You may have noticed that super beings, both heroic and villainous are everywhere these days. Be it in the movie world, which provided us a Man of Steel earlier in the year and a thunder god just last month, in television where Arrow and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D sit high in the ratings or in the world of online gaming with the release of Marvel Heroes a few short months ago and Infinite Crisis just ahead of us, super heroes are unavoidable. So, in order to provide you, gentle reader, with a roadmap of sorts, welcome to an overview of all things caped and cowled on your PC (and beyond).
The granddaddy of the bunch still live(RIP City of Heroes), Champions Online has been running since 2009 and boasts an impressive pedigree. Based on the classic pen and paper role playing game, Champions brings a world of possibilities to players. Boasting ten free power sets for free-to-play and another sixteen for subscribers, the range of choices for your “class” is one of the widest I have seen in MMOs. The project began as Marvel Universe Online but Cryptic, after licensing issues with Marvel and the sale of their City of Heroes/Villains IP to NCSoft, took up the Champions banner and have been running with it for close to five years now.
Champs plays very much like a traditional MMO. Skillbars, cooldowns, all that good stuff. Champions had a few nifty little touches including the “Star System”. All your attacks and counters fill up a gauge of sorts that boost your skills as you strive for the five star limit. These stars are diminished if your character dies or is defeated in combat.
One of my favorite features of Champions Online is the huge selection of travel powers. You can fly, jump, use rocket boots, ice-slides, teleportation and many more to make your way around the in-game world. My personal favorite is tunneling. Who wouldn't want to be a mole man, eh?
Another innovation is the Nemesis system. Once you reach level 25 you can create your own Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom in the form of your Nemesis. Utilizing the character creation system, you pick and choose the skills and look of your archfoe and he (or she) will then send his (or her) cronies after you. A quest chain begins and you complete it by finally defeating the villainous minions and facing off with your most bitter rival. You can have up to 18 nemeses for your character and these events add a sense of unpredictability to your daily routine. Graphically it bears the signs of age but this game still has legs and shows no sign of slowing down.
DC Universe Online
DCUO is fast approaching its third anniversary and stands astride the PC and PlayStation platforms akin to a lycra-clad juggernaut. With the recent release of Sony’s PS4, the game has had a huge graphical overhaul, a major redesign of the leveling system and stability fixes for the client. Also in the works is a new UI, but this has been delayed for the present. Players choose a mentor from the list of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman on the hero’s side and Lex Luthor, the Joker and Circe on the villain’s side. Your mission is to take your character and assist these icons in capturing Braniac’s Exobyte technology, the very thing that gives you and your fellow players your magic, tech or meta based abilities.
There are currently six powers available for free to play characters and an additional four attached to various DLCs. Your progression is traditional; quests, instances or dungeons that can be run solo or in groups, duos and raids. Leveling is fast and a few days of dedicated playing will see you hit the level cap of 30. And then the training mission is over and the real game begins.
Two major factors influence the strength of your character; Skill Points which are earned by completing feats and Combat Rating which is determined by your gear level. Skill Points are used to increase innate bonuses on the many weapons you can utilize in DCUO. While each “class” is not bound to a particular weapon, you will soon come to see certain ones are more practical and effective for each role in the game.
Combat rating is determined by, and dependent on, the gear you have equipped in-game. As you rise in level you will gain access to higher rated gear which in turn allows access to higher level instances which then….well, you get the idea. Currently the game features five “Tiers” of armor and weapons in PvE and these “Tiers” are accessed only once you have the Combat Rating needed to equip the items in question. Currently on its eighth DLC, DCUO is constantly raising the bar for players and, with the new features and fixes introduced this month, seems it is only getting started.
You like Diablo, right? You maybe you saw Avengers? Or Thor 2. Or any of the Marvel movie blockbusters of the past 10 years. So how about we mix the two and make it fast, frenetic and loot droppingly addictive?
Another part of the twisted web I mentioned above, Marvel Heroes was originally Marvel Universe Online under development by Cryptic which eventually became Champions Online. From the man that created Diablo, Marvel Heroes is very much set in the same mold. You become an iconic (or not so much) Marvel character and travel a wide and varied game world getting loot. And more loot. And then…
Launched in June of this year, Gazillion have handled things well. The game is solid, the variety of characters is great; nine characters are available to try for free and play to their maximum at the start and dozens more can be purchased or won as drops. Alternate costumes also drop at a low frequency and a currency known as Eternity Splinters. These Splinters can be collected to buy items sold in the Cash Shop. Server issues that were unfortunately common when the game launched have been eliminated and the client and launcher are both vastly improved. Last month saw the launch of the new Asgard map, and fan favorites Loki and Gambit were released in conjunction.
This game also tangles into our interweaving origins of comic book games. IC is created by Turbine, formerly headed by David Brevik, the driving force behind Marvel Heroes, which was formerly the project that eventually became Champions Online!! Wheels within wheels, people! Dubbed by some “Justice League of Legends”, Infinite Crisis blends the popular MOBA format with a hugely popular IP. IC boasts all the big guns, and multiple versions of them. Pulling on the mythology of the Multiverse, Infinite Crisis presents Monster Vampire Batman, Steampunk Catwoman, Atomic Green Lantern and many more.
These different versions are different classes and roles and add an infinite source well for Turbine to pull from. The game has already gained popularity in the professional online gaming community and is one to check out if you are a MOBA fan.
Gotham City Imposters
This game is a strange one. Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight to avenge his parents and protect the innocent. He doesn’t like guns. So when Monolith, the guys behind F.E.A.R 1 & 2 and the chronically underrated Condemned 1 & 2 announced a first person shooter based on the Caped Crusader a resonating “HUH?” echoed across the internet.
Teams of six Batfans, “The Bats” and clown followers, “The Jokerz”, battle it out in 6v6 arenas. It handles well, and is VERY reminiscent of your Modern Duties and Call of Warfares, but with a more almost 60s era vibe of gadgets and doodads. If you can handle the weirdness of the overall concept, Gotham City Impostors isn't half bad.
Super Hero Squad Online
This is the title that launched Gazillion and gave them a great advantage during the development of Marvel Heroes. SHSO is based on the cartoon and toy series of the same name and presents chi-esque versions of the Avengers and their foes. Featuring dozens of playable characters, your progress is marked by collecting heroes for your squad and completing beat-em up missions and defeating bosses. There are also a collectible card game and an arcade with hero specific mini-games to play. The interface is simplistic and easy for kids to handle. My four year old enjoys the point and click movement modes, give it a go with your little ones and see what they think.
Each of the games listed above is available free-to-play, with both Champions and DCUO offering a subscription option as well. They straddle a wide range of genres, covering multiple bases in comicy goodness. I spent many years playing DC Universe Online, and Marvel Heroes is currently taking up a lot of my game time. This list is by no means definitive, there are other hero based games out there, but these are the Avengers of the selection on offer.
Hopefully something on the list will grab your attention, and I’ll see you in Avenger’s Tower or up on the Watchtower soon!