Friday, April 8, 2011

Andy's Free-to-Play MMO Corner - Champions Online, Part 1

Launching up Champions Online for the second time ever, I feel heavy trepidations about actually playing for real. For one – I don’t know the controls and the in-game tutorial is a piece of arse. For two – I’ve never played an MMO seriously, and as much as I am a massive nerd, this sort of tips me over the edge into the basement-dwelling mother’s-house-living mega -nerd. Forget the fact I live in what is basically an attic, I’m knee-deep in my own smelly basement excrement right now. Hypothetical excrement, mind you.

So I guess it's time to create a new Hero. Last time I picked the Blade class, and it sucked balls. I mean, being a swordsmaster is fun, but this time I'm going to pick a superhero who actually has super powers. For example: karate ain't no super power. And neither is shooting guns, regardless of what the Class Select screen thinks. The Soldier class is apparently really good at shooting guns, which I would consider a massive cop-out. I mean, you attend super-hero school, and you become a soldier? If I wanted to be a soldier I'd join the bloody army reserve. Christ. I'd be bummed the hell out, man.

Of course all the cool classes need to be bought. With real-life money. So the Specialist (aka, Batman), is unavailable. Well, fuck you Champions Online. If I can't be Batman, maybe I'll be... umm...

...the Human Torch? Yeah. That works. Okay, I'll pick the Inferno class.

Now I have to pick my gender. I'll go with Male this time, because as much fun as it would be to have a female avatar, glowing red hot and shooting magma-like fireballs (which also lends itself to a lot of sexy puns!), I'm stuck in this mindset that I'm playing this for reals. Not for chuckles. My last hero (who I used for the whole of three minutes) was a woman and I was basically taking the piss. This hero is a for reals hero. He's so going to be a dude, then. (I'm not sexist, I'm just going with what looks more... professional. No offence ladies, but female super heroes only exist to give the primarily male fanbases of their respective IPs something to jerk off to.)

I then have to pick a face and ohgod this game is so uncanny valley.

Picking facial and body features is like entering a demented house of mirrors. I swear Cryptic went out of their way to ensure no matter what you choose, your hero always looks like someone smeared silly putty over a Superman figurine. ...but I digress.

On the costume select, you can be either a half-eaten pastie face, a human, or Iron Man. I chose a human, with a mask, to hide the abomination that lays underneath. In the end, I end up with Predator-like dreads with cold, white, dead eyes, and (since I was told I would be on fire) I decided to go with bright red spandex. HELL YEAH NO-ONE DARE MESS WITH ME. But... what am I? What will my superhero name be? Oh, hello next screen.

Florp the Firey

It was a dark summer night, and Agent Florp Tomski, of teh US Marine Corp.m was investigating the death of many people at the hands of a deranged crematorium. Upon crawling inside the Corpse Smelter, the crematorium escapsed his captors and burned Florp alive. However, thanks to all the V Guarma energy Florp drank every day, the heat of the fire combined with the Nuclear properties of the drinking; turning him into the dreaded super-hero FLORP THE FIREY. His charred putty-face hidden by an oh-so-elaborate mask, Florp roamed the streets looking for lost cats to char. I mean rescue.

As the game loads, I am taken to the tutorial. In the opening cutscene, we learn that the police chief is mad because the aliens (oh, by the way, there are aliens) have "superior bio-technology". He commands "WE NEED A HERO!" (which is the first sign that this game will officially be terrible - telling everyone in the game that they're a hero before they've even started is recipe for a whole lot of entitled dicktwats PvP'ing each other to increase their ego and dick sizes). The aliens - called the Qurrp? Quaar? Something Mad-libs-esque - are kicking the police's scrawny, non-player character butts, and only the Champions can save them! This looks like a job for FLORP THE FIREY!!

...and about fifteen other assholes.


I go over to talk with Sergeant McAvoy, the NPC who has the first tutorial quest for me, I suppose. He tells me I'M HERE JUST IN TIME! - apparently the fifty other idiots standing around are just so much scenery - and that the Qular have turned the city into a War Zone. He instructs me to talk to the SOCRATES super computer, who then instructs me to go and destroy some Qular nesting pods. My blood is pounding.

After mashing the 1 key and learning about targetting, I get some XP and am instructed back to see SOCRATES for some more tutorial. I remember now why I gave up the first time - this game has a very poor hook. Regardless, it could be worse - so I go to see SOCRATES for my next blatant exposition/button layout tutorial. Ah, I'm going to learn how to block now. This could be interesting.

I talk with Sgt. Henry and he instructs me to stand on a glowing blue mat, and to hold down the shift key. ...that's it. I just have to hold down shift for maybe thirty seconds. As you can imagine, I am not feeling like a superhero right now. This isn't like Arkham Asylum, where within ten minutes of starting the game you've been taunted by giant crocodiles and apprehended fifty of Joker's henchmen. This isn't even Superman 64 where you fly through some rings that someone carelessly left lying around. This... this is just stupid. I hope the next tutorial will show me how to do something badass. Something fitting of my heroic super-name, Florp the Firey. "Talk with the mayor." with the mayor...?

Oh goddamn you, Champions Online. I mean I know MMORPGs are traditionally slow, grinding affairs, but the pulsing soundtrack, the plot that promises a lot of heated science-fiction battles in a comic-book world - and my self-written tongue-in-cheek character back-story could make a better tutorial than this heinous bullcrap that was made by professional game designers to draw me into the game. I'm repulsed right now. Oh-so-repulsed. The game is boring. Deathly boring. ...but, that's no reason to stop.

I'm only getting started.