Equipment and crafting play a part in Champions, but to what extent is the big question. The hunting and gathering of resources required by a particular blueprint, which then requires you to be near a crafting station before clicking the 'build' button -- it's all there just as you would expect it.
Powers that use objects in combat -- such as Dual Swords or Claws -- can find equipment that alters both stats and the actual weaponry in their hands. However, the innate problem here that this does go a little against the grain of the game's customization feature. It almost seems like a better choice would be to allow player to have a 'vanity' slot where they can equip a weapon sans stats and keep the stats of another uglier piece of equipment.
Still, the fact that equipment -- a driving factor for many MMO players -- is in the game at launch is heartening. There's time to tweak, improve and generally alter the way it works until both developers and players are happy with the outcome.
Kill it with fire, ice, lightning... a robotic death-teddy bear?
So you're used to swords and sorcery, we all are really, there's no shame in it. Champions Online actually does have plenty of swords and sorcery, although you can be a magic flinging alien or raptor if you want. That's kind of what makes the game awesome.
So does its selection of powersets: Fire, Ice, Lightning, Force, Dual Blades, Single Blade, Claws, Martial Arts, Power Suit, Gadgeteering, Archery, Munitions, Darkness, Sorcery, Supernatural, Might, Telekinesis and Telepathy. Oh yes, and October adds the Celestial powerset.
All of this wouldn't be nearly as impressive without the ability to cherry pick your powers from various sets. Although it's best to stick with one of these for your first character, just to keep things simple as you learn the ins and outs.
If there's one was to describe combat and the death penalty in Champions Online it's definitely faster, not slower. Or, at least that must've been what the people at Cryptic have been using as their mantra during development. Take for instance, the death penalty. Oh wait, there really isn't one. Sorry, sorry -- you do lose a gold star.
No, I'm not kidding. Although your five gold stars -- which, incidentally, can be build back up by defeating enemies -- do improve your combat performance. So they're not entirely useless. But ultimately, you pay very little for dying in this game, aside from time and those stars.
Your abilities are still displayed in a hot bar, so nothing's changed there. However, the game's tutorial will immediately introduce you to the blocking mechanic. Simply put: If you see an enemy charging an attack -- usually depicted by a large icon appearing over their head -- press and hold the shift key for all you're worth. There are various blocking defensive powers in all the earlier mentioned sets. Plus there are passive defensive powers, which are essential for tanks but useful for all.
So, basically, combat is a lot of moving-while-attacking and blocking. There's also some dodging involved, especially with all the different types of attacks. There's your standard Area of Effect stuff, but also powers that hit in a cone or cylinder. In the case of the latter, if you see your tank being targeted with a cylinder attack, do not stand in front or behind of him... or near him either, just in case. Something like a big laser beam is about to nail your meatshield, and you really don't want to be involved in that death ray in any way.
Then there's charging powers. Some of your attacks can be tapped or toggled, others can be charged up for bigger damage and longer lasting effects. Channeled powers also exist, as do pets, but ultimately it's how you make use of the various area attacks that your powers have as well. An incredibly strong cylinder attack is best used when your foes are literally lined up and ready for the shot to the head.
Friendly, familiar, different
Both games are friendly to the solo player, assuming you plan on creating a balanced character. The thematic differences between Champions Online and World of Warcraft are obvious, but the real differences come from the companies that made them. Cryptic's strong points are their attention for insane customization and fulfilling the power fantasy of being a superhero. Combat here is a whole lot of fun, although it's made moreso by the fact that your character looks pretty much how you'd like it to look.
The game has many of the MMO staples: Guilds, crafting, PvP, ect. It does a lot of what you expect it to do, and a little of what you don't. Whether that's a good or bad thing ultimately depends on your expectations. Champions thankfully doesn't try to revolutionize the entire concept of an MMO. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the game's focus is on figuring out what compliments the wheel. An axel? A cart of some kind? Spokes? Maybe some spinners -- okay maybe not. You get the idea.
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