A Star is Born:
Let’s Play Champions Online Pt. 11

By Shamus
on Dec 1, 2009
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

I return to Socrates for my next assignment.

staronchest_socrates2.jpg

Socrates has a job for me all right. He explains…

And I know better than to ask you to believe this without a screenshot. So, in order that you may bear witness, and believe:

staronchest_kountry.jpg

This one is a little perplexing and I have to go over it with Socrates just to make absolutely sure that the crazy person in this conversation isn’t me.

Okay, so let me get this straight: Foxbat stole the comics, in order to remove them from circulation.

Correct, human.

Okay. Then Foxbat – and maybe I heard you wrong here – but it sounded like you said Foxbat left them on the ground? Right outside the comic-book shop?

Again, your recollection matches the events as they are recorded in my database.

But Foxbat didn’t, like, keep them or burn them or leave nasty creases in all the covers?

To my knowledge, all of the back issues are intact.

So how about the shop owner walks outside, picks up the books, and puts them back on the shelf? This doesn’t sound like a superhero-level problem. I mean… the car fires and the prison break… There are other problems in the city, is all I’m saying. This isn’t even a heist. This is just… littering.

Foxbat has left his battlebots behind at the scene of the crime.

Waitwaitwaitwait. So you’re telling me that there are killer robots loose in this public place with civilians around, and you’re sending me to save the comic books?

Please return to me once the comics are safe.

Are you sure you’re working right? Is there a tech support number I can call?

Also, Foxbat has kidnapped comic book writer Steve Short and artist Deano Deschesne in order to force them to make comic books about him.

Oh? So he took them back to his hideout or…?

No, they're still in the parking lot with the comic books.

So it’s probably more accurate to say that he’s considering kidnapping them.

Good luck Star on Chest.

Fine. Bye.

A short flight later I arrive at the comic book store.

Background: We’re here to stop this place from going out of business.  Looks like we might be about a decade late. Right: A man is fleeing from the battlebots. But screw him, we’re here to save the funny books.
Background: We’re here to stop this place from going out of business. Looks like we might be about a decade late. Right: A man is fleeing from the battlebots. But screw him, we’re here to save the funny books.

Great. I’ve arrived just in time to rescue comic books from being slightly misplaced by evil robots so that the illiterate comic store in the condemned building can continue to serve the slums of Millennium City. At least until the robots kill everyone.

The forces of Foxbat consist of foam-fingered fanboys and robotic stage equipment.

Look, I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, OKAY? Sheesh.  Why can’t you ever just trust me?
Look, I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, OKAY? Sheesh. Why can’t you ever just trust me?

And by “robotic stage equipment” I mean “robots with cameras and microphones for heads”.

staronchest_battlebots1.jpg

The cameras have a special attack where they zap you with a ribbon of film, after which your character is immobilized. The immobilization takes the form of sparkles and flashbulbs going off while you flex and pose for the cameras. And the enemies beat on you.

The fanboys are more dangerous than you’d expect for scrawny guys that hit you with big foam fingers, which ought to pose the same threat as a caged houseplant.

staronchest_battlebots2.jpg

I scuffle with the robots and the fanboys. Eventually I get a little spot cleared off. After making sure nobody is looking, I rescue a box of comics. One box of ten.

staronchest_comics.jpg

Ten? Are there even ten boxes in the parking lot?

No, not as such. With other supers flying all over the place doing the same mission, competition for comics is furious. Don’t do this one as part of a team, because you don’t share comics. So you’ll need 10xN boxes, where N is the number of people on your team. Respawn rates being what they are, you’ll be at this one for quite a while on a team.

And if your team meets another team doing the same mission… Well, I hope you went with the lifetime subscription plan, because you’re going to be in the parking lot for a long, long time.

I rescue the writer and artist, and gather up a big ol’ stack of back comic books for the comic store. Now they won’t go out of business because they’re out of stock, and will be free to go out of business because of any of the other dozen or so things that are wrong with the place. So the city has that going for it now.

A word about XP here. Earlier in the series I said that combat gave very little XP. I’m level 16, and it’s just about 158,000xp from this level to the next. Each fanboy (which are admittedly a level below me) I put down is worth just 65xp. I’d have to knock out well over 2,000 of them to level. For contrast, turning in a level-appropriate quest in going to net me between 10,000xp and 15,000xp. If the quest has me fight 20 guys in the process of completing the quest (which is about what I’m doing here) then (very) roughly 8% of my XP will come from combat.

Other games seem to have this inverted, and quests are just a way of organizing combat and directing you to level-appropriate foes. In the other MMO’s I’ve played, combat seems to form a significant portion of your overall XP, perhaps even a majority. In Lord of the Rings Online, it seems like about 100 foes will advance you to the next level at this same point in the game. (A level sixteen character.) I suspect World of Warcraft isn’t too different.

What’s strange about this setup is that the combat in Champions Online is a blast. This is one game where I wouldn’t mind grinding (fighting the same guys in the same area over and over) in order to to level. It’s fun sweeping the streets, but the reward for doing so is so very tiny.

I’m not sure why combat was so de-emphasized here. It’s not a horrible decision, and there aren’t any cases where you must grind (at least until level 30, which is as far as I’ve gone) to progress, it’s just odd.

Actually, I guess the oddness goes both ways: Other games have far better stories but more boring combat, and you’re forced to do a lot more combat. Champions has fantastic combat but the writing is infantile, but you’re forced to do the missions if you want to get anywhere.

In both cases we have games that give you a strong incentive to do the least interesting stuff.

Having said that, it really is hard for me to enjoy standard MMO combat after playing Champions Online.

Let’s head back to Socrates and see what the bats in his boot-drive want me to do next.

Yeah… a flame “retard<strong>e</strong>nt” costume.
Yeah… a flame “retardent” costume.

Now we’re getting somewhere! Let’s face off against this guy at long last and punish him for all the really trivial bullshit he’s nearly inflicted on the city.

A few minutes later I arrive at WCOC studios. It’s just on the other side of the toppled building and fifty burning cars.

staronchest_wcoc.jpg

Fine. We’re at the station. Now… how do I get in? The main entrance? No. The other main entrance? Not that either. Not the garage doors in back. Not the roof. Not the side door.

In World of Warcraft, you can go to the Barrens just about any time of the day or night find a befuddled player spamming chat with “where is Mankriks wife?” The Champions Online equivalent is the stream of people asking how to get into WCOC. The actual door isn’t hidden, but it seems to confound people anyway. It’s actually beside several larger, more prominent doors.

staronchest_wcoc_doors.jpg

After wandering around outside, peering in windows and jiggling doorknobs, I manage to find one that’s open. Good thing Foxbat didn’t lock this door, because I’m way too polite to bust it down in the process of saving a TV station from… whatever it is that’s happening here. I step inside the disused rusty fire door and…

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… find myself on the other side of a slick modern glass door in a swank lobby. Ubuhwhat? Did I do that wrong?

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Hello? Anyone home? I knocked and it was open so…

Suddenly we cut to the studio to see…

staronchest_wcoc_studio.jpg

Ah Foxbat. There have only been two animated cutscenes previous to this one. The first was Ironclad launching himself at the alien mothership, and the second was at the finale of the crisis zone where we fought captain suitpants and his energy blades of pinkness. Yeah. I’m not hunting around, looking for silly stuff in some obscure Easter-egg sidequest. This is one of the central quest-lines in the game and a place where time and effort were spent on scripting and voice acting.

The newscast Foxbat is interrupting is a rip-off of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Every character in the news studio (aside from the bad guys) is a slightly altered version of a character from the cast of Anchorman. But that’s as far as it goes. The game doesn’t go on to do any jokes, satirize the movie, or say anything interesting.

Like all of the “humor” surrounding Foxbat, the game tries to remind you of things that you may have found funny elsewhere without telling any jokes of its own. Winking at the audience and paying homage is something you do while telling jokes, not instead of.

Foxbat! That maker of mild mischief! He’ll never get away with trespassing on studio property and interrupting a news broadcast. Actually, I guess he already got away with that. Well, I came all the way to the studio. Might as well beat him up while I’m here.

Foxbot fanboys throw these yellow triangles at you if you’re overhead or at a distance. I always thought that the triangles were those folded paper footballs, but now that I’ve gotten a close look at them in a still shot I have to say they’re very clearly I don’t know what the hell.
Foxbot fanboys throw these yellow triangles at you if you’re overhead or at a distance. I always thought that the triangles were those folded paper footballs, but now that I’ve gotten a close look at them in a still shot I have to say they’re very clearly I don’t know what the hell.

So here he is. The dumbass himself. Although, for all his ranting about wanting to be on TV he hasn’t bothered to step in FRONT of the cameras yet.

staronchest_foxbat4.jpg

I notice fans of the P&P game / setting really dig Foxbat. Either this is a case of some people having strange tastes, or this is yet another case where the game borrows a funny character and then doesn’t do anything with them. Judging by the number of Foxbat fans I’ve heard from during this series, the P&P Foxbox must be clever and funny in a Mystery Men / The Incredibles kind of way. Sadly, the Foxbat of the videogame isn’t nearly as amusing or witty. He’s hopelessly lame. He might work as a foil for The Tick, but that’s only because The Tick does a lot of the comedic heavy lifting. Foxbat himself doesn’t bring any jokes to the table.

That is unless “is silly” is a self-contained joke in your view. Here is how the fight goes…

Foxbat opens the fight with a gun that blows a bubble. It looks kind of like bubble gum.

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Whoops. It IS bubble gum. And when it pops, I’m trapped in gum.

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And then a huge weight falls out of hammerspace and zonks me on my exceptionally heroic and handsome head.

staronchest_foxbat5.jpg

And once I get out of that he hits me with a stink cloud.

staronchest_foxbat6.jpg

Finally I am angry. Okay Foxbat. Prepare to face my ULTIMATE WEAPON!

staronchest_foxbat7.jpg

…which is also my regular weapon. Which is just hitting people.

Hey, sue me. It may not be the most creative solution, but it works, okay?

staronchest_foxbat8.jpg

/spit

Suddenly I feel an intense sensation of shame. I feel like the bully who just got caught picking on a little girl. Like the guy caught taunting the “retarded kid”.

Rob Mahogany wants to congratulate me on a job well done. Everyone is so happy that I saved them. Saved them from this Wile E. Coyote style villain. And what does that make me, I ask you. WHAT DOES THAT MAKE ME?!?!

I run out of the studio hiding my face in my hands, screaming “Leave me alone! Just leave me alone!”

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A while later I’m up on the roof of a building having one of those “inner turmoil” moments. It always seems so cool when Batman or Spider-Man do it. Then again, Batman is usually obsessing over his dead parents and Spider-Man is in anguish because he’s worried about his aunt. I’m upset because I was just in a battle that would have made the Three Stooges look like the Fight Club.

I really think this place is starting to get to me.

NEXT TIME: Will our hero quit in shame?

Well… WILL HE?!?!

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20205Feeling chatty? There are 45 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Yonder says:

    Forget about the burning cars. Star On Chest is the true victim here.

  2. Glazius says:

    And the final mission from Socrates is “get into my virtual system and delete the viral code that keeps flagging every case report with ‘Foxbat’ in it as priority OH GOD THE PLANET IS GOING TO EXPLODE”?

    Please?

    Collapsing buildings, cars on fire, chaos in the streets, and they send you after Foxbat.

  3. RudeMorgue says:

    Sadly, this quote sums up the entire game:

    “Like all of the “humor” surrounding Foxbat, the game tries to remind you of things that you may have found funny elsewhere without telling any jokes of its own. Winking at the audience and paying homage is something you do while telling jokes, not instead of.”

    I dug it for a while, but that humor vacuum behind all of the content managed to suck the enjoyment out of the game for me. Back to WoW, I’d imagine (after Dragon Age).

  4. Chuk says:

    Foxbat was mildly amusing in the P&P game, mostly in the rulebooks and the comic book series. I don’t think I ever used him in an actual game though.

    I only did the very first tutorial mission with him so far and that was kind of boring.

  5. Brian says:

    Maybe he’ll just quit and come back to City of Heroes, eh? ;)

  6. Triggerhappy938 says:

    Noooo! You can’t quit! Not until you hit the level cap, at least! You’re suffering sustains me!

  7. Psychoceramics says:

    Ha, I had the same issue with that stupid door. After making several laps of the building and finding nothing, I resorted to asking the Internet. How I wish this post was here last thursday when I did the quest.

    As far as quests vs. exp, WoW is more quest-oriented than combat, but it’s not as if the combat gives trivial amounts of XP. When you hit the 70-80 range, mobs will give 1k xp, and the average quest will give 20k. With rested experience, mobs go up to 2k xp per kill. You can only have, at most, 1.5 levels worth of rested xp stored up, but in newer content you can easily go 3 or 4 levels and never leave rested state. The majority of your xp comes from quests, although this has probably less to do with decentivizing combat and more with stacking quest objectives together.

  8. chabuhi says:

    Did you ever do a Pirates of the Burning Seas series? I smell comedy gold there, though I don’t think you could tolerate the tedium of it long enough to have a meaningful series. Also, I don’t even know if their servers a still even lit. Whatever the case, I predict SoC will quit CO – in fact, I’m surprised you’ve tolerated it as long as you have.

  9. Patrick says:

    Yeah, I liked PnP Foxbat, but there he was a minor side character, a rather likable goof who really didn’t cause any trouble. He was sort of like the Emperor of San Francisco (see the website link). Ssuperheroes tolerated him (some grudgingly, some lovingly) and he never hurt anybody.

    However, he was never the villain of a major adventure. He might show up to harass you between serious superheroing. he was actually a decent gadgeteer if you needed a hand in that department (I mean, he’d practically leap to help you). Basically, we’re talking about a nice appetizer, not a desert course. And he definitely didn’t have fanboys or battlebots attacking superheroes.

  10. Alastair says:

    Shamus: In the last yellow box aside, you refer to Foxbat as “Foxbox”. I was amused.

  11. Someboringguy says:

    Couldn’t someone start a thread on their forums in the sugestions area (I hope they have one) about the xp that you get by killing enemies?

  12. asterismW says:

    I like how Socrates had to tell you the WCOC Television Station was the one with “all the transmission dishes on the roof.” As if the 50′ letters weren’t enough of a giveaway. Or perhaps you might confuse the gigantic dishes as belonging to some baddie’s secret lair, transmitting instructions to his zombie horde in the next solar system.

  13. Artillery_MKV says:

    While the Foxbat storyline is silly and rather obnoxious, I’d note that the missions do get less silly (barring some terrible puns)[and a few exceptions] from that point on.

  14. Rick Tacular says:

    At least City of Heroes’ humor was subtle. And humorous.

  15. RichVR says:

    Yeah. I did the comic related quests on one character. Skipped it on the alts. Too annoying. And I love this game.

  16. Pickly says:

    Guild Wars is also quite quest oriented (At least in the leveling up stages, after hitting level 20 experience isn’t an issue any more.) Prophecies is maybe less so, but factions and nightfall do seem to give more experience from missions/quests.

    As for us not believing the comic book quest, you probably could have just put a yellow box saying “Believe it or not, this is an actual quest”. Though this version is probably funnier. :)

  17. Does anyone remember the “fighting killer mimes while on the back of a tricycle” scene in No One Lives Forever 2?

    Now THAT was funny.

    I laugh as I read through the adventures of Star on Chest. But it’s a painful, groaning kind of laugh.

    Leslee

  18. krellen says:

    Thank you, Shamus, for letting me see what I am not missing by passing on the latest fad.

    I think I’m having far more fun stacking desks to build nooks and rooms in CoX’s base editor than I would playing through quests like these.

  19. Heron says:

    What annoys me most are the puns that they never do anything with.

    I did rather enjoy the pirate puns in Lemuria… but the pirates are around level 38, so you might not have been there.

  20. SoldierHawk says:

    Oh what a fantastic installment! I had said before that I wasn’t a huge fan of this particular LP, but this episode just won me over. I LOL’ed several times, and now I want to try the game.

    Thanks for making me spend more money Shamus, you pocket-picker! :D

  21. Rosewire says:

    Honestly, I didn’t catch the references in the Foxbat mission there at all. Never seen Anchorman. But I’ve noticed others elsewhere. But WoW does the same thing, so no big deal. Today in Dalaran I saw a shark in the sewers. Its name? Segaceedie. Yeah, its more subtle, but still, a weird pun/reference is still a weird pun/reference.

  22. Mistwraithe says:

    I haven’t posted about Star on Chest before but thought it was time I said it is excellent entertainment Shamus! Good job.

  23. Daf says:

    In World of Warcraft, you can go to the Barrens just about any time of the day or night find a befuddled player spamming chat with “where is Mankrik’s wife?”

    Although they usually ask about Mankirk’s wife :)
    No idea why it’s more commonly misspelled that way than spelled correctly; it’s probably less of a typo and more to do with the brain interpreting the way the name sounds… “kirk” sounds better than “krik” I guess?

    After SoC quits in shame can it be Dwarf Fortress time?

  24. Sam says:

    I do believe this series would be more entertaining than playing through the game myself. Keep up the hilariously awesome work!

  25. thedeadeye says:

    Nooooo, don’t quit! Monster Island awaits!

  26. SharpeRifle says:

    Strangely enough this mission actually provided my first source of true humor in the game.

    Sadly in keeping with its “we just think we are funny” theme it wasn’t because of the “jokes”.

    When I defeated Foxbat I got a random item drop called…

    (wait for it)

    Colossal Choke.

    I laughed for far too long.

  27. Dev Null says:

    Ok, the comic book quest is so stupid I’m almost back around to wanting to play the game again, but I’m afraid your analogy to beating up the retarded kid is just too apt. I half want to play _in_ this DisneyLand-on-ecstacy world that you describe, but I think I’d be a bit ashamed of myself to play _against_ it…

  28. J Greely says:

    SharpeRifle, the random item generator does indeed come up with some howlers. My favorite to date: “Transistor DNA”, using the same icon as the commonly-encountered “Animal DNA” and “Alien DNA”.

    -j

  29. Ryan says:

    This actually gives me something to look forward to on my sucky Tuesdays. While I push carts at the walmart parking lot, I can chortle in anticipation of what I will be reading when I get home.

  30. Conlaen says:

    I know you really enjoy the game and all and i was really thinking of at least giving the game a try at some point, but the game is just too slapstick. I would never be able to take my super hero seriously if this is the kind of thing you keep running into.

  31. Adam C says:

    The game can actually be amazingly fun, and I haven’t regretted buying it one bit.

    Snake Gulch, the Stronghold Prison Break, Area 51, and Project Stein in the Desert, Telios Tower, Argent Corp, the higher level Hunter-Patriot and Viper, and the Gadroon in Canada, the gang wars and PSI and Argent’s plots in Millennium City, and of course pretty much everything on Monster Island are awesome.

  32. Zaxares says:

    I seriously cracked up laughing at the Fanboys with their giant foam fingers. I’m awfully tempted to get this game so I can laugh my ass off at how corny it is. XD

  33. You’ve saved their game from the pits of humourlessness-ness…ness by posting some of the most fantastically hilarious articles on the game’s stupidity. I’m loving this series. Oh, by the way, you may want to surround your hammerspace link with massive warnings about the blackhole that is tvtropes (I still haven’t escaped).

  34. Hal says:

    It sounds like this game is the joke. The punchline? Well, let’s just say there’s some game designers somewhere who are enjoying it at your expense.

    As for real-world references, WoW does most of its references through NPCs that have take-off names, such as the socialite Haris Pilton or the flight master Ophera Windfury.

    Although there are some quests that act as homages. There are plenty of quest lines in Un’Goro Crater that are endless references to classic NES games, such as the quest to help Linkin (which gets you his ‘Sword of Mastery’), or the two NPCs in the sanctuary, Larion and Muigin.

  35. Girl Gamer says:

    I still fail to see the draw of this game, but your excellent skewering of it keeps me entertained. :)

  36. Aufero says:

    The game is actually pretty fun, if you’re into coming up with odd character concepts and trying out combinations of different powers. (Of course, that would be more entertaining if the powers were better balanced. They’re working on that, but they have a LOT of work left to do.)

    I can’t defend the writing, though. This is the first MMO in which I’ve given up reading quest descriptions at all. “Yeah, yeah – you’ve lost a thingamajig and you’ve got some lame excuse why you need a superhero instead of looking through your pockets. I’ll just head to the green circle on the map and look for shinies/beat people up.”

  37. Aven says:

    Once again, great. More please.

  38. Heron says:

    The latest patch broke the UNITY missions (for people that have hit the level cap) pretty badly… so I started a new character.

    Oh, and Shamus, I seem to remember you complaining that you wanted them to sell you additional character slots for your account. Check the game store; they’ll sell you a few more slots for a few hundred CPs or whatever they’re called. I don’t remember whether the 400 they give you to start with are enough.

  39. Andy says:

    Those yellow throwing things they toss at you must be “foxbatarangs”. I mean, what else could you call them? Ugh.

  40. Eidolon says:

    Foxbat in the P&P game can be a pretty funny character. His shtick is all about breaking the fourth wall. He’s unapologetically meta. He’s also pretty harmless, really. Still not a bad hand with the gadgets, but he’s just a gonzo weird type of guy, not really a threat to anyone. More an annoyance.

    This works pretty well in a P&P game where the tone is mostly somewhat serious and there’s an attempt to create a sense of immersion. (One of my favorites: Foxbat for President. An adventure in which, surprise, Foxbat runs for President. His motto: “Making America Fun Again!” Zombie ex-Presidents are also involved.)

    It doesn’t work so well when he’s surrounded by an environment in which *EVERYTHING* is breaking the fourth wall and being knowingly self-referential. Hell, in the mission you’re talking about, Foxbat is essentially a straight man for the Anchorman references. That’s just wrong.

    He’s still insanity turned up to 11, either way, but in CO, especially around this level range, there’s so much background insanity that it just loses its effect.

    Foxbat is used to much better effect a little later on in a Dr. Destroyer arc. Ironically, it’s a place where he’s actually serious, after his fashion. (Still cracking jokes, obviously, but there’s a very serious undercurrent.) It’s much better writing than he gets in his earlier appearances.

  41. Nevyrmoore says:

    You know, I was going to try this game out at some point. But between the broken skills, the batshit insane quests, the fact that XP from fighting is slim to jack, and the fact that everything that’s meant to be funny, isn’t…I’ve been put off. Which is a complete shame because I like the sound of the fighting system itself.

    Ah well, maybe I’ll give it another look when they actually fix things. Or when they come out with something like City of Villains.

  42. Rayen says:

    i’m really waiting for a superhero supervillian game that makes the villian a real threat like he kills some one or something. hell the average marvel universe disaster invloves the death of hundreds in not thousands in this it just seems like all civilians are severly inconvienced. do the innocents ever actually get hurt? or because it’s trying to be silly, do anvils get dropped and heads and the people walk away paper thin with a funny expression on their now 2D face?

  43. Matt says:

    Shamus,

    When you play one of the AE power sets you can really up your xp from kills. But have to agree that it is very skewed. Played for a while, but was just never anything there to keep me in the game. Pity, had a lot of potential.

  44. When no one was looking, Foxbat took ten comics books.
    He took 10 comic books.
    That’s as many as five twos.

    And that’s terrible.

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