Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Massively Hands-on: The first five levels of Champions Online

Kyle Horner

This last weekend, press had the opportunity to spend my time within the Champions Online beta. After playing more than I would safely recommend, I bring you my personal takeaway in an effort to get out as much crunchy information goodness on the upcoming MMO as possible.

It opens with a downwards view of Millennium City under siege by a fleet of alien ships. As the camera pans down towards the ground, you overhear two chattering voices of men on a radio discussing their dire situation. Alien invaders known as the Qularr are besieging the city by putting up force fields that are sectioning off much of the city.

With the cities' Champions are seemingly nowhere to be found, it's up to you and any other recently created newbies to help save the day -- and save it you will.

Cinematic in-game cut scenes and voice acting are a common experience in the Champions Online tutorial, but that's not what makes the game world come alive when you play it. No, that comes from the random skirmishes between UNITY soldiers and the alien invaders, it grows from the shadows of alien ships humming past overhead as you run through the city completing your very first quests. It also doesn't help that this game looks every bit as impressive in motion as its screenshots suggest.

There's certainly some parity to be found here when compared to Cryptic's first game, City of Heroes. The section of Millennium City that the tutorial is set within happens to be surrounded by big blue force fields. Then again, this is just the tutorial, and not the actual city zone.

In fact, from my experience playing in the vast and expansive Canada and Desert zones I'd wager that the tutorial with its blue force fields is entirely misleading. The design intent seems to be about herding the player through important -- but short -- tutorials to familiarize them with the game concepts. Not only that, but the swinging travel power video is pretty much hard evidence as well.

The missions in the tutorial are varied, and Cryptic seems careful to always give players missions that are at the very least more than fed-ex or kill quests. Yes, you'll be asked to fight enemies and sometimes go talk to a certain NPC, but there's always something additional to these requests. For instance, you may be asked to find stolen medical goods while also saving civilians. Some people are being tormented by the Qularr, while others are trapped beneath rubble, cars and various debris. I personally loved saving someone from being crushed to death by a ruined car.

"Say one thing of Ironclad, say he's got some wicked cool looking super strength powers."

Something I was incredibly happy to see was on-map circles telling me the area my mission objectives were located. This is a feature that's really become standard for MMOs as far as I'm concerned. I never once found myself at a loss for where to go, or what to do during a mission. It also helps that dialogue and story are both humorous and interesting enough to make me want to read about what's going on in the game. One of my favorite mission titles is, "Mail to the chief".

Towards the end of the tutorial, I was tasked with assisting Ironclad with repairing a giant laser cannon that could take down the alien attacker's Mothership. This was one of the recently announced Champions Online version of Warhammer Online's public quests. A lot of the complicated mechanics were taken out of the whole affair, with the essential on-screen objectives taking center stage. Still, much of the cool factor of public quests are left intact as it's always fun to team up with random players and fight alongside voiced heroic NPCs. Say one thing of Ironclad, say he's got some wicked cool looking super strength powers.

After completing and defending the giant laser cannon, you're tasked with heading into the Champions building to locate the source of this devastating attack. As it turns out, Doctor Destroyer is more or less the culprit and has sent a big bad lackey of his along with Destroyer bots. Thankfully, you won't have to take this menace on alone. There's a surprise helping hand waiting for players in this instanced mission, but I won't spoil it for the sake of allowing others the experience themselves.

Later on, missions and enemies sport some really great humor and pop culture references. I'd rather not spoil anything for people, but let's just say there are some J.J. Abrams fans working on Champions Online.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr