Champions Online: The Tragedy of First Impressions (A Lack of Review)

I have already said that my first impressions of Champions Online were negative. But that kept stacking, early problem on early problem, such that I made it through the tutorial once after four starts. For all I know, it is problematic turtles all the way down, or perfection lies just beyond the knee-high fence that stops yet another video game character.

When I first tried the closed beta, it was a mess. I started on a night when a mid-level zone was being tested, so I skipped past what would have been a couple dozen levels of learning what all these buttons do and how to build a character. Some of the powers did not work, there were graphics glitches, the handling was odd, the quick start guide was wrong about what some keys did, and I was unclear on the stuff to test for the evening. It is confusing when you do not know what is broken and what is yet to be implemented. I surely could have puzzled it all out with an hour or three on the forums… or I could log and do something else.

Meanwhile, the graphics were horrible. I am the least visually stimulated person you know, and I like a simple style, but I was physically repulsed by looking at this game. Some of that was one option buried under advanced graphics: the black outlines around the characters. Someone decided it would give the game more of a graphic novel look; it struck me more as “everything looks like badly drawn Colorforms.” Add to that some difficulties with the costume designer interface, which was (then) subtly different from the City of Heroes costume designer in unlabeled ways.

Another night, another fresh try. The tutorial zone was under test, a perfect chance to start over with all that early guidance I had previously missed. The controls were still jerky and unfamiliar, the user interface was clunky, but I had learned a few things. And there I went, with many things still disabled, trying the standard newbie instance with two or three powers while I learned what the buttons did. 1 1 1 2, training dummy defeated! On to wandering between quest givers with awkward instructions to learn unfamiliar mechanics that may or may not be enabled. I never finished the tutorial. Another night, I made it to one enemy who could attack back before deciding to read a book.

The night before uninstalling the client, I made it through the whole tutorial, and I will have some positive things to say another time. The end result, however, was still that the whole thing is one step forward, two steps back from City of Heroes. The graphics are the worst of it, and the gameplay was not helping. I presume it all gets better in later levels, where the complexity comes in, but little in the tutorial suggested that I should keep playing. More tomorrow.

: Zubon

19 thoughts on “Champions Online: The Tragedy of First Impressions (A Lack of Review)”

  1. Yeah, after closed beta and the massive nerfs last week, I don’t have a lot of hope for this one, unfortunately.

  2. Played a little closed beta, which changed my mind about buying it. Was okay to fool around with for a short while, but I couldn’t justify paying for a sub.

    Was disappointed when Cryptic lost the Marvel license, but am glad now. Hopefully Gazillion will make a MUO worth playing.

  3. Speaking of first impressions, trying to patch the game and get in now. Whoever thought it was a great idea to stick a massive patch download on the first day of open beta was a complete fool of the highest caliber.

  4. I’ve been in the beta for a good while. I guess it says something bad about a game when you can’t be interested enough to play more than about 10 hours all totaled over the months and then when the NDA drops you can’t even be bothered to write up anything about it. Considering I have a place designed for just such things, I guess I really have no interest at all in this game. Pity.

    It didn’t help things much that the beta hours were so limited. When I did have time to check it out, it was usually down.

  5. Looks like the ‘massive download’ was actually a glitch in the Fileplanet version: Files were in \piggs\live that should have been in \piggs, or vice versa. It’s on the website.

  6. Yeah, and the fix they put on the website was wrong and actually made things worse.
    Someone on the forums actually figured out the proper fix for them.
    Anyway, I can’t even update the launcher at this point, never mind patch the game itself.

  7. I have been reading comments that range from very positive to very negative.

    Will be interesting to get to see things first hand instead of trying to figure out anything from beta comments.

    That is, whenever the patcher might be done with its work, which seems to be a long time with the current speed.

  8. I’m with Spitfires. I was simply gunning for “like CoH, just kinda better overall.” Ever since then it’s been an anticipation pendulum: More flexible power customization – Yay! Microtransactions – Boo! Nemesis system – Yay! FilePlanet exclusive beta – Boo!

    This news, it does not please me in my heart.

  9. Most games people say the screenshots don’t do it justice. Somehow, the screenshots from this game look BETTER than seeing the game in action. I’m not sure how they pulled that off.

  10. The screenshots do the game waaaaay more justice than it deserves. The graphics are mediocre at best. Everything released on the news sites is all doctored and glossed up (nothing new, all publishers do it) and untrue to the actual game.

    I’ve been testing for 4-5 months and did my best to play every test. I can’t stand the game and will be uninstalling it once I finish taking screenshots and videos… if I can ever get this patcher to work.

  11. graphics not good? but you did turn up the 3d graphic scaling in the options to get it from pixelated to clear, right?

  12. Heh. As someone who only played the last couple weeks of CB and really had no initial interested in the game whatsoever, my experience was pretty much the exact opposite of Zub’s. I think not being a longtime CoX fan might be a reason.

    I wasn’t impressed by a ton, and the software was definitely beta quality, but I was impressed none-the-less by several things. The combat even in the tutorial with just 2 skills and a couple standard moves was really interesting, at least against boss and mini-boss enemies where blocking, dodging, and resisting certain attacks are all done manually by the player and actually needed to be done.

    Throw in WAR style public quests, W101 style zone instancing to keep populations in your gaming environment level, customization and graphics that are marginal upgrades from CoX and I’d say the result very much is “CoX but a little better”.

  13. Interesting perspective. I’ve been playing the closed beta for several months and the quality of the graphics, the quality of gameplay and the overall quality of experience has increased geometrically during that time.

    Didn’t like the black outlines myself, so I turned them off. Had some trouble with the controls, so I filed bug reports – as Cryptic asked.

    I respect your perspective here and I’ve known others who have shared them, but I think the CB period was meant to address all those problems you had.

    I look forward to seeing your updated thoughts.

  14. People who write ‘reviews’ during a beta really cause more harm than good. This is not a free version of the game for critics. It is a buggy, unfinished, pre-release version intended to be tested and tweaked. Complaining about placeholder graphics, quests that won’t exist at release, and frankly parts of the game that will change drastically over the next few weeks is missing the point of a beta. Express your opinions on the beta forums, report the bugs you see, and stop clogging up beta sign-ups just so you can be the first to review a game. I’m not saying there aren’t any legitimate complaints, I’m just saying – welcome to beta testing. I’m hoping you are also expressing your opinions in the beta forums

    1. A beta test is a buggy, unfinished, pre-release version of a game intended to be tested and tweaked.

      An open beta is a buggy, unfinished, release version of a game intended as a free version for critics and anybody else interested in checking out the game before it hits retail.

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