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"City of Heroes 2" Announced

Okay, it's actually called Champions Online, but it's functionally everything Cryptic wanted to do with City of Heroes if they were remaking it. From their features page:

"Hi-Octane Excitement: Champions Online delivers furious, fast-paced encounters previously reserved for action and fighting games. No more boring auto attacks and lengthy recharge times. Champions Online combat is instantaneous — and electrifying!"

In my opinion, City of Heroes already more than half-way here, but apparently Cryptic isn't satisfied with it being fast enough because they're getting rid of "lengthy recharge times," which are certainly present in City of Heroes. They might be leveraging some of their Marvel heroes development experience here to create a sort of an online fast fighting game.

"Brains required: Every enemy and super-powered threat in Champions Online has its own unique abilities and combat specialties. Use your head — or wind up dead!"

Wait, they're going to require players to think? Excellent - this would be awesome if they pulled it off. Although, I'm cynically convinced that this won't survive beta, where it will be determined that an overwhelming majority of the players are stupid and will whine endlessly if they're not spoon fed. I blame conditioning from previous MMORPGs they may have played.

"Bring friends, make friends: The Champions Online universe will be jam-packed with thousands of heroes, facing thousands of threats. Join up with other heroes, create your own superteam, and prepare to take on the ultimate threats!"

Okay, okay, we know it's a MMORPG already.

"Total customization, at your fingertips: Choose from hundreds of different costume pieces, colors and body types to create your character's one-of-a-kind costume and look. There are billions of possible combinations, and in a universe brimming with the fantastic and the unforgettable, you can still be completely unique!

Your powers, on your terms: There are a multitude of astonishing powers to choose from in Champions Online, and its flexible character creation system gives you total control over your hero's abilities. You can even pick the appearance of your powers. Do you want purple force fields? Green fire blasts? Jet black claws? In Champions Online, you decide!

City of Heroes already had some very good customization of the characters, but one thing that's always been a bit of a stumbling block is that you can't change the appearance of your powers. It looks like Champions Online is designed to overcome this.

"Keep your enemies close: Every hero must have an archenemy. In Champions Online, you design your character's supreme adversary, choosing a name, powers and costume for a superpowered foe to bedevil your hero throughout his or her career."

This was a feature that was often mentioned on the City of Heroes message boards but never made it into the game. I'm not sure how this will work, exactly, but apparently the concept is that when you're performing missions you'll see your own personal archvillain taunting you and pulling you along. Personally, I think that mechanic isn't interesting enough, and it'll probably be a matter of time until players are being allowed to trade or play their archvillains.

"Bigger and better: Vanquish evil, and your successes will be rewarded with costume pieces to enhance your powers and abilities. Then customize the appearance of those rewards to your vision of your hero's look and abilities!"

This is something new. Sure, you can unlock new costume pieces in City of Heroes, but those costume pieces don't actually have enhancing of powers and abilities associated with them. Personally, I'm not sure if I like this, as it may actually limit appearance customization.

"Endless exploration: The battle against evil in Champions Online rages across the world into outer space and alternate dimensions. No other MMOG offers players the chance to explore such diverse realms — from the shining skyscrapers of Millennium City and the frozen wastes of Canada to the interstellar gladiatorial arena on the moon, the hidden underwater city of Lemuria and the foul mystical dimension known as Qliphotic.

Evil most foul: Battle supervillains, aliens, giant monsters and secret, sinister organizations. Doctor Destroyer is launching new plans to conquer the world. VIPER lurks in the shadows, seeking chances to strike at humanity. The ancient Lemurians are plotting a return to power. And Mechanon won't stop until it has wiped all organic life from the planet. Can you stop these heinous threats to humanity?

Translation: We're feeling optimistic about the setting. Setting impresses some people a lot, but when you've played as many games as I have you come to realize that setting ultimately comes down to being window dressing. It's not where you are but rather what you do that matters in a game.

"Make your mark: The story of Champions Online is constantly changing, continually evolving. Villains are defeated. Heroes rise and fall. Cities transform. Your actions may decide the future!"

I spent a whole entry (maybe even more) talking about how awesome this would be so instead I'm just going to say, "How awesome this would be." What else is there to be said? I'm simply under the opinion that a much greater amount of dynamic content is the future of MMORPGs.

In summary, despite the use of the Champions RPG license, I think that this really is City of Heroes 2. It takes the original City of Heroes work and improves upon it on many key fundamentals that are frequently discussed on the City of Heroes boards.

Of course, there likely will be Champions Online RPG-mechanics running underneath the hood, which hopefully will be more of a boon than an impediment. City of Heroes does have the unique advantage that it was an RPG designed to be an MMORPG from a start. Taking a game designed to be a PnP game and shoehorning it into the MMORPG mold has the potential to produce a dud.

According to the first post on the comments of this entry, it looks like the targeted release date for Champions Online is Spring 2009. Who knows? Considering they've already gameplay footage, perhaps they'll meet that goal.

Also noteworthy is that the game is being developed to run on the XBox360 as well as the PC. Considering that XBox360 games outsell the same game on the PC by a considerable margin, I'm hardly in a position to whine about the dangers of consolitus infecting the project. Developers go where the money is, and whether it's piracy or the inaccessibility of PC hardware, the PC has been losing that battle for quite some time.

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