I’ve never been all that nice to Champions Online. To me, it was a rather shallow experience with dozens of glaring quality assurance issues. Everything from balance to leveling curves to content distribution had obvious issues. I’ve played vicariously since quitting after my 6-month pre-purchase ran out (what a mistake that was). By keeping in touch, I’ve seen that Cryptic has continued to polish and iterate the game, but I was burned severely. It’d take something major for me to jump back in, like the game going free-to-play. Executive producer Shannon Posniewski announced exactly that in the latest State of the Game.
Like any game going from subscription to F2P, with a subscription option, of course, Champions will see a wide array of changes before the move. The tutorial and beginning areas will be improved for the flood of incoming players. Other areas will be “reordered, rescripted and augmented” to plug the aforementioned holes and the C-Store will be flooded with new items. Subscribers will maintain their current amount of content, while F2Pers will pick and choose. Lifetimers, you’ll be a Gold Members (subscribers) for life, only missing out on the C-Store content. Pretty standard stuff.
Champions Online F2P beta goes live in early November.
Unlike EverQuest 2 Extended, the Champs subscriber matrix is straightforward. I have two gripes: inventory limitation and custom archtypes. I don’t mind having to purchase inventory for a F2P game as long as it’s permanent, and not some sort of 6-month lease – looking at you, Runes of Magic – so this could be a non-issue. Custom archetypes, that’s an entirely different story. Read on for more.
When I beta tested, then reviewed Champions Online there was one absolutely unmistakable positive to the game; the free reign you had to create a character. I could make my character incredibly ugly, as my girlfriend did for me, or super powerful. It could be a self-healing tank or a melee character with kiting abilities. Sure, many of these builds aren’t optimized, but you were able to do basically whatever you wanted, to the point of gimping. The freedom to screw up or innovate was superb, but F2Pers will miss out.
F2P gamers are completely unable to create custom archetype characters, relegating them to a set of free pre-determined types or purchasable gold archetypes. It’s not completely restrictive, there’s still plenty of character customization thanks to costumes, but you definitely lose that freedom to build a unique champion. Of course, it does make business sense to restrict the best feature to subscribers – assuming F2Pers will hear about it and sub – but I’d like to see it as a C-Store item, even a high-priced one, instead.
This restriction begs the question; if I made a custom character before, am I able to play her without having to resubscribe? As of press, I’ve yet to find an answer. I hope it’s an emphatic “Yes!” I should be able to play her. After all, I did pay, once upon a time. I just shouldn’t be allowed to make new characters in that fashion. If I can take Violet Preston for a spin, I’ll probably download Champions Online F2P and see how it has matured in the last six months. Otherwise, swearing it off until I can.