Champions Online is an MMO that?s been around for several years now, but it still has some great features that many other MMOs don?t have. It is very much based on comic book superheroes, so if you like comics and superhero movies you will love this. It?s also got some wonderful homages to classic pop culture movies ? there are quest lines and characters based on Big Trouble in Little China, The Matrix, Star Wars, and every comic book cliche you can imagine. If also has arguably the best character creator of any game ? you can make any kind of hero you can imagine in this game.
It?s also FREE. Yep, the entire game. You can spend money on unlocking some special things but it?s completely possible to play for years without spending a penny if you don?t want to.
The best way to get it is (as usual) by using Steam. Use this link, or do a search in your Steam client. Then just hit the Play Game button.
The Blade (one of the free melee Archetypes)
You have two character slots and can add more later quite cheaply if you wish. To make your first character you should choose an Archetype (that?s basically the same thing as a character class in other games). There are about a dozen free ones and another couple of dozen unlockable ones. Each one is based on a classic superhero trope so you can play almost any type of superhero you like. Each Archetype is also customisable so you can tweak it to fit your character concept as you level.
Each Archetype also belongs to a different role. There are 5 roles:
- Ranged Damage
- Melee Damage
The first two should be pretty obvious ? in this role characters do more damage. Tank is the opposite ? it deals less damage, but has increased damage resistance, and creates a higher Threat to attract enemies to it. Hybrid is a jack of all trades, master of none, but a very useful all-rounder. Support is optimised for skills that buff and heal team mates (but also does have a few decent damage skills as well). If you like playing in a team, it?s worth thinking about picking a Tank or Support Archetype for at least one of your characters because teams are frequently short of those. Having said that, this game is really all about being the comic book superhero you always dreamed of being, so just pick whatever Archetype appeals to you most.
Free Starting Archetypes
- The Inferno: Fire. Lots of fiery ranged damage. Think Human Torch, or Pyro if you are an X-Men fan. But you will go down at the first punch, so stand well back.
- The Marksman: Yeah, I know shooting arrows doesn?t seem like much of a super power, but Hawkeye and Green Arrow are cool. Especially the Kate Bishop Hawkeye. Stand at the back and take them out from long range.
- The Soldier: It?s the Punisher! Or Deadshot! You have lots of guns and you shoot people. Not exactly subtle, but it works.
- The Blade: You?ve got a sword. You get up close and cut people with it. A lot. The classic ?get in their face and keep hurting them? Archetype.
- The Unleashed: As in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. If you want to play a Jedi or Sith you will love this. Twin swords and Force powers in one Archetype for serious damage-dealing at short and medium range. Also great for an Eastern martial arts type character.
- The Behemoth: Big muscles and thick skin. It?s your basic Tank brawler, like The Thing, or Luke Cage, or She-Hulk (or any of several other Hulks come to think of it). Very useful in a team, and you get to punch people many many times, which never fails to satisfy after a long day at work.
- The Glacier: A ranged Tank who can freeze enemies, like Iceman or Mr. Freeze. Surprisingly fun to play if you can get your head around it.
- The Grimoire: If you like Dr. Strange, Brother Voodoo, or Zatanna, you will definitely pick this one. A Hybrid Archetype with very cool Sorcery powers. Good fit for any team ? you can do decent damage and/or decent healing if the team needs it.
- The Dragon Spirit: Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Or Iron Fist. You even get the actual Iron Fist power! A nice Hybrid beat-em-up Archetype.
- The Mind: Jean Grey at her finest. If you like pink psionic powers and pressing your hands to your head meaningfully, this Support Archetype is the one for you. Good crowd control powers.
- The Radiant: Angelic Support archetype. I honestly can?t think of a superhero that fits this ideal? but it?s actually a great Archetype to play if you like the Support role. Very versatile and useful in any team.
Your character will come with a default look, but you can (and should) change it before you enter the game. Take your time, because the enormous amount of choice can be overwhelming. However don?t worry if you don?t have time to make it perfect, because you can change your costume at any time later during the game just by visiting a Tailor. Changing your costume during play does cost a small amount of in-game gold, but that?s easy to earn.
One thing that is harder to change is your character name, so don?t pick something stupid, because you will be stuck with it. So think that through carefully!
Controlling your character
Using your Powers
Your Powers are automatically slotted into the tray at the bottom middle of your screen, but you can move them around if you wish by pressing P to open the Power sheet and dragging your Powers to the slots where you want them. By default the Key Binds are:
- Lower Power tray: numbers 1?7
- Upper Powers tray: Alt 1?7
- Travel power (flight etc.): T
- Use Devices (slotted on the far right): Control 1?5
- Block: Left Shift
Learning how to block attacks is one of the most important things in this game. Blocking will lower all damage you take by over 80%, so that will make a huge difference to your survivability. Blocking also helps you resist getting knocked flying or being held in place.
Always watch out for bosses who prepare big attacks ? you can tell these are coming because you will see a big FX balloon appear above their heads, like FOOM or BANG, and hit your Block button before they are triggered. Also if you are being hit by a maintained damage-over-time power like an energy beam, blocking while it is being maintained on you will negate most of the remaining damage.
Mouse & keyboard
If you are used to other games, you may find the Champions default settings a bit weird at first. If you really don?t like how it works, open the Options menu and select the Controls tab. At the top you will find several different presets for control schemes such as Classic MMO or FPS style layouts, and below that preset keybinds for typical game types. This is a good place to start if you find the default settings not to your liking.
Gamepad Controller Support
As far as I?m aware, Champions was the first MMO to offer game controller support. If you are running the game via Steam, Steam will tell you that controllers are not supported, but that?s not correct. If you plug in an XBox or Steam Controller it will be automatically recognized, and it works great. You will still need a keyboard handy for doing some of the weirder stuff or doing text chat, but movement and combat can all be handled via controller. The default controller settings are shown in the picture below and in detail at this link:
Xbox Controller default settings
When you have a controller connected you will see the active controller buttons marked on your Powers tray at the bottom of your screen. You can change the look of this tray if you want. Type:
into the chat box on the bottom left of your screen to change it to a more controller-friendly look. Type the same command but with a 0 instead of 1 to go back to the default look.
The controller settings are a bit strange at first compared to other games, but with a little practice you will find that they actually make a lot of sense in the context of the game. This is the method that I use all the time now, and I have come to prefer it over the traditional mouse & keyboard combo.
Once you have created your character you go into a Tutorial area, which is actually a pretty fun set of missions. During the Tutorial you will be given your first 2 Powers, and missions that show you how to use them. I recommend taking your time and reading the mission text carefully, otherwise it can get a little confusing at times.
Note that you have an ?invisible? third power: Block. If you hold down the Left Shift key (or right trigger if you are using a game controller) you will block attacks from enemies to reduce the damage you take. Get used to this, it?s going to save your life later.
Note that you can do the Tutorial as part of a team ? and this can be really useful, because it can be difficult on your own if you aren?t careful. So if there are other people you know online, give them a shout and ask for help. I always have spare character slots open and can quickly create a new character and jump in to help you (see the contact details at the end of this article).
Finishing the Tutorial
Once you have finished the Tutorial level you will return to the Academy and then find yourself in the Powerhouse. You will be level 6 at this point, and that means you now get a third Power and a Travel Power. For your first Travel Power I strongly recommend that you pick Flight. It?s fun, free, and easy to control for a new player. Don?t pick some other wacky one like Teleport, even if you love Nightcrawler as much as I do, because you will probably regret it later and end up having to spend money to respec your character.
You should also find a box of gear in your inventory ? open it and equip your new gear immediately. If you don?t see a box of gear, try going the center of the Powerhouse and talk to the Head Trainer, he will sometimes give you more stuff.
Skipping the Tutorial
Note that you only have to do this Tutorial once. If you make a new character you do not have to take it all the way through the Tutorial! When you have made your new character and get on the final screen, do not click on the Enter Tutorial button. Look for the smaller text underneath it that allows you to Skip Tutorial. Unfortunately this text isn?t very obvious and it is easy to overlook it unless you know it?s there. You don?t lose anything by skipping the Tutorial ? you will still start in the Powerhouse at Level 6 with your first 3 starting Powers, just as if you did the Tutorial all the way through.
Once you are done leveling up in the Powerhouse, exit to Millennium City via the big revolving door. You will be in the city center, known as Renaissance Center, or RenCen for short. You will see Defender at a podium in front of you, go talk to him to complete your first mission. You will also see a whole bunch of NPC security officers near him, who will be able to give you more missions once you level up a bit. Don?t worry about them for now.
All around Renaissance Center you will also find many vendors. The most important of these is a gentleman with a top hat called Karneeki the Great who will be standing just beside the Powerhouse entrance. He?s one of the few vendors you can actually sell stuff to, so he?s worth getting to know because during your adventures you will pick up a lot of junk you will want to get rid of. He also can sell you extra inventory bags, which can be very handy ? pro tip: save up your cash to get the Enormous Bag, you will need it.
Press C to access your character sheet. Here you can see your current stats, set your character?s title, write your character biography, change costumes etc.
Stats & Superstats
Champions characters have lots of stats such as Intelligence, Strength, Presence etc. If you aren?t sure which stat does what, just remember that your character has three Superstats, which are the most important for you. These Superstats are marked in YELLOW BOLD ITALICS when you look at a piece of gear or in your character sheet. If in doubt, aim to increase those Superstats as much as you can to begin with.
In general, Stats have the following effects:
- Strength ? increases melee damage, melee knock, and all knock resistance.
- Constitution ? raises maximum Health.
- Dexterity ? improves critical rate and stealth strength.
- Intelligence ? lowers cooldowns and energy costs for powers. Also lets you see through stealth.
- Ego ? increases ranged damage, ranged knock, and hold resistance.
- Presence ? improves healing powers, Crowd Control powers, and Crowd Control resistance.
- Recovery ? raises energy Equilibrium, energy gain from Energy Builder use, and slightly raises max energy.
- Endurance ? increases max energy (and energy gain from Energy Builder use)
Every few levels you will also get the option to choose a new Talent. This is basically a package of bonus Stat points to add to your character. In general I advise you to pick the packages with a lot of small bonuses (like Jack of all Trades) rather than the ones with just one or two larger bonuses. You will probably concentrate on boosting your main Superstats using your gear, so using Talents to add a few points in Stats other than the main ones can help in other ways. For example, ranged damage is always increased by Ego, so if you use ranged powers you will always need a few points in Ego. Same for Strength and melee damage. Con will always raise your maximum health, and Intelligence will always reduce the energy cost and recharge time of your powers; so a few points in each of these can help a lot.
Also note that Stats are also subject to diminishing returns i.e. once you get beyond a certain level the added effect that they get isn?t as strong. In general once you raise a Stat above about 200 or so it takes a lot more points added to it to make even a small difference to the effect. This is another good reason for picking more generalised Talents rather than specialised ones.
Each time you level up you will gain either a new Power, an Advantage point, or some other way to advance and personalize your character. Most Archetypes have a relatively fixed set of Powers with only a few choices between them, but using Advantages points enables you to tweak your Powers in different ways. You can either simply boost their effect by ranking them up to Rank 2 or Rank 3, or you can add entirely new effects to them by choosing other Advantages. Note that you can only add a maximum of 5 Advantage points to each Power, so choose carefully!
If you want to test how your new Powers and Advantages will work before making a final decision, enter the Powerhouse and go to one of the training areas before making your choice. Any Power or Advantage chosen there is only temporary and won?t be locked in until you exit the Powerhouse again.
If you do lock in a Power and then decide later that you made the wrong choice, you can respec your character at any time by going back to the Powerhouse and speaking to a trainer. This does cost some in-game gold but it?s usually affordable, especially in the lower levels.
For exhaustive details on each Archetype and their power progression, check out Criswolf09?s guides.
Champions Online was designed as a social game from the outset, and although you can play all the way through it on your own if you really want to, it?s a much more fun experience as part of a team.
Many of the current player base are ?old hands? who have run all of the content many times and now spend most of their time hanging around in Renaissance Center showing off their costumes and chatting. If this is something you also like to do, you?re in the right place here. On the other hand, many of these people have been playing together for years, so it can sometimes feel like an elite group that you aren?t part of. Don?t worry though, that will change.
If you are like me, you will want to explore, do missions, and smack down bad guys with a team of like-minded people. Unfortunately though, getting into a team as a new player can be extremely difficult.
Your first step is to open the Social panel. There you can see everyone in your current zone, what level they are, what they are doing, and if they are open for team invites. If you see someone around your level, try sending them a team invite. However to make things more difficult in many cases their status is set to reject team invites by default, so they might not even realise that they are being invited. In that case, try sending them a private message and asking if they want to team up ? the worst that can happen is that they say no, right?
Do feel free to add me to your Friends list and send me a message if you want to team up ? I?m always happy to help new people. My in-game username is @rodney418, and I?m rodney418 on Steam too.
Guilds in Champions Online are called Super Groups (which makes sense, right?) or SGs for short. For some reason best known to the Champions development team you will find that your new character has been automatically placed into a randomly assigned Super Group called New Champions XXX. You need to leave that in order to join a real Super Group instead. To do that:
- Press G for the Super Group window
- Go to the Roster tab
- Click Leave at the bottom right of the window
My Supergroup is Hidden Tradition. If you would like to join us, just ask for an invite, either in-game or via the #champion_chat channel on our Discord chat server.
Joining an active Super Group brings many advantages and I highly recommend it.
At the bottom left of your screen you will see the Chat window. Text chat in CO is very full-featured and powerful, but it can be a bit daunting at the beginning. If you are in Millennium City you will probably see your chat box filling up rapidly with people talking in the Zone channel. This can be very disconcerting to begin with, and also there?s so much of it that you can miss important conversations with other people, especially if you are in a team.
Luckily there?s a way around that. If you right click on any tab in the Chat window you will see the Chat Options. This allows you to filter any content you don?t want to see, and most importantly, to be able to make new Chat tabs for special purposes. I always add two tabs: one tab for Team chat only, and one for Super Group chat only, and in each case filter out pretty much everything else. That way I can easily switch to one of those tabs if I am trying to follow an important conversation without having Zone chat filling everything up.
Difficulty levels and Sidekicking
One of the absolute best things about Champions Online is the way that mission instances scale by party size and have different Difficulty settings, so you can set them to be more difficult if you like a challenge. Also characters who join a team can set themselves as Sidekicks, which automatically levels them up (or down) to suit the rest of the team. So even if you are a complete newbie at level 6 you can still team up with a level 40 character and not be completely useless. To Sidekick, just right click on your character portrait at the top left of the screen and choose Start Sidekicking.
Team leaders can also right click on their portraits and choose Set Sidekick Champion (which is the level all the rest of the team will Sidekick to), and Difficulty of instanced missions:
- Very Hard
I wish more games had this capability. It means regardless of how hardcore a player you are, or what level you are at, your team can always be sure of a challenge. I don?t recommend the harder levels unless you have a couple of really experienced people with you, because Elite mode will give you a serious workout!
You will start in Millennium City, and most of your early missions will take place there. However once you hit about level 15 or so, you will be able to travel to other areas, including
- South Western Desert (level 17?28)
- Canada (level 17?31)
- Monster Island (level 30?40)
- Lemuria (level 34?40)
- Vibora Bay (level 37-40)
You can access these areas by going to the big blue and white jet parked just North West of Millennium City Renaissance Center. I strongly advise you to check out these areas once you hit the appropriate level, some of them have great mission content and it?s a pity to miss out on it. But first, make sure you go to the appropriate Crisis Zone?
There?s a helicopter near the Superjet that will take you to Crisis Zones ? these are great instanced team campaigns that introduce each area, well worth checking out as soon as you have the appropriate level. They include:
- Desert Disaster (level 13) ? only once per character
- Crisis in Canada! (level 15) ? only once per character
- Queen of the City (level 22) ? only once per character
- Crisis on Monster Island (level 30) ? repeatable
- Lemurian Crisis (level 34) ? repeatable
- Vibora Bay Apocalypse (level 37) ? only once per character; attained via a mission chain given by Juryrig in Renaissance Center
There are also unique areas connected to some missions, such as cyberspace etc. but I will leave those to surprise you!
Champions Online also features several special instanced premium campaigns which used to cost money, but are now available free to all players. They include:
- The Serpent Lantern (take out hordes of VIPER bases on an African island ? this one is a bit grindy and is the weakest of the bunch)
- Operation Demonflame (travel to Qlipothic dimensions and battle demonic forces ? a great campaign if you like Dr. Strange or John Constantine stories)
- Resistance (time travel to a totalitarian future and battle for Earth?s freedom ? all those great X-Men-style dark future stories in one pack)
- Aftershock (sequel to both The Serpent Lantern and Operation Demonflame, so best to play Operation Demonflame before you do this one)
- Whiteout (if you liked John Carpenter?s The Thing then you?ll love this)
These can be done at any level ? they scale to your party size and level automatically. I strongly recommend you only do these if you have a decent team and some time to spend, because they can be pretty big ? but well worth doing!
One of the unique things about this game is that once you hit level 25 you can create your own Supervillain Nemesis. You will be given the opportunity to craft your Nemesis in the same way you built your original character, and also to equip him with Power and minions. Once you have done this you will receive random missions featuring your created Nemesis!
Spending Real Money
Don?t panic, you don?t need to do this! As stated at the top of this article Champions Online is completely free to play. However if you decide you really like the game and want more options, you can use the Zen Store to buy cool stuff. To be honest, I don?t think most of it is worth buying, but your mileage my differ. But if you do want to spend some money the absolute first thing you need to buy is the player Premium Pack. This pack costs 1500 Zen and gives you a whole bunch of new stuff: 6 extra character slots, loads of new costume parts, extra travel powers, etc. It?s great value for money and I highly recommend it as your first (and possibly only) purchase.
For ultimate customization, you can also spend your money on a Free-form Character slot. This enables you to create your character exactly the way you want it, with every single power available for you to build with. Tons of fun, but not cheap or simple. Worth thinking about if you really, really like this game.
Have fun beating up on the bad guys! See you in Millennium City!