Experience Points: Champions Online – Part 6: Adventure Packs
The Adventure Packs in Champions Online had a few goals, but were only partially successful. The point was to make self-contained repeatable mission chains that would work as scalable content, so you could do them regardless of your level or team size. This would give every character something to do and help with mission gaps. Where they fell short was providing frequent updates.
After three of them, the new content update format was the Comic Series, basically Adventure Packs with one mission being released each week. What’s interesting, in retrospect at least, is the improvement with each pack and experimenting with the capabilities with the engine. There is also noticeable salvaging of resources. I won’t go into wild speculation as to why there were fewer “original” assets in the later Adventure Packs. I have some theories, but really, all of them could be wrong. The main thing that needs pointing out is that the re-use of resources is far from something like, for example, the offices from the first F.E.A.R. game.
The first pack, the Serpent Lantern, also included a makeover of a major villain faction of the game, VIPER. The update turned the Hydra/Cobra-esque organization from regular punching bags to trained ass-kickers. You’re helping a special division of UNTIL (the good guys), Project Snakecharmer. It seems that VIPER want to harvest the power of the Serpent Lantern, a magical artifact located in a temple in Africa.
Now, despite the “magical artifact” part and the inclusion of “VIPER mages” as mobs, it’s not really a mystical mission chain. Or rather, if you consider the Indiana Jones movies (all three) mystical, then yes, the Serpent Lantern is mystical. But if you consider it to only have a few mystical elements, then the Adventure Pack seems more akin to beating up Nazis than magical thingamajigs or ancient mystical cults.
The main problem with the first pack is everything up to the Temple Nama. The first half requires you to shut down three generators in three bunkers. To enter a bunker, you need to clear out a few checkpoints first. All three are identical and require you to collect, destroy or save an X amount of things. There’s no other way to put it than saying it’s pure grind.
Like I mentioned in one of my previous articles, the itemization system went down the drain with the Serpent Lantern. Buffs that were supposed to be applied to primary items only were applied to secondaries as well, making all secondary endgame gear completely redundant. This wasn’t noticed on time and, well, now you have Adventure Packs dropping the best gear in the game. And Serpent Lantern, despite being a grind, drops the most of them. Endgame gear hasn’t been updated yet, although the most recent “Ask Cryptic” hinted that a possible way to go around to fixing itemization would be raising the level cap.
The second pack, Demonflame, focuses on the heroes entering the Qliphothic Realm to stop a cult leader, Luther Black, from attaining godlike power and taking over the world. The Qliphothic Realm is a place packed to the brim with of chaos, madness, evil and purple… it’s all quite pretty. What I loved about Demonflame was that it addressed all the qualms with the previous Adventure Pack. The storytelling is better and the places you visit are unique, each with its own “gimmick”. It felt more like something at home in a single-player or small-scale multiplayer game, not a generic MMO.
Following Demonflame was Resistance. Set in a parallel Multifarian universe where the world is oppressed by Citizen Harmon and the Conquerors, the Heroes have to help the Resistance movement of this dystopian realm. Having to duke it out in a parallel universe, you’ll encounter evil versions of good guys and good versions of bad guys, which makes things quite interesting. The story is very Silver Age with an excellent reveal near the end. It’s hard to talk about it without delving into spoiler territory, but quality-wise, it’s better than Demonflame and has an awesome mechanic near the end. It’s an improvement over previous content and walks away even more from standard MMO conventions.
The first Comic Series, Aftershock, was both a hit and miss. Unlike Demonflame and Resistance, where previous resources were used with a slight makeover, Aftershock is literally a mix of Serpent Lantern and Demonflame (which makes sense considering it’s based on events from the two). There were a lot of new mechanics which pushed the limits of Cryptic’s engine, giving out a few “‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’”, but one could also see that the engine wasn’t made with such events in mind, making them feel rather crude. While I could bear with them, the accompanying tutorial messages were quite painful. Everything was explained in big walls of text, one instance even occurring while you had a time limit. It felt very overwhelming and would have worked much better in a skippable cinematic. One escort mission in particular would have benefited from a practice room, as it wasn’t the usual “get from point A to point B”. Not to mention that there was no option to retry upon failure. Speaking of which, this is also the first time I’ve seen Champions have an optional failure clause in its missions. There were objectives which weren’t necessary to complete in order to advance, but would give you a slightly bad “ending” if you didn’t.
There are also a few more gripes I had, like putting words into your character’s mouth (my character would so not say “Uh-oh”). The ending was also horrid and a kick in the teeth. Working together with NPCs is alright, but getting downright saved by them is a major no in game design.
With the exception of Aftershock, which is free content, all the Adventure Packs are Gold. If you’re a Silver Player, here’s a basic rundown of what to get:
Get Serpent Lantern for the gear farm;
Get Demonflame for the story and various environments;
Get Resistance for the awesome story and quite different missions.
It’s worth noting that Cryptic holds free weekends for all Adventure Packs every now and then, so if you’re not in a hurry, wait for the pack that interests you to go on a free weekend and try it out before buying.
The next Comic Series is due November. I am hoping that Cryptic learns from the mistakes and gripes in Aftershock, and doesn’t overuse what they did well in previous packs. Going by how each Adventure Pack was an improvement over the previous one, I’m looking forward to what November holds.
Experience Points is where we get to talk a bit more in-depth on games we are much more knowledgeable of through extensive playing. It’s not as much of a review as it’s our experience with the game in question