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Stolen Pixels #127: Prison Break

By Shamus
on Tuesday Sep 22, 2009
Filed under:


In Champions Online, if you’ve got the strength you can pick up and throw vehicles. You can lift a truck and hurl it into a group of bad guys, sending them flying and very likely insta-killing one of them. If you just really hate the taxpayers, you can pick up a police car and use it to pummel another police car.

I really like that they didn’t simply make it possible to use the scenery in a fight, but they actually took the time to make it an interesting, balanced, and worthwhile part of combat. Thrown objects are a good opener, but it takes a few seconds to lift the really big stuff so you can’t just throw cars repeatedly until you win.

I have to give Champions Online credit for a really clean and stable launch. I’ve logged over a hundred hours already, and the game hasn’t crashed once. No broken quests. No game-killing bugs or griefing exploits. It’s by no means perfect, but as MMO launches go, this is about as good as it gets.

Comments (17)

  1. Rosseloh says:

    Dammit Shamus I don’t have the cash to buy/start another game, but you’re tempting me a ton….Looks like it could be a lot of fun, once the crowds die down from launch.

  2. Eightbitmage says:

    The broken quests start poping up around level 27 with escort NPCs that don’t spawn, then again at 33 with a secret base that doesn’t exist. The second will usually get a laugh out of everyone in the fourth zone you end up in if you ask about it. The worst part of the game by far is the fifth zone (around level 32, then again at 37), especially if you aren’t used to fighting while flying, but even discounting that there is an extreme amount of difficulty of play parts of that zone.

  3. Cain says:

    Your articles helped convince me to get the game. I’ve been tooling around with a couple of toons, figuring out a play style that suits me. So far I have…

    Calypso Queen: An extradimensional tyrant who has come to the Banal Dimension to expand her empire and institute a new dark age of peace, light, and love.

    Captain Paradigm: A hero from the 1930s with Art Deco styled armor.

    Latimus: A sword wielder ripped off from this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFSEHaCQ_t8

    and finally…
    Cletus McFetus: Some heroes are made, some are born, some never quite make it that far.

  4. Nyaz says:

    Doesn’t seem to be everyone’s experience.
    http://threepanelsoul.com/ <– Scroll down to the rants, Ian McConville is not happy :P

  5. Galenor says:

    You dont play Gadgeteer, do you? :P

    My Munitions Bots drive me up the wall. So far, I have discovered that they:

    – Can’t walk up steps in some bits of scenery. They can jump down them, but never go up them.

    – Sometimes like to sit in one position, never moving.

    – Sometimes stand on the same spot at the same time, so it’s hard to see if there is one or two of the damn things. I think they *just* fixed that, though.

    – Often shoot when there’s no enemies, and refuse to shoot when they’re surrounding me and beating me down.

    Regarding the entire game that lies outside of a single Gadgeteer power, I’ve only had the one scenario of escorting a policeman around the neighbourhood. We got into a lot of scraps, but it ended when he got stuck behind a fence and spent all of eternity running into it. He never got out. :(

    I must say I am very happy with it so far. All the gripes I have with it are very easily patchable, and will probably vanish in a month or two.

  6. SteveDJ says:

    I really hate to nitpick, esp. since I did get a good laugh out of the strip, but…

    I got a little confused when the guy picked up the car. As he is picking it up, the words “Police 9-1-1” are on the right. But as he walks away, the words switch to the left side. :)

  7. Jabor says:

    He’s spun the car around. I think.

  8. MintSkittle says:

    I had one gamebreaking bug. The game crashed while I was in the Radiation Vault at Project Greenskin. Every time I try to load the character that is in the vault, the game crashes. I’ve taken another character through the vault with no problems, but that one character refuses to load and is basically unusable.

  9. SteveDJ says:

    Oh, I see now – from our viewpoint in that frame, he is on the far side of the car – like he is backing up with it. …or something. (so, I withdraw my nitpick) :)

  10. I lol’ed (and I actually mean that – I didn’t type lol, I actually laughed out loud, and startled my wife).

    I love beating people with lampposts.

  11. HeadHunter says:

    City of Heroes had a really smooth launch, too.
    These are some of the same guys who did that, right?

  12. Sam says:

    The temptation to play grows ever stronger…must resist purchase!

  13. Jamie Smith says:

    Have you found a particular power set that really strikes your fancy? Some of them seem to be somewhat wonky or unbalanced, but all the ones I’ve tried have been fun, at the very least.

  14. SharpeRifle says:

    Heh I like the game…but it does have its problems.

    1. All powers are not created equal…honestly it smells like they designed them to be balanced as sets and forgot that may go out the window slightly when you can mix and match.

    2. Lack of content….no I don’t mean not enough to level a character…thats there…well except for the lab…what I mean is its like I picked up a console game. It feels like a console game in a lotta ways though thats got its good points (BLOCK!) and its bad (Press Z to break hold). But most important..I’m doing the exact same things with alts already. Its a little boring to get that sameness already..but its helped by the mix and match…but that won’t work forever.

    3. Drastic launch day changes. Like them or dislike them when they made those changes they left a nuke sized crater in gameplay. Not “Oh its too hard” or “Now I get a challenge”…more like….”Oh crap we have to completely reevaluate all our assumptions about what we designed!”

    I really think thats screwing them up a little….but all their vision and balancing thoughts were based around the Betas…and then they reset it essentially. I think this is why they are having troubles with balancing the powers now…a lot of what they knew just isn’t right anymore.

    Just my two cents.

    Oh and the UI’s need work…a lot…thank god they got the hit things interface right…mostly….well as long as your not too close to the enemy anyway…

    “I found the hidden lab…but then I lost it…”

    Seriously how do you lose a lab anyway…

  15. Andrew says:

    I will not play an MMO, I will not play an MMO, I will not play an MMO, Don’t make me play an MMO, It’s tempting.

  16. TSED says:

    Personal experience about power sets:

    Might: Fairly powerful, but DEFINITELY needs some utility from outside the framework. Sucks at pvp (all melee do).
    Munitions: Fairly powerful. Really good dps, but very little control.
    Ice: Fairly powerful. Less dps than munitions, but way more control.
    Force: Seems ok, but it’s not really my playstyle.
    Martial Arts: Sucks. Unfortunately. Supposed to be able to take on lots of mooks easily but have a bit more problem with the big nasties, but basically doesn’t do any of them well instead.
    Gadgeteers: nope. Lame duck, from what I managed to get into. A pet-focused class that doesn’t get pets until what, level 8? High energy cost powers that do less damage than other frameworks (except maybe that chainsaw)? HUGE cast times to get them to do that? Screw you, gadgets. Screw you.
    Archery: I haven’t played much, but ow they can hit hard at low levels.
    Telekinesis: I get the feeling that a properly built TK-er is one of the highest dps in the game, easily. I got a little bored with him though.
    Telepathy: I haven’t played much but I sometimes feel like a puny, worthless waste of human life and other times feel like a puny, unstoppable avatar of Shiva, Lord of Destruction. Sometimes, both. And that’s with powers invested in healing.
    Power Armour: Have not tried by itself. But I frequently dip into it, invulnerability is a tasty ability.
    Supernatural: Tasty dips (regeneration is amazing for non-frontliners), unconvinced of its straight role. Felt rather bored with it to be honest. That surprised me, as I am all about crowd control / somethingelse dual roles.

    Fire, lightning, sorcery, darkness, claws, swords (1&2): untried. Not going to try swords, will probably try lightning fire and darkness. Can’t get into Sorcery; it is just too… I don’t know. Too something. Whenever I try to make one everything feels to arbitrarily situational.

  17. DKellis says:

    Darkness is so good I’m thinking it might get nerfed quite soon. Most of it is due to Shadow Embrace and the Fear effect.

    Power Armour is weird in a few ways: the “recommended” stats of Str/Int do almost nothing for what the set actually does. Intelligence kind of helps for the (very high) endurance costs, but not as much as you’d expect, since Cryptic is limiting that due to other sets’ balance. Strength works a little for Invuln, but not as much as Constitution would. There is only one melee power in all of Power Armour to take advantage of Strength. (To be fair, that melee power is a monster.)

    Other than that, Power Armour also does not play nicely with most other powers from other sets, due to its toggle mechanism.

    Single Blade is pretty much the second-worst powerset in the game, just above Martial Arts. Dual Blades is a great deal better (even against single targets), and probably a better choice if you want swords. Not saying Single Blade is unplayable, but you may have to lower your expectations on what you can take on.

    I get the feeling that Cryptic (both the current team and the guys now at Paragon Studios) have been able to launch their games so bug-free because of incredible luck. The bugs creep in after the launch. (Anyone remember City of Heroes Issue 4?)

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