Experience Points: Champions Online – Part 5: Nemesis System

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Experience Points

It’s fun to save the world from a giant flaming gorilla, stop a high-tech terrorist organization and help grannies find their lost kitties, but each hero needs that one person that makes it personal. The Joker, the Lex Luthor, the Dr. Doom, the nemesis. The antagonist of a story is a trope goldmine. They help us define the protagonist, show his virtues, his flaws, hopes, dreams and shortcomings. It is because of all of this that the idea of a Nemesis system in a video game sounds so good.

It also sounds very ambitious. There are many variables to keep in mind when making such a system. How do you take into account organizations? Nemeses who work alone? Scheming nemeses that never lift a finger? Non-super powered nemeses? It is possibly because of this that the system seemed very underwhelming for a majority of Champions Online players. Probably most easily compared to anyone hearing what the first Fable game had to offer before release and then playing it themselves to see that it wasn’t that good.

It’s what CO’s Nemesis feature boils down to: it’s good, but everyone expected much better. It is clearly defined in what you can and can’t do, so a lot of people don’t play it straight. If you were to follow the game’s mission descriptions word by word, you would have never met your first nemesis beforehand. Your first encounter with him is trying to steal an ancient Lemurian artifact which gives him super-powers and he becomes your nemesis because you tried to ruin his plans. After that, there are pre-determined events until you lock them up in the Cardboard Prison. This is the point after which the system draws from a pool of missions before you finally defeat the Big Bad Evil Guy, as well as the point from which all subsequent nemeses “start off” (breaking out of jail).

The three behaviours you can choose from the Nemesis Creator only affect actual dialog, not the missions. Even then, it’s not exactly what you would expect. If the BBEG is a Mastermind, they’re extremely arrogant. If they’re a Lunatic, they’re bloody bonkers. Imagine a Joker cranked up to 11 bonkers. If they’re a Savage, they’re… just blunt, rather than being something akin to the Hulk. You can probably get an idea by now why players, roleplayers or not, usually adapt or downright ignore what the CO nemesis is doing and act as though they are something completely different.

The kicker is that the Nemesis Missions are by far the most fun content in the game. It features villains from the universe being hired by your own stalker, as well as some zany (but not downright silly) plans for taking over the world. To avoid going into spoiler territory, imagine the late 80s, early 90s superhero cartoons (possibly the ones from DC, since Marvel’s were pretty bad). The missions take themselves seriously, while still going into slightly comical stuff like giant robots, mutants, ancient horrors and so on. The only reason I am personally bored of them is because I’ve played all the missions so many times I know them by heart (and yet I still love playing Bunker Buster).

How this all works in-game is that after you’ve made your nemesis on level 25, you get two types of missions: henchman and instanced. The henchmen missions are short open world missions, usually along the lines of beating up your nemesis’s goons. After you’ve done two such missions, the 3rd one is an instanced two-mission chain. This is where you duke it out with your personal stalker. The missions are gained as drops from henchmen, which ambush you at random while you’re in combat with something else.

The only updates to the system since launch have been adapting new powersets to be available as choices when creating your nemesis, some new henchmen types and an endgame lair, Nemesis Confrontation. NemCon puts you in an intergalactic gladiator arena and prison, where each nemesis of your team’s characters forms an alliance with Shadow Destroyer and it’s up to you and your comrades to bust out and deliver a beating. The replay value is high for the sole reason of seeing other people’s villains. There’s a certain charm to it and when you band together with creative folk, it’s even better. It’s also pretty straightforward and can be finished within 90 minutes on normal difficulty (which is the only available difficulty at the moment of writing), less if the team is good. It’s a lair I always enjoy playing, as do a lot of players I know. Considering it’s just one instance, I think it speaks enough about how enticing the whole idea of an arch-enemy in an MMO is. People care for them as much as they do for their own characters, and often for the same reasons.

I’m really sad that there’s so little done about this feature. While something like a separate Adventure Pack or Comic Series with one’s nemesis would require a lot of time and resources, the nature of the system would allow the odd update here and there without saying “we’re working on this feature in this specific timeframe”. A new mission, henchman type and so on every now and again would make a big difference. Then again, the Foundry, a tool used for player-made content, is supposedly in the works for Champions (it’s already available for Star Trek Online), so maybe Cryptic think it would be best to have players expand on their nemeses that way than be forced to do missions that are out of character?

Part 1: Past and Present

Part 2: Gold and Silver

Part 3: C-Store

Part 4: Costume Creator

Part 5: Nemesis System

Part 6: Adventure Packs

Part 7: Endgame

Part 8: PvP

Part 9: Community and Communication

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

By Miodrag Kovačević

Hailing from the strange land of Serbia, often confused with Siberia, Miodrag has been playing video games, watching cartoons and soaking up trivia his whole life. His first (and to date only) console was a Sega Master System II.


  1. Should’ve said this before as well, excellent write-up. I’ve keep wondering why I’m still playing this game, and your article helped me figure it out.

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