MatchUp: DC Universe Online vs Champions Online
For our newest MatchUp we’re checking out two superhero MMORPGs; DC Universe Online from Sony Online Entertainment and Champions Online from Cryptic/Perfect World, the two have been pretty long standing titles around for a number of years but now it’s time to check out which game has the most bang for its buck and which offers the most authentic superhero vibe. Really that’s what it comes down to, which of these two games lets you feel like you are the lead in your own superhero storyline.
So as we start our comparison let’s check out the most obvious thing first; the franchise. Obviously DC is massively more popular than the Champions franchise, in fact we’d be so bold as to say that we imagine the huge majority of people wouldn’t even know that Champions was originally (and currently) a pretty popular tabletop RPG. The popularity of DC vs the general anonymity of Champions offers both the good and the bad; when people think about playing a superhero it is generally within the world of their own personal favourites, whether DC or Marvel, and traveling the streets of Gotham and Metropolis seem too good to pass up, at least on paper. Standing side by side with your favourite characters as your “mentors” sounds pretty fun, whether Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as a superhero or Lex Luthor, The Joker and Circe as a supervillain (yes, you get to play the bad guy in DCUO). The problem is that sometimes you almost feel like a cameo role in the greater adventures of other heroes, a background character or a sidekick to the big guys. In comparison, with a relatively unknown franchise such as Champions, you feel more important and you feel like you’re the big superhero; although there are key NPC characters given that most people don’t know them prior to playing the game you don’t feel like you are forever in their shadow.
The biggest thing that we feel defines the superiority of either title is how accurately you can get that idea of the superhero you have in your head and creating it in game. Both games offer a pretty diverse set of character customisation options, with thousands of combinations ranging from different hairstyles, body builds, facial features and of course your superhero costume. With everything from bubble helmets, capes, gauntlets, underpants, masks and more players should be able to get pretty close to creating their ideal superhero (or even recreating their favourite comic book character). The two systems Champions Online is superior, whilst DC Universe Online allows you to choose a variety of gloves, for example, Champions Online will let you further detail those gloves to create a more specific/accurate representation of what you’re after both with design and colour. Practically every article of clothing in Champions Online has multiple spot colour points that players can change, choosing the base colour and trim colours independently on each piece of the costume and even things such as tinting your hair different colours with low lights and highlights. In comparison DC Universe Online makes players choose three colours, primary, secondary and tertiary, and automatically three colours their entire costume to suit. Finally such things with DC Universe Online as the body types has everyone playing a similar size and shape (muscular physique) whereas Champions Online utilises sliders to give players more control. When it comes down to being able to visually recreate your character Champions Online pulls just ahead here.
Secondly, after choosing what you’re character looks like, players want to know what their character can do. Bring in the powers! Both games utilise a general Power Sets type feature, ranging from fire, ice, gadgets, cosmic or whatever term they use, all powers available in the game fall into one of the various categories that players can use for their superhero. DCUO as players focus on a particular Set, the set playing more like classes though each class has DPS and then a secondary “class” such as tank or support, but also players choose a Weapon Set as well ranging from bows (Green Arrow), Shields (Captain America style, albeit he’s Marvel), Rifles (Punisher), Brawling (Superman or Batman) and others to create different combinations. Champions Online however allows players to pick powers from different Power Sets, offering a wider diversity of powers, will rewards players for having more powers from a single Power Set; weapons are available for Champions players, but not as relied upon. Second to all of this is the travel powers, how the superhero gets around town. DCUO offers up four methods; flight, acrobatics (super jump and climb), superspeed (which allows you to run along water, up walls and on ceilings) and skimming ie. using some form of hoverboard. Champions Online boasts 15 in total, but includes Flight, Fire Flight, Earth Flight and that kind of thing, so we put them all into one type, though it has multiple “skimming” type travel powers such as Ice Slide and Hover Disk, but they operate a little differently to each other; player can also have Tunnelling, Teleportation and Spider-Man like swinging to get around. Once more, for creating the character you want… we have to give it to Champions Online.
DCUO probably offers our preferred style combat, the combat being much what action packed and button mashing at times making it feel more like a beat-em-up and is ideal for a joy pad and its cross-platform console options, whereas Champions Online, can be a little bit grindy and slow paced. The environments could both do with a little bit of work, both worlds are huge with players being able to travel along the streets, fly through the sky or leap from building rooftop to rooftop, but there’s so much open space, large undetailed surfaces and sparse NPC populations that the game can feel empty at times. Graphically DCUO easily have the edge with Champions Online starting to look a little dated and it’s only the graphical/comic style that we think has spared it an early death. Questing is pretty similar for both games though the addition of being able to play as the villains in DCUO definitely has a great appeal to all is, however, Champions Online’s Nemesis System, we feel, is pretty awesome. Players get to create their own NPC once they reach later game, designing them as they would their own superhero complete with costume, name, powers and the type of bad guy that they are e.g. a mastermind, military focused, etc. Throughout the game players are then regularly ambushed by their Nemesis’ henchman, who in turn will provide clues to progress the story arc which ultimately leads to a face off against the Nemesis and for them to be brought to justice and sent to jail leaving the player to create themselves a new Nemesis.
So what are we paying? Well Champions Online offers either a monthly subscription at $14.99 that gives players access to a handful of things, some perks, a few costumes and Veteran Bonuses, however, a lot of the content is still put behind a micro-transaction pay wall and even with a subscription players don’t get access to a lot of the content. Alternatively they can pay for a Lifetime Membership which gives them pretty much all the content in the game, DLC, costumes and other good stuff; in many ways the subscription just doesn’t seem worth it and feels like players are forced to pay for the Lifetime Membership to get the most are the game. DC Universe Online offers their “AllAccess” subscription, starting at $14.99 per month with a sliding scale paying less if you subscribe for longer (max $9.99 for 12 months), for this players get station cash to spend in the shop and discounts from their purchases, access to all game DLC, extra content (albeit there are still items to purchase from the store) and bonuses, as well as getting the benefits from other SOE games that fall into the “AllAccess” category. If we were putting our money anywhere then for us it would definitely go into DC Universe Online, it does feel like too much of the content is tied up in Champions Online and they’re trying to nickel and dime the player is way too much.
So which game offers the best Superhero MMORPG? It’s pretty hard to call as they’re both completely different, whilst DCUO has generally better graphics and combat we do feel that the rather large commissions in character customisation are pretty damaging and if it had Champions Online’s character creation system then it would win hands down. One of the biggest problems of Champions Online is that it is in City of Heroes/City of Villains, the previous Superhero MMORPG created by Cryptic that for many Champions Online has become the more inferior spiritual successor (and don’t they go on about it…). The two games offer a very different experience and, as they’re both free to play, if you’re interested in a superhero MMORPG then we think it would benefit you to check them both out and see which is your preferred flavour.