A Star is Born:
Let’s Play Champions Online Pt. 9

By Shamus
on Nov 17, 2009
Filed under:
Shamus Plays
One of the great joys of being a superhero is to get up on something tall and then stand around brooding and looking down on all the little people.

staronchest_vanity1.jpg

I think I need to increase the draw distance, because I can’t see them from up here.

Does it seem like we’ve been stuck in Canada for a long time? The truth is, I’ve skipped about a third of the Canadian missions here in this write-up. The whole thing feels like it goes on for a couple of hours longer than it really should.

Back at base I meet Lt. Dougls McKenzie (sigh) who informs me that a Dr. Karl Severisen (sigh) has built an observation post to the north and is monitoring the activities of the terrorist group Viper. (Sigh.) Viper is Canada’s other terrorist group. While not as numerous as the Hunter-Patriots, they wear schoolbus-yellow body armor instead of parkas and have zap guns instead of rifles. They also live inside of sprawling high-tech complexes instead of standing around outside waiting to die of exposure, unlike some terrorist groups I could mention.

staronchest_severisen.jpg

Quite a base you have here, Doc. You got yourself a crate and everything. Maybe you should requisition a calculator instead of just poking the palm of your hand like that. And is the bush supposed to be in here with you?

Doc has a bunch of jobs for me, all of which can be summed up as “get all up in their business and wreck their stuff”.

I really like this Viper section of the game. It’s nice to have some foes that feel like appropriate adversaries for a superhero instead of appropriate adversaries for Scooby-Doo. (I’m looking a you, Mr. Zombie.)

LOWER LEFT: Severisen’s tiny outpost. EVERYTHING ELSE: Viper’s massive terrorist enterprise.
LOWER LEFT: Severisen’s tiny outpost. EVERYTHING ELSE: Viper’s massive terrorist enterprise.

I tear through the Viper base, smashing the things that need to be smashed, shaking down the guys for lab documents, freeing their prisoners, bashing their faces in, and generally making sure that the terrorists are going to have a lot to bitch about in the terrorist break room at the end of the day.

I head back to Dr. Severisen and get my next batch of orders. This doesn’t take long, seeing as how he basically built his outpost on Viper’s front lawn.

Yes, that’s a Viper building right behind the Doc, but they’re actually even closer than they seem. Right over the little hill behind him is a bunch of Viper soldiers and tech.  If the ground were level, they’d be close enough for a decent game of Frisbee.
Yes, that’s a Viper building right behind the Doc, but they’re actually even closer than they seem. Right over the little hill behind him is a bunch of Viper soldiers and tech. If the ground were level, they’d be close enough for a decent game of Frisbee.

Because combat in this game is basically a time sink with no reward, it’s common for players to run into a group of foes, destroy the equipment being guarded, and then jog away without ever making any effort to engage the enemy. The upshot is that heroes will sometimes be leading a parade of enraged villains. In another MMO this sight would cause you to think “Oh no! That player is in trouble and trying to escape!” But in Champs Online, it usually means they’re just in a hurry and can’t be arsed to deal with their pursuers.

Then things get really silly when this happens around Dr. Severisen. Because he’s so close to the Viper base, it’s not uncommon for a player to drag a handful of Viper into his outpost. When this happens, the good Doctor goes berserk. Dr. Severisen is an unarmed civilian, but he and his men are level 35. The content in this area is 13-ish. Doc is fully capable of single-handedly eliminating the Viper presence in this area of Canada with his bare hands.

What will usually happen is that an enemy Viper will enter his aggro range and he’ll turn and run towards them. This brings him closer to the nearby base, and so once he gets going he usually won’t stop until he’s cleaned the place out. This is hilarious to see, although it’s really, really annoying if you’re trying to turn in a quest and he runs off. You end up chasing him all over the place, frantically clicking on him and trying to activate the next mission so you can get on with things.

And of course, after he goes Rambo on the enemy base it does sort of make you feel a little less super.

Next up Dr. Severisen has a more ominous job for me: The guy in charge of the Viper lab is Dr. Manfred Klaus. I need to take him down. Doc warns me that there is more to Klaus than meets the eye. He also tells me to take some backup.

I assure the good Doctor I can handle the Klaus clown on my own.

I hope. During the past couple of missions I was over-leveled a bit. Now I’m pretty much all done with that lower-level content and fighting the stuff I should be. If not for my vast array of broken, over-powered abilities, I would probably need to head into zone chat and start advertising for a group to help me through this.

And speaking of powers, it’s time to get a new one. Today’s broken ability is Force Shield, a block ability. There are a half dozen or so abilities that replace the standard block. For example, there’s one that will charge your next attack. So, you block, take some damage, and then return some of that damage the next time you attack. That’s nice, but it just can’t compare to Force Shield.

Force Shield vastly reduces incoming damage while it’s up, and at the same time it turns incoming attacks into endurance energy. By spending an advantage you can make the shield persist for a few seconds after using it. So, you tap the block button for just a moment before you enter battle, and then while you’re beating them senseless their attacks will be keeping your energy bar full, thus letting you spam your most powerful abilities with impunity.

We’ll see if it’s enough to get me through this 2-player mission.

Here I am on approach to the Viper lab.  The place has anti-air missile launchers to soften up incoming superheroes.  That’s actually a nice touch on the part of the game designers.
Here I am on approach to the Viper lab. The place has anti-air missile launchers to soften up incoming superheroes. That’s actually a nice touch on the part of the game designers.

I stride in to the lab like I owned the place. It’s… crowded in here.

That’s a lot of guys. And is that a tank? It looks like a tank. WHY IS THERE A TANK?
That’s a lot of guys. And is that a tank? It looks like a tank. WHY IS THERE A TANK?

I’ll add that at least two of these guys are “villain” class foes instead of “henchmen” class, which means they’re a good bit tougher.

I don’t have any of those fancy ranged superpowers like some heroes. No laser eyes. No fire breath. No lightning bolts. I can’t injure people unless I’m invading their personal space, so I don’t have any choice but to wade in and fight everyone at once.

OH GOD WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BULLETS?!?
OH GOD WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BULLETS?!?

My shield, my regeneration, and my face-exploding fist all combine and allow me to prevail. I must say though, I have to really admire the terrorists for their unbreakable morale:

staronchest_viper_morale.jpg

Hey there. Do you remember a few seconds ago how this room was full of your friends and not dead bodies? Are you positive you want to keep fighting? Yes? You do want more fight? Okay then. Hold still. This might sting so bad that you die.

After I’m done clearing out the vestibule, I move on to the lab where I meet…

Right behind the big power armor is Dr. Klaus, my target.
Right behind the big power armor is Dr. Klaus, my target.

Power Armor thus dispatched, nothing stands between me and Dr. Klaus.

staronchest_viper_klaus.jpg

So. Hi there. You’re the bad guy? You look sort of scientist-y. Do we fight or… ?

As I approach, a message appears:

staronchest_viper_redstone.jpg

Klaus is actually Redstone!

Oh no! It’s…

Er. Who?

I mean, seriously. What? Who the hell is Redstone and why do I care?

This is like earlier in the game when the brain told me he was the cloned brain I was looking for. Are the writers just confused? Are they leaving things out? Are we missing a mission in here someplace? The game acts like this is a huge reveal, and despite reading the quests, I’ve never seen the name “Redstone” before now.

It’s also possible that the designers mistakenly assume I own, play, or give a crap about the Pen and Paper version of this setting.

“There is no need for this disguise any longer!”, he tells me.

Actually, I don’t really see the point of the disguise to begin with. I mean, I came in and you took it off. What were you trying to accomplish with that? Are you just really proud of the costume? What was it like, coming in to work every day disguised as an evil scientist when you’re really an evil ninja… thing?

I can imagine what the conversations must have been like around here:

HENCH THE HENCHMAN: Redstone! I have a report that-

REDSTONE: What? Who? I am Dr. Klaus.

HENCH: I… Look sir, do we have to do this right now? I mean, there aren’t even any superheroes around.

REDSTONE: CALL ME DR. KLAUS!

HENCH: (sighing.) Right. Sorry. “Dr. Klaus.” I have a report that a superhero is on his way. So, you might want to, you know, do your thing and kill him.

REDSTONE: How could a lowly scientist like myself ever hope to face a superhero?

HENCH: (Gives a halfhearted shrug.) You got me. I have no idea.

REDSTONE: You’d need a mighty supervillain to face a superhero!

HENCH: Okay. Fine. So… if you happen to bump into Redstone at some point…

REDSTONE: (nods approvingly.)

HENCH: …you could give him the message?

REDSTONE: Yes! I will pass along your message to the mighty Redstone if I see him!

HENCH: Great. Do you have any… I mean… Did Redstone mention having any other orders for us the last time you spoke with him?

REDSTONE: Yes. Redstone demands you take the tank outside and use it to guard the front door!

HENCH: We can’t. The only door in or out is the personnel door.

(Pause.)

HENCH: The tank can’t fit.

REDSTONE: Curses!

Anyway, Redstone stops being disguised and we fight.

staronchest_viper_redstone2.jpg

I don’t want to seem like a flatterer, Redstone, but I must say your head has fantastic acoustics. I could listen to the sound of me slamming my fist into the side of your idiotic skull all day long.

staronchest_viper_redstone3.jpg

What? You’re laying down? Are you sleepy? Okay then. Why don’t you go ahead and take a nap?

I return to Dr. Severisen and he lets me know that we (meaning me) are all done here. He suggests I head to Millennium City and speak with Defender.

Whew. Finally! Yeah. Let’s head for the city.

Next Time: The City of The Future!

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201838 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Mr. Snugglesworth says:

    Another good one.

    Also, Redstone? What type of name is that?

  2. Polecat says:

    Yeah, I wondered who Redstone was too, and I HAVE played the pen and paper version!

    An aside. Viper was around a LONG time in the pen and paper game, it’s their main villain group, so this isn’t CO making silly jokes, this is them using the IP in this instance. Plus, Viper is EVERYWHERE!! They’re the biggest villain group in the game, and literally in every map (save, I think, Lemuria). Get used to the funky yellow and green, you’ll be seeing a lot of it. ^_^

  3. Rob says:

    While I enjoy reading these entries I can’t help but feel justified in my decision to not play this game.

  4. Joshua says:

    Viper’s been around since 1981 (first publication of Champions), Cobra only since 1982 (G.I. Joe cartoon, when they decided that they needed a make-believe enemy to fight). If Viper’s a rip-off, it’s probably of the super-agent organization Hydra, from Marvel comics. So for once, the designers aren’t doing a half-assed joke…not that there’s any way for most players to tell the difference.

  5. toasty says:

    I love these. Can’t wait for the City.

  6. GEBIV says:

    Good writing Shamus. You make me laugh so much that I cry.

  7. MelTorefas says:

    Ok, this is going to plague me now. Who IS Redstone?

  8. Pickly says:

    Because combat in this game is basically a time sink with no reward, it’s common for players to run into a group of foes, destroy the equipment being guarded, and then jog away without ever making any effort to engage the enemy.

    Combat isn’t fun enough to just do it anyway?

  9. Groboclown says:

    I really like this series. The only thing missing from this episode is the word “pants”, probably because everyone was wearing some for once.

  10. Henebry says:

    I really love the idea that Dr. Severisen could handle the group all by himself, but instead he’s hanging out on the doorstep handing out quests to passing superheroes.

    Really, it makes the thing feel like a hokey game run by a cub scout troop.

  11. Brian says:

    Combat isn’t fun enough to just do it anyway?

    Sometimes, it’s just not. The relative strengths and weaknesses of a combat system can make or break a game; I quit World of Warcraft in frustration after 3 months, while I’ve racked up nearly 3 years of Veteran’s Time on my City of Heroes account despite long since running out of content that doesn’t involve kicking things in the face. Likewise, my girlfriend is the opposite; she loathes City of Heroes’ combat, and dropped it when her trial ran out.

    People either do what they enjoy, or what they’re rewarded for. Do these guys give good rewards? No. Am I going to enjoy fighting them? No. Then why bother?

  12. LintMan says:

    What does it sound like when you punch Redstone in the head? I think it’d be fun if it had a cowbell sound. Either the “Don’t Fear The Reaper”-type “more cowbell”, or the actual clangety kind a cow wearing one might make. Hmm – that might be even enough to get me to try the game.

  13. Amarsir says:

    With the “run around looking for guys with floating question marks” technique of mission acquisition, and text I needed to skip for my own sanity, I figured I just missed the Redstone (and “floating brain I was looking for”) clues. However, it’s been reassuring (and hilarious) to know that you didn’t see any lead-up either.

  14. SolkaTruesilver says:

    @Amarsir

    It might be rewarding (in term of mere causality sanity, not in term of writing quality sanity) to pick up the clues of the quests you receive/achieve, and only keep on going questing on this path of clues, so you don’t make quests too ahead of time.

    But then, it might actually force you to read the mission statements.

    Like in Dwarf Fortress, you don’t necessarely have to read every single world story events to enjoy the game. However, there might be less causality questionning about why the elves are attacking you while you live in the middle of the toundra. Depends on how much you want to have “all the answers answered AFTER you hear the question” or not.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I too enjoy the series,even though Im not playing the game.Keep up the good work.

    But as a superhero,shouldnt you be just knocking the baddies unconscious instead of killing them?Doesnt the fact that they are up and about when the next superhero comes support this?

  16. nilus says:

    I really am surprised that this game even uses the Champions universe. I figured they would just use it as name recognition instead of calling it City of Heroes 2.

    I have played in a bunch of Champions(later Heroes Systems) games and I never once had anyone run the game using the default setting. The point of the system was that you could make just about any type of superhero(assuming you had a slide rule to do all the math involved).

    When people I knew ran it, they would either take the flexibility to either run the game in there own home brewed supers world(where the players didn’t have to play second fiddle to some bigger better guys), or they would just run it in many of the other super universe that are usually better written then the Champion material was(Marvel, DC, Astro City, etc)

  17. Yar Kramer says:

    What, you call THAT “lots of bullets”!? I think Star On Chest needs to do a Google image search for “bullet hell” or “Touhou screenshot”.

    ….

    Just thought I’d point out the existence of a completely different genre and type of gameplay. ;)

  18. datarat says:

    I’m not an MMO guy, but I really do look forward to these. They’re a good laugh, and I didn’t even have to buy the game.

  19. krellen says:

    How long did you stick with City of Heroes, Shamus?

    @Nilus: Cryptic no longer owns the City of Heroes IP. They can’t just make “City of Heroes 2”.

    • Shamus says:

      krellen: You know, I can’t remember how long I was in CoH, although I do remember it was almost exactly a year ago. I was doing my CoH comic series when the Halloween event came around and changed the world to perma-night. I just had the same problem with this LP. (I took a couple of weeks off from Champs, because I was working on the City section when Bloodmood began. Luckily I had a couple of weeks of buffer, so the series was uninterrupted.)

  20. Jason says:

    I love these as well, they’re funny.

    That said, this sounds like a truly horrible game.

  21. Heron says:

    @Shamus: “I can’t injure people unless I’m invading their personal space, so I don’t have any choice but to wade in and fight everyone at once.”

    You could do what I do… go at the groups from an angle, so you aggro one group at a time.

    Then again, if you don’t have ranged powers that might be a little hard. I think I’ve complained about the lack of balance between melee and ranged heroes… the Hero Games are literally impossible to win if you’re a melee-based hero.

  22. Rutskarn says:

    When I saw “Lt. Douglas McKenzie”, I think I scoffed up a lung.

  23. Jason: I’m pretty sure Shamus wouldn’t still be playing it if it was awful. ;) CO is a very very fun game set in a horribly silly universe, mostly. I would put the combat in CO as the second best I’ve played (DDO being the best), the character builder is spectacular (the actual skills/powers/enhancements bit, not just the costume designer), and the game is a lot of fun.

    It’s also incredibly easy to mock. ;)

  24. krellen says:

    I have to admit to finding these posts painful, Shamus, but I think it’s the bitterness of half my VG in CoH leaving for this. :D

  25. OEP says:

    @shamus. You pick stuff up and throw them to pull groups a few at a time.

  26. TSED says:

    Uhhh, ALL block powers reduce the same amount of damage.

    Except for electric shield’s, which reduces a little less melee damage. And is part B of why no one takes it (part A being it’s not force shield).

  27. Zaxares says:

    You know, I’m tempted to play CoH JUST to see Dr. Severisen go postal on the Viper base. XD

  28. inafish says:

    Hi Shamus,

    I’ve been involved the development of an MMO-style section for a website aimed at kids, where they can go on quests and interact with characters and such. From this experience, I can tell you that Redstone probably suffered from this problem:

    Someone came up with the name and design for Redstone, then asked a writer to come up with a backstory that would be given to the player in dialogue leading up to the encounter. The writer did so, the text was uploaded into the game or whatever you technical types do with old-fashioned text, and everything made perfect sense.

    Then someone else (I like blaming marketing executives) came along, took a look at a couple of screenshots of the game and decided that there was too much text. So the writer was asked to cut out as much as possible, and then that text was cut some more. And somewhere along the line, Redstone’s backstory was lost for ever.

    I’m not saying this is what happened, but it could have. Or alternatively, the character could come from the pen&paper version, of course.

  29. Dennis says:

    These vignettes are awesome – I have a mighty laugh at each one – PLEASE keep them coming.

    thanks

  30. Artillery_MKV says:

    Redstone kicked my butt multiple times before I outlevelled him and came back. But then I didn’t have regeneration . . ..

  31. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I can’t believe this joke didn’t come up so I’m going to indulge myself:
    THIS IS NO ORDINARY KLAUS!

    Also, while I’m not into this game at all I love those and hope they’ll keep coming, and from other titles when this one runs out of content to make fun of.

  32. Oleyo says:

    Isnt Redstone the rocket Von Braun’s team made after they were grabbed from germany? I think it was used as the top stage for the rocket that sent the explorer satellite up (the US answer to sputnik)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redstone_%28rocket%29

  33. RudeMorgue says:

    I’ve finally given up on Champions, sadly. The combination of ludicrously silly quests and the fact that to level another character, you have no choice but to do exactly the same ludicrously silly quests kinda killed any replay value for me.

    That, plus Lemuria is pretty but comes off like an aquarium that somebody dropped a box of random quests in by accident.

  34. Danath says:

    OH GOD WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BULLETS?!

    I want to meet Star on Chest in this game, I have a couple of mid 20s characters myself.

    Personally I enjoy the game, I like making outfits and flying around smashing stuff, plus i like the costumes, to me fundamentally it’s no different than any other MMO I have played in terms of pve, same content, but I get to enjoy my characters so much more.

    At least for now.

  35. hgmE says:

    I’ve been reading your let’s play, and Rutskarn’s morrowind one as well. I’ve been so moved that I started one of my own. If you find the time, please tell me it sucks so I can stop doing it and get back to more productive activities.

  36. MidnightDStroyer says:

    Quoted from waaaay up above, in the comic? / article? itself, when meeting Dr. Karl Severisen under his…Just an overhead tarp on top of poles is supposed to be a tent?:
    “And is the bush supposed to be in here with you?”

    I dunno…Maybe it’s supposed to be his bathroom or something.

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