wave, were altered somewhat to keep their old functions, while other powers were changed dramatically.
  • Forcefield powers (in particular Personal Force Field) now take effect after blocking, making them a whole lot more useful.
  • Many powers were added or reworked in order to fill gaps in existing frameworks. In particular, the Force framework picked up a large number of new powers, including a new offensive passive that buffs both Force powers and ranged weapon powers such as Archery and Muntions weapons.
If you're a returning player, I strongly suggest you check out the patch notes tomorrow. The consolidated patch notes on the F2P beta forums take up three pages of forum threads and are much too long even to summarize.

Like the UI and powers, the early content in CO has undertaken a massive overhaul. New voice-overs have been added everywhere, mission arcs have been altered to flow better, and many areas have been completely redesigned. With all the changes, the optimal leveling paths to level 20 are much easier to find and much more fun to play through.

In addition, the tutorial has been overhauled a bit to make it much better at guiding a new player through the dynamic combat of Champions Online.

What new is available in the Cryptic Store?

As mentioned above, Adventure Packs and Gold archetypes can be purchased for Silver members and are free for Gold members. Purchasing either unlocks these for every character on your account, forever.

A few permanent items can be purchased, including the ability to transform into a werewolf (with a different set of powers) and the ability to grow or shrink your character. Each of these can be purchased in temporary (lasts a few minutes) or permanent versions.

Also new to the C-Store are temporary "sidekicks" that function as controllable pets and have an active time of one hour. They're considerably stronger than normal pet powers and greatly aid soloing. Other aids include consumable healing items, buff items, and boosts to experience and resource gain. There's also items to boost PvP Acclaim, if you're looking to unlock the more expensive PvP power replacers.

All players can upgrade their bank and market slots, character slots, and costume slots. Silver members start with fewer of each of these, so they are probably more attractive for free players. Silver members also only start with one bag slot and must purchase more (up to the maximum of four) with Atari Tokens. Most of these unlocks seem to be on a per-character basis, which is sort of unfortunate. There's a fair bit of discussion (mostly player dissent) on the beta boards about character-specific costume slots, so some of this may change prior to launch or shortly after.

Silver members do not get access to all the various travel powers. Many of the specialty "flight" powers are not available, although the generic Flight power still is. The most noteworthy travel powers unavailable to Silver members are Tunnelling and Swinging. Each of these can be purchased and will unlock for all characters. Gold members still get access to all of these for free.

While this does cover the basics of what has changed, the fact is that the F2P launch includes a gigantic overhaul of the game. We'll be covering more of it in great detail in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for Massively's in-depth coverage of every aspect of CO's Free For All expansion!

This article was originally published on Massively.
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