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The Return of Gratuitous Cleavage Lass: Champions Online goes F2P

Back on Halloween of 2009 I tried out the free trial of Champions Online, and posted about it here. I had hardware and driver issues, the character creation was versatile but confusing, there was some weird instancing thing going on, and it came down to me not really being able to afford farting around with it.

Well, recently Champions Online went f2p – free to play, as Lord of the Rings Online and several other MMOs have done. They also touted a new character creation system, improved servers, and that free players get access to all the game content that subscribed players do.

Well, this was worth looking into, so after finding my account password I decided to give Champions Online: Free For All a try.

First, I needed to download the game client. Now I know my Netherweb access can get squirrelly at times (hey, you try getting a good high-speed access plan in Northrend) but it ended up taking me a week to download the game client. I strongly urge you, should you wish to try it yourself, to download the full client from FilePlanet or Big Download as the installer you get from the Champions Online page can’t resume if there’s an issue with the download or connection.

Nevertheless, through sheer bloody-minded cussedness, I managed to get the game client installed. No popups came up on my $400 laptop warning me of the dire necessity of cutting-edge hardware. In fact, when I logged in, there was my old friend Gratuitous Cleavage Lass bouncing at me, ready for conversion.

Conversion. Yeah. The old-stile character generation is now subscriber-only or “Gold” account limited. Free accounts, or “Silver” accounts, get two character slots with more available for a micropayment. Micropayments also open up more character slots, costumes, a couple of optional adventure packs (how free players get access to the expansions), and additional equipment, but they claim it’s possible to reach endgame without spending any money.

As a Silver account, I had to convert GCL into one of the archetypes that they had available. Archetypes function much like classes in other MMOs, as a set framework of powers and abilities that increase as you level. Talents and Advantages can serve to customize these to an extent.

With a vague memory of the beatdowns that I received as a martial artist, I decided to go with Behemoth for GCL – the classic comic-book brick. Her hoverdisc turned out to cost micropayment tokens now, so I went with Flight as her travel power because why not?

I actually like the concept of the Archetypes. It was very difficult, in my previous experience, to figure out just what powers and abilities you should get as your character progressed – for the paper-and-pencil Hero System is not a level-based game. An Archetype will help me figure out how the CO game system works so that, should I decide to subscribe, a Freeform character will be a lot easier to create without spending a fortune in Resources redoing my powers (another innovation, by the way).

Gameplay was a lot easier. Though I still had to be careful about being mobbed (especially as my attacks started to do a ridiculous amount of Knockback, flinging opponents over buildings and down the block…and aggroing more baddies) and some of the instances required a combunation of grim perserverance and clever mob pulling, it did seem to go much easier this time. And suddenly, about level 14 or so, I was winning fights more than losing them.

It’s a completely different game now, and a worthy when-I-can’t-get-into-WoW backup. I may, if things go better, actually subscribe – though I’d like to see just how  far I can get as a casual Silver first.

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