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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Tips for City of Heroes refugees in Champions Online

Eliot Lefebvre

Champions Online has been a breath of fresh air for the past couple of weeks. It's not a perfect game, nor is it a perfect substitute for City of Heroes, but it's a remarkably good approximation. I would imagine that most players familiar with the latter will feel fairly comfortable in the former, once they get over the obvious differences between the two.

Not that the hurdles are exactly minor. For all that I've grown fond of Champions Online, it still has a lot of strange fiddly bits, doing with six different systems what most games do with two or three. Just jumping in cold, as I did, can leave you looking around aimlessly and quite possibly result in your making some choices regarding character builds that you swiftly regret. As I also did.

So here are a few tips for players new to the game, tilted in no small part to anyone coming over from our dearly departed CoH. I can't keep you from making every mistake, but I can at least help you get a feel for the game's systems in some small part.

Psionic damage is much less screwy in this game, too.  But it could hardly be much worse.Your energy builder is not an attack

CoH had a brilliant system in which your earliest attacks were not your weakest, simply your most reliable and consistent. As a result, your first power chosen was your bread-and-butter default attack most of the time, with the only exception coming for archetypes with unusual layouts. And there's a temptation to think the same way with CO, that you select your first two powers as a freeform character in a manner reminiscent of CoH.

This is an incorrect assumption. Your first power, your energy builder, is not an attack.

If you want to be pedantic, you can argue that it is, since you're using it to do damage. But the damage it does is negligible at best. An energy builder's real role is to do just what it says: build up your energy when it falls too low for you to do anything else. Your real powers start with your second choice, and the limitation on only one energy builder is to prevent you from really screwing up your build.

This might seem a bit restrictive, but in many ways it's actually a benefit. You turn on your auto-attack and let your builder go to work and just manage your actual powers when you've got energy. It's similar in some ways to the usual flow of Endurance in CoH except that it bottoms out and you fill it back up. There's a bit more thought involved than with three-slotted Stamina, but not much.

Understand your stats and your role

One of the clever bits in CO is the idea that you have a specific role at any given time, and that informs what benefits your stats provide. Take on the tank role and your stats improve your threat output; be a healer and your stats improve your healing. The result is that there is no one stat for healing or doing damage, and whatever stats you pick up as super stats will provide you with the benefits you need to do your job.

You've got eight stats to worry about, a far cry from City of Heroes and its complete lack of hard stats. The short version is that Strength improves your melee damage, Ego improves your ranged damage, Dexterity improves your critical chance, and Presence improves your healing. Constitution is health, Endurance is energy, Recovery is the amount of energy you get back from your builder and start combat with, and Intelligence reduces costs and recharge times.

Why pick one over the other? Because your super stats still affect the same base attribute along with providing their role-based benefits. So for a healing-type character, Super Presence will boost your healing as part of your role and via high Presence. A melee-based character could opt for Super Strength or Super Dexterity; the former is a flat damage boost, while the latter is a big crit boost and smaller damage boost.

In the end, you have one primary super stat and two secondary stats. Choose ones that feed into your main role. A tank character would do well by improving Constitution, but you can definitely pick up Ego and Strength if you want to switch ranges as necessary while still tanking.

Not all powers are really superhuman in the traditional sense.Don't make a party platter character

Assuming you're building a freeform character, your choices for powers explode fairly quickly. Most powers require either one power from the same framework (the catchy name for powers that all work the same, like flame powers or ice powers or shooting people with a gun powers) or two non-builder powers from any framework, meaning that while your first power choice will be confined to two frameworks at most, you'll have access to a feast when you get your second choice. You've got some sword powers and some ice powers; why not pick up an electrical power? And a power armor ability? Oh, and a celestial power, and maybe a flame power, and how am I level 40 now?

By the time you're level 40, you have 14 powers. A couple of those will most likely be passives, to boot. Those 14 powers do quite a bit, but if you start flinging open the door and taking everything that looks cool, you'll wind up with a mess of abilities that don't synergize and don't offer you many long-term advantages.

Limit yourself. One framework is plenty. Two is fine. Three is stretching, but it can work with a little extra effort and a very specific plan in mind or if you've got some sister frameworks like the martial arts sets. More than that and you're inviting trouble down the line.

As always, you can leave feedback down below or mail it along to Next week, I'm going to wrap up a month in Champions Online and get ready to jump into the other major active game on the market, but not without a few more thoughts on the game.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre spent years in City of Heroes before the world-shattering event that destroyed his home world. But he remains as intrepid as ever, traveling to other superheroic games and dispensing his unique brand of justice... or lack thereof.

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