Into the Super-verse: Catching up with the big superhero MMOs


With the weirdness of the quarantine and how it’s been impacting game development, I thought it might be a good time to take a tour around all of the different superhero MMOs (both live and in the making) to see what’s going on in the genre. After all, if there were ever a time that we needed to feel powerful and heroic, now is it.

I'm not him! I don't even look like him!

Champions Online

I’m just as surprised as you all are to see Champions grabbing headlines during this crisis, but Cryptic’s made a smart move here by giving away a freeform slot to everyone. This was unexpectedly generous (although, in my opinion, this should be standard for all F2P accounts), but it also gives homebound players great incentive to return to this long-running MMO and have fun without character build restrictions. With the new story arcs that have helped to infuse the title with relevancy, it may be that Champions is positioning itself as a hidden gem in the MMO landscape — and not the butt of jokes that it has been.

Probably without the album that slaps, too.

DC Universe Online

Daybreak’s move in January to spin DCUO off into its own substudio hasn’t seemed to change anything about the game’s operation or development. At least, Jack Emmert claims that the superhero MMO is still doing pretty well and is considering an upgrade to Unreal Engine 4. This spring’s tie-in to the Birds of Prey movie seems to have fizzled due to the film underperforming, but I’m sure some players are happy to go on adventures with DC’s bad girls. Me? I’m dying to know what secret game Emmert’s team is also making right now — and if it will follow in the capes-and-spandex tradition of DCUO.

I am very glad to see the developers giving quarantined players something to do with an extension of open episodes, which are now running through May 11th. Again, it’s both generous and self-serving.

City of Heroes

We’re all still waiting on that rumored official announcement from NCsoft about the legality of rogue City of Heroes servers, which has been a little longer in coming than most folks probably anticipated, but even so, the various community teams have been doing some pretty amazing things to expand the resurrected game. I think we were all pleased to see that the Homecoming team’s April 1st patch wasn’t a joke but in fact added asymmetrical costume parts, Experimentation origin powers, and the Electrical Affinity support powerset. That was a huge gift to let players mix-and-match looks and powers to their hearts’ delight. Now, let’s just get a big green light from NCsoft, and we can make these servers our home for good!

Ship of Heroes

I still am tremendously impressed and excited about the progress of this indie MMO. Not only did the team recently show off Ship of Heroes’ Martial Arts and Street Fighting powersets, but it ran a “surprise beta test” for quarantined fans. This got a lot of eyeballs on the project and ended up being a rather successful promotion all around. A lot of us here at Massively OP say that this is definitely an MMO to watch, and I can’t wait to see how it’ll transform in the next couple of years into a full-featured operational game.

Sometimes it's about tweaking the right people.


I really thought that last year’s resurrection of City of Heroes would’ve killed off the SEGS reverse engineering project, but nope, it’s still going ahead with its mission. And more power to the team! The project did switch to Issue 2 assets last month, which should help players find the needed files to play it. I have no idea how close the team is to making this emulator work, but getting it out the door this year would be much better than next, considering how much is coming down the line.

How near, how far.

Valiance Online

I guess the best we can say about Valiance right now is that it’s… continuing. There was a small set of development notes a month ago, but these sporadic line items do little to project a game that’s barreling through development toward release. Instead, I get the impression that it’s a very small project with people doing what they can with limited resources. I wish them well, but I’m not holding my breath to see anything playable in the next few years.

Rebuild. Rise.

City of Titans

Finally, the City of Titans team continues to tweak its avatar builder and construct the key city of Alexander. It’s cool to see the personality of the game start to emerge through these projects, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that City of Titans’ development hasn’t gone as fast as once promised. We’re still a long ways out from a truly viable game, from the impressions the team is giving, although I am more optimistic about this than Valiance.

So that’s it for a cruise around the Super-verse! Are you playing a hero in any of these games? Let us know about your adventures in the comments — and screenshots are a must!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.

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Anthony Clark

CoH was the best done in my opinion. So far I just don’t think any of them have been made ‘good enough’ for lack of a better term.

I would love to see a big name like Blizzard make one just to see what they could/would do.

John Artemus
John Artemus

Always so weird to me that superhero MMOs aren’t more popular. Especially in this day and age where the superhero genre dominates pop culture. Seriously, comic book universes seem tailor-made for MMOs.

Kickstarter Donor
Brazen Bondar

The revival of COH did not kill all interest in the spiritual successor games. I never played COH and I’m not particularly interested in creating a character in the game now. The super hero games in development should be evaluated on their own merits, in the same way we do with SWTOR and STO. I’m keeping my eye on Ship of Heroes. I like what they’ve shown so far and the game play looks interesting to me. I do believe that team will bring a product to market, but I hope they take all the time they need to make it as good as possible. Good MMOs take 4-6 years in development and I’m willing to wait on this one.

I played Marvel Heroes early on. It was OK but I really don’t like the isometric view games. It was way more fun for me to play the kids’ version, Marvel Hero Squad, with my daughter and grandson. That version’s closure was the warning alert for the adult version.

Demon of Razgriz
Demon of Razgriz

I don’t think any of the spiritual successors will come to light and/or be a viable product. With CoX coming back I think it stole a lot of the thunder and fan interest. Info want at least one of them will see the light of day. As far as DCUO I think it needs a new business model. I like the gameplay on console but if you don’t sub you miss out on everything and there’s no incentive to do dailies. Champions is dead as far as I’m concerned. It lost out by not capitalizing on CoH shutdown as far as I’m concerned. Would’ve loved to get into Marvel Heroes before it went down. If NCSoft gives its blessing to CoX and leaves it alone, I could definitely get into it more than I already have.


I hopped back into DCUO yesterday after several years off. What is up with the server lag? Is this something new or is this normal for this game now. Even in single player instancea I can attack a mob and beat on it for a good 3-5 seconds with it standing there doing nothing at full healthy then suddenly I get this blur of animations and it drops dead in an instant. It’s problematic too for the character I’m leveling up which is an atomic tank because he relies on getting combos off to keep his aura up. Combos are pretty hard to pull off when the server is giving 3-5 seconds of dead air. I don’t dare tank for a group while this crap is going on. Can you imagine? Guess Daybreak is running this game on bare bones servers these days.


* Champions Online: PWE Paywall/Lockbox shenanigans keep me away. Almost went for the freeform slot, but I figure if I like it enough, then buying one won’t be an issue. Someday will try it again.

* DC Universe Online: Nope. Just not a good enough MMO; not a good enough game. Tried it a couple times and really never scratched that Super Hero itch. Marvel Heroes did a better job of that – RIP.

* City of Heroes: Still hoping on this one. Tell us more about the source of the ‘…rumored official announcement from NCsoft…’, please! :)

* Ship of Heroes: Doubt it will ever truly see the light of day. May have the best chance, but still think it is a very slim chance.

* SEGS: No point, really. There is so much more involved in a full fledged MMO that ‘reverse engineering’ won’t even begin to cover. Requiring people to go get copyright material to use is really a killer.

* Valiance Online: Not a chance. Already fading and the really hard and expensive stuff has not even begun.

* City of Titans: Not a chance. Already fading and the really hard and expensive stuff has not even begun.

Just my 2c on the list. Only real hope I have for a quality game is if NCSoft has a reasonable license scheme for CoH.

Kickstarter Donor

City of Titans is the only super-game slated that I’m still waiting to see, but as you say, I’m not expecting it to arrive particularly soon.

And dang it, Justin, I still miss the “jump-in/jump-out play a whole bunch of superheroes as casually or intensely as you prefer” vibe of Marvel Heroes.

It’s a pity that horrific management behavior killed off such a fun game.

I hear rumors (as has MOP) that Netmarble’s upcoming Marvel mobile game (which should be playable on desktops with free emulators such as Bluestacks) is attempting to channel the spirit of the old Marvel Heroes, with enough details altered to discourage lawsuits. We shall see …

If Netmarble doesn’t offer an effective Marvel Heroes 2.0 game, maybe someone can light up a rogue server somewhere?

I suspect Disney would be deeeeeeeply cranky about that, however. They like to play that they’re all family-friendly and nice, but the House of Mouse can be ruthless when you touch their stuff without permission. (obligatory South Park reference here).


Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron

Looks like I missed the CO giveaway by a day. This is what happens when I don’t pay enough attention to MOP… It’s not a game I’ve ever stuck with, but it’s slowly climbing my give-it-another-go list.

Are you playing a hero in any of these games?

The most heroic thing I’ve done during my current run of City of Heroes is take out these Longbow agents before they do any more damage. Sure, I’m robbing the bank but at least I’m not setting it on fire.

(That the bio for these guys actually acknowledges how questionable it is for the ‘good guys’ to use flamethrowers is one of the many things I love about CoH.)

CoH 7.jpg
Castagere Shaikura

It’s nice to see Champions Online get some respect here for a change from Justin. That freeform slot giveaway was so good. The past few days the game seemed full of people. And I’m not talking about the steam charts either. Doing Alerts is just a blast. Even the forums are busy now.

Dug From The Earth

Id probably play…

DCUO – (again) if 1. they upped the graphics for PC and stopped limiting it based on last gen consoles. The city looks like a blurry low res mess. Textures are super bad as well. No pun intended. 2. If they got rid of the archaic pricing model. Once you have fallen behind in DLC packs, catching up is a HUGE investment. Its absurd.

Champions Online – 1. if they updated their graphics engine. Mostly vastly improving the draw distance. 2. Changed their price model. Another one of those “I have to spend a ridiculous amount to unlock everything type of games. A 15 dollar a month sub for a much older game that hasnt done ANY updates to its engine is unacceptable too. It should be about 7.99 a month at most because they really arent putting any work or effort into the game anymore.

All the CoH successor games – 1. If they ever came out… which 75% of them likely wont. 2. If they could ever get non-amateur designers. Not coders necessarily, but designers… the people who make the character models, animations, textures, world objects, zones, etc. All the games look like they were made by college students using free unit/UE assets with very little “touch ups” on them.

CoH – Wait… I am playing it. It still holds up even after all these years. Even on a dated engine the game holds together better than some of the newer games out there. The main thing CoH suffers from is a dated gameplay loop. I do fear that if NCsoft decides to take control again that they will monetize it like Champions Online, which will make it awful. Keeping my fingers crossed that they just decide to license it out, or sell it outright.