The sharp rise and fall of Champions Online back in 2009 resulted in a game that’s made for an easy target of jokes ever since. The title has languished in a semi-maintenance mode for over a decade now, never quite deserted enough to kill outright but never quite popular enough to justify regular development.started creating new story arcs for players to enjoy. Last fall’s 10th anniversary was a major event for the game with new content and fun rewards. And all through the ups and downs has been a dedicated (if small) community that is, ahem, championing for this game.
So why not give Champions Online another look? To help you out, I’ve put together a quick-and-dirty guide to joining the streets of Millennium City as the latest costumed crusader.
Getting set up like a champ
There are two main ways that you’re going to get into Champions Online. The first is to use Perfect World Entertainment’s Arc game platform to access and download the title, and the second is to go the Steam route. Your choice.
However, the biggest choice you’re going to make out of the gate isn’t what punny theme you’ll use for your superhero. No, the biggest choice is going to be how you’re going to pay for the game (if at all). Champions has one of the wonkiest business models I’ve ever seen, and its confusing and obtuse nature doesn’t help with drawing in a larger crowd.
There are no longer subscriptions — those were nixed back in 2018 — unless you decide to pony up for a $250 lifetime sub (which is less when it occasionally goes on sale). The subscription offers the most flexibility in terms of what you’ll have access to for your characters, but that’s not the route most folks go.
The common route is to jump into this free-to-play title and then start shelling out for unlocks and bonuses piecemeal. The default F2P account is pretty restricted and doesn’t even allow players to mix-and-match powersets to make their own custom characters (which Champions calls “freeform slots” at the tune of $30 apiece). Instead, there are preset “archetypes,” which are similar to other MMO’s fixed classes, from which players can choose to play.
Past that, there are character slots, costume slots, inventory slots, costume pieces, lockboxes, level boosts, and a whole bunch of other ways that you can drop money to expand your account’s offerings. It is fully possible to play Champions Online without paying anything, but it’s perhaps the most restrictive setup that Cryptic has in all of its MMOs.
That said, there’s still a lot of fun to be had in making a unique-looking character, especially if you enjoy the type of robust character creators that Cryptic specializes in making.
Whenever I head into a new MMO or go back to an old one, I make a point of looking up advice threads from veteran players who are there to help newbies. Here is a random collection of useful-sounding pointers for new and returning Champions players:
- “I’d say freeform is worth it because the archetypes for all they’re well designed feel very limiting for creativity.”
- “Be aware that the main premium currency in the game, Zen, can be gotten for free by grinding quests that give you Questionite, which can be exchanged for Zen, so doing a few dailies each day can let you get some premium stuff for free eventually albeit taking longer.”
- “Champions is a game that focuses on customization and that often involves making multiple alts just to really learn how to craft builds. It’s about assembling pieces to make your own costumes and a nemesis or țwo. And yes, endgame involves grinding for currency that can be exchanged for exclusive gear; but in the end, it only matters if you like raiding.”
- “Fastest way to increase your level (to access all available power slots, or your Archetype’s skills) is the GRAB alert (unlocked at level 10).”
- “Most just use the alert system to level fast – it’s impersonal but you CAN have a party queue with friends. Occasionally you might get social interaction if you initiate a request to form a team with a stranger.”
- “Check your Crime Computer! You can bring up your Journal with J, then click the Crime Computer button. It’ll help you find quests around your level.”
There’s a guide for that!
Finally, here’s a collection of guides to address specific parts of your gameplay:
- Building a character in the game is tricky, so fortunately someone took the time to lay out a build guide on Steam in very clear, easy-to-understand terms. You probably also want to read up on this guide to superstats and spec trees. A HeroCreator is out there for those who like to fiddle with a build before actually playing it.
- Assuming that you make it all the way to the endgame, here’s a DPS build guide so you can blast with the best and a general “you hit level 40, so what now?” guide.
- There’s definitely a Discord up and running for the game, which is a great way to plug into the community.
- Alternatively, if you’re looking to join a supergroup (guild), then you can put out an SOS on Reddit, in general chat, or head to this section on the official forums.
- The old Champions Wiki was abandoned back in 2014 but still has some useful information on it. Fortunately, fans started up a new wiki in recent years. The old wiki has a new player guide that might be a bit out of date, but hey, it’s there.
- Medium has a pretty good starter guide for Champions Online if you’ve never dipped your toes into the game. There’s another excellent guide over on Steam that’s less than a year old.
- Stay up to date on Champions news here at Massively OP or on the official site.
- Finally, for more on this MMO, check out an older entry from this column titled “Why didn’t Champions Online do better?“