A Star is Born:
Let’s Play Champions Online Pt. 13

By Shamus
on Dec 15, 2009
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

Against my better judgment I am once again working for Socrates. Shockingly, my current job doesn’t have me rushing to the site of a catastrophe to deal with the least pressing problem. The usual Socrates job goes something like, “Viper agents have stormed a local nursing home and are converting the residents into mildly senile cybernetic shock troopers. Please hurry there and make sure none of the Viper assault vehicles are double-parked.”

But this one has me going to an area of the city and getting rid of the Viper forces I find. As always, Viper does a lot more loitering than terrorizing, but at least they’re striving to be some sort of respectable threat in this city. That’s gotta count for something.

staronchest_viper2.jpg

I dispense the requested supply of justice and return to Socrates. I explain how things went and Socrates thanks me for my ongoing-

HI THERE I SAW SOME BAD GUYS RIGHT OVER THERE SO PLEASE GO BEAT THEM UP BECAUSE THEY LOOKED SCARY.
HI THERE I SAW SOME BAD GUYS RIGHT OVER THERE SO PLEASE GO BEAT THEM UP BECAUSE THEY LOOKED SCARY.

Gah! What? Who has just run up to me and begun shouting in my ear?

Ah. It’s a citizen in need. Sigh.

The “help a citizen” quests. 99% of the time they pop up when you’re turning in a quest. You’ll be sitting there, considering the list of quest rewards and trying to figure out which one is the least useless, when all of a sudden the entire dialog blinks away and is replaced by a dialog with some citizen who has just run up to you. They will mention that they saw some “suspicious activity”, and say it happened “right over there”. In this case “right over there” means “on the other side of the city, miles away from any other meaningful quest location”.

There are several “help a citizen” jobs, but they all have several things in common:

1) Always involve going into some instanced map and fighting a bunch of dudes.
2) Lots and lots of combat. (And remember combat is a time-sink in this game.)
3) Usually far away.
4) They have an imposed time limit of half an hour, so you can’t just take the quest when offered and plan to look into it when you’re in the neighborhood.
5) They are slightly more time consuming than the average mission.
6) They are worth absolute crap for XP, usually about 1/3 to 1/4 of the yield from other level-appropriate quests.

staronchest_quest3.jpg

I borrow a pen and a notebook from the distraught citizen and then I listen carefully to their tale. I nod my head and take notes while they explain that they saw something vaguely suspicious on the far edge of the city, and then ran past the fields of burning cars, wrecked buildings, gang wars, and escaped supervillains, so that they could come here and give me this report about guys doing something that may not have been on the up-and-up. I ask a few questions and make sure I’ve got the details correct, and mark the location on my map. I thank the citizen for their concern and congratulate them on their keen eye and attention to detail. Clapping them on the shoulder, I send them on their way with directions to “keep safe”.

And then I ball up the notepaper and toss it over my shoulder.

No story. Long travel. Dull locations. Generic premise. Crap XP. Time limit. Can’t be shared with teammates.

There is just very little incentive to bother with these.

Moving on, I find Corporal Antoine Harrison, another police officer in need of my help.

Gentlemen, I must congratulate you on your superb taste in uniform and hair colors.
Gentlemen, I must congratulate you on your superb taste in uniform and hair colors.

Don’t worry about it, officer. I’m just grateful you’re not trying to make me an accomplice to murder.
Don’t worry about it, officer. I’m just grateful you’re not trying to make me an accomplice to murder.
At first I’m a little worried he wants me to act as an accomplice while he goes on a suicide killing spree like the last cop I dealt with, but no. This one seems okay. He’s complaining of having a headache, but otherwise his directions seem pretty reasonable. He wants me to save some pamphleteers from groups of thugs. Sounds good to me.

I’m sort of apprehensive about this job. It’s like when the movie hero says, “I have a bad feeling about this. It’s quiet…. too Quiet.” Well, this job is sane… too sane. “Save civilians from gangsters” is a perfectly good task for a superhero, and so I keep waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I fly over to the trouble site – which is delightfully nearby – and find civilians being harassed by gangsters, just like he said.

Hey bully! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size but who is also way, way stronger and bulletproof and can make force-fields and can fly? Huh? Huh!?! <em>Chicken!!!</em>
Hey bully! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size but who is also way, way stronger and bulletproof and can make force-fields and can fly? Huh? Huh!?! Chicken!!!

I return to Corporal Harrison and let him know that everything NO I DO NOT WANT TO CHECK OUT A BUNCH OF GUYS SNEAKING INTO A WAREHOUSE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CITY SO PISS OFF worked out okay and those pamphleteers are safe now. Next up, he wants me to go after the leader of the Purple Gang, Kevin Poe. Wow. Really? You’re gonna send me right to the head honcho, and not make me work my way through his entire org chart before I can face the man himself? Corporal Harrison, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to say this to an officer before without lying, but… you really are doing a good job.

Well, okay. This isn’t perfect. Poe’s inner sanctum is in the sprawling, well-lit sewer complex beneath the city, but I’m willing to overlook both the cliché and the smell for a shot at doing a mission that doesn’t put me up against someone slightly more absurd and eccentric than Willy Wonka.

staronchest_sewer.jpg

This must be the place. I’ll just open this lid, climb down…

staronchest_sewer3.jpg

…and emerge from a massive steel door. What?

staronchest_sewer2.jpg

Let’s see… Pipes? Check? Nondescript machinery? Check. Labyrinthine tunnels with requisite river of spinach smoothie? Check. Waves of idle henchmen? Check. Inexplicable presence of built-in sewer lighting to illuminate the river of ick? Check. Pointless barrels? Check.

I don’t know much about Kevin Poe, but I have to admire his lavish attention to detail. When he embraces a trope he does so with style. I am really looking forward to punching his face in.

Although, I have to say I’m not all that impressed with his outfit. It’s pretty bland by supervillain standards:

staronchest_poe1.jpg

Wow. I’ll surrender and you’ll let me work for you as one of the hundred or so low-level mooks I’ve pummeled on the way in? Sign me up! As long as I don’t have to wear purple…

Oh. Your gang is called the “New Purple Gang”? So I guess blue and yellow is out of the question? Ah well. I guess we have to fight, then.

staronchest_poe2.jpg

Your what? Dad something? Sorry. I didn’t read your backstory before I came in here. My bad.

staronchest_poe3.jpg

Wait. You’re willing to take over Millennium City? Do you have any idea how stupid and messed up this town is? I have to ask: What are you asking for in return?

And I have to admire your “hold still while I monologue a second” power.

staronchest_poe4.jpg

You are exceedingly talkative, even by supervillain standards. I think… yeah. You’re getting on my nerves now.

staronchest_poe5.jpg

Dude. You are face down in the sewer. Shut up already.

Well. Back to Corporal Harrison, I guess.

This completes a simple two-mission quest line. The Foxbat series was another quest line. Strangely, this isn’t the only quest line that involves Kevin Poe. There is another, unrelated quest line where you meet Kevin Poe in the final mission. That quest is another forced-teaming mission, so I typically put it off until I have enough levels to do it solo. Since the quest chains aren’t connected, it’s actually likely you’ll see Kevin Poe’s big introduction after you’ve had your showdown with him.

Hm.

I look around to make sure there aren’t any civilians camping nearby, waiting to gank me and hijack my dialog box as soon as I talk to Officer Harrison. After making sure the coast is clear, I rush in and initiate conversation!

Quick! Give me my quest reward before an NPC comes along!
Quick! Give me my quest reward before an NPC comes along!

He seems grateful enough.

staronchest_quest5.jpg

Nice work Harrison. Hope you get that headache thing worked out. Next up, Harrison sends me to meet with another superhero. Great. Hopefully he’ll be as diligent and sensible as Harrison himself. It turns out the hero is…

To my right: Is that officer levitating, or are his feet failing to cast a shadow?
To my right: Is that officer levitating, or are his feet failing to cast a shadow?

…Kinetik.

There’s this long awkward silence as we meet again. He doesn’t mention the whole cage incident, but I can tell he remembers and that he’s hoping I don’t bring it up. I don’t. I am sort of curious how he got loose, though. Did Ironclad save him? Defender? Clayton Griswold? I’m curious, but I don’t want to make this situation any more uncomfortable than it is.

Kinetik explains that the mayor’s daughter has been kidnapped. Okay. Sounds like pretty boilerplate superhero stuff. So far so good. Then he drops his bombshell…

staronchest_quest6.jpg

Whaaaaaaat?

Look Kinetic, Harrison is the first person I’ve met in this entire city who isn’t a complete idiot.

And yes that includes you. In particular.

And now you’re telling me that the only non-idiot on Team Justice was actually under the control of one of the bad guys. You’re killing me, here.

Fine. I’ll help him. But I’m not going to like it.

NEXT TIME: Make the stupid stop! MAKE IT STOP!

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201535 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. guy says:

    Well, CLEARLY he’s under the control of the bad guys. Otherwise he’d be wildly incompetent.

    Also, his menacing one-liners. Not big on subtlety, this game.

  2. Jamey says:

    I love this series! Even though it must be torture, I hope you keep up the playing :)

  3. Man, I was really disappointed when the word “new” was added to the phrase “Purple Gang”. Because I was hoping Star on Chest would have to confront the original Purple Gang, a group of mostly Jewish smugglers who kept Detroit supplied with hooch during Prohibition.

    Admittedly, they’re mostly dead, and those that aren’t would have to be extremely old. But you have to admit that Yiddish speaking zombie bootleggers would be better villains than some guy who wears purple.

  4. Phase says:

    Well, you know what they say: Good is dumb.

    He reminds me a little of Aaron Cash from Batman…

    EDIT: And is that a Team Fortress 2 reference I see in the last monologue from Poe? Say goodbye to your kneecaps indeed, chucklehead.

  5. JG says:

    For what it’s worth, the “Help a Citizen” missions are no longer on a timer and you can now share them with teammates. XP is still crap, though.

    Really enjoying your commentary on the game. I’ve got a liftime sub and don’t mind the goofiness, but I admit I seldom read the mission text more than once. Your take on it is hilarious.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wow!You mean that there is actually a good plot twist in this game?!Incredible.

  7. Simplex says:

    Please don’t link to tvtropes, I just lost 3 hours of my life ;)

  8. Michael says:

    I wouldn’t call it “good”…

  9. Dave says:

    “Yiddish speaking zombie bootleggers”
    ROFL

  10. J Greely says:

    It’s sad that when they actually set up a surprise and follow through on it, you end up ignoring the clues because you’ve been trained to expect nonsense in the mission text. Of course, some of Harrison’s mission text is nonsense…

    Most of my dissatisfaction with the game is tied to their poor QA and release management. A good example is how they managed to screw up the “Breaking Point” mission with an untested patch, and several weeks later haven’t bothered to either fix it or clearly document the workaround (“go search the forums” doesn’t count). Then there’s the NoName bug introduced three weeks ago by a character-editor “fix”, the “we fixed it this time for sure” level 15 bug, etc, etc.

    I’d feel better about these things if they showed signs of being ashamed of their previous sloppiness, and honest determination to do proper testing from now on, but all I see is vague trust-us statements in the forums and puff-piece interviews with someone named “Bill”.

    As for the random help-a-citizen missions, I generally do them until my character reaches the point where the standard mix of non-tough enemies just drops dead when I look at them funny. Which is pretty early for some powersets.

    -j

  11. Joshua says:

    I think they just removed the timers on the help-a-citizen missions, and doubled the XP reward. Maybe even made them sharable? I forget. Don’t know if that makes them worth doing, but it’s a step in the right direction.

  12. Jay says:

    Your comment on the smack talk reminds me of Dynasty Warriors. Various events cause a few seconds of dialog each, with new dialog queued when several happen quickly. It’s not uncommon for weak officers to give their introductory threats 20 seconds or so after they’ve died.

  13. John says:

    I notice in your last street screenshot that Star on Chest is being subtly flanked by cloned young women in identical clothes. Hmm… probably the mystery minions of some other super villain that is only about to POUNCE!

  14. foolsage says:

    Heh. I think this was the best installment yet in this series. Keep it up! :)

  15. Aufero says:

    Odd, I really like the citizen missions. Now that the time limit is gone and I don’t have to fly across the city right now, they’re a fun little break from the (usually stupid) quest line I’m working on.

  16. Syal says:

    Good to know that the supervillians care more about stopping terrorism and gang violence than the heroes.

    These are great. I’d say I wasn’t looking forward to the end, but I have no doubt the next project will be just as entertaining.

  17. Yar Kramer says:

    @Simplex: If you’re talking about “good is dumb,” it’s a line from Spaceballs. :P

    Man … speaking as someone who likes story in games, I’ve got to hand it to Champ’s … repulsiveness. If I don’t, Champ will fall over in a grotesquely not-quite-comical manner at my feet, causing me to drop it into Champ’s suddenly-outstretched hands.

  18. Rutskarn says:

    Dear Mayor,

    I have to say that the reckless rampages caused by the so-called “heroes” infesting our city have gone on long enough. For too long, these costumed vandals have run amok in our streets, perpetrating heinous crimes and walking away with a clean conscience.

    Yesterday, I witnessed the “hero” known as Starboy (or whatever his name is) as he made his immoral rounds. I knew he’d be up to no good, so I followed him, noting his every action and marking it down in my book.

    I watched as he beat up vagrants on the West Side. I watched him beat several of them senseless, knocking them onto the ground in heaps of bony hamburger as a police officer escorted him. Then, he flew away, landed outside a Socrates terminal, and began planning a large-scale public brawl. Then he spent a minute talking to a civillian, noting it in a notebook.

    And then–and my jaw dropped with rage when I beheld this–he THREW THE PAPER ONTO THE GROUND.

    This so-called hero completely ignored the forest of waste receptacles, discarding his trash willy-nilly on the pavement. How can we hold costumed clowns such as this up as examples to our children? How can we live in a society where some people, by an accident of radiation or by some freakish application of magic and technology, can live above the laws of proper waste disposal? What kind of society are we, to permit this behavior and shrug it off as, “acceptable”, for the, “heroism”, these individuals commit?

    I am canceling my subscription to the city.

    Sincerely,

    Mrs. Janet Buzzgrove,
    Concerned Citizen,
    Mother of 12

  19. AnZsDad says:

    @Rutskarn: My compatriots in the IT department thank you for making them replace my coffee-covered keyboard. Again. :)

    And to you, Mr Young, I want to say thank you for giving me all the excuses I need not to waste my money on this idiocy. There may be some fun parts to this game (character creation, for example) but the asinine stories and quests clinch it: I refuse to give these people my money on a monthly basis.

    The secondary benefit here is that the ludicrous things you bring up in CO’s writing also exist in the writing of most (if not all) other MMORPGs. This means I can safely keep my monthly subscription money in my wallet. I recognize that many games which I do enjoy have similar moronic elements (where did that Diablo2 Cave Leaper keep that scythe it just dropped, anyway?) but the publishers don’t give me the dubious pleasure of paying for them every month. Once is enough for me.

  20. AnZsDad says:

    Sorry for the double post, but I just realized that I forgot to say this:

    Shamus, no matter how repulsive I find the writing in this game to be, your writing is fantastic. I have never enjoyed being turned off of a game so much in my life.

  21. SoldierHawk says:

    I love this series so much. I can’t believe I didn’t see its charm/funny from the very start. Great job Shamus.

  22. Low-Level DM says:

    Oh, dear. This is a deep and powerful, err, plot twist. We all should have seen it coming – Never trust anyone who HAS BRAINS in Millennium City, because OBVIOUSLY they are under the control of an evil villain, who himself HAS NONE. Much thanks for the abundance of laughable images to go along with the report, too.

  23. Danath says:

    Too bad it’s going to end soon, don’t think Star on Chest will be hitting up Monster Island or anything.

  24. Jarenth says:

    @Alter: Yes. Double yes. If this game ever starts featuring zombie Jew bootleggers, I’m buying two lifetime subscriptions at once.

  25. someguy says:

    This blog here is the reason for having started a third character on Fallout3, buying Left4Dead and FUEL as well as bringing me that (/me showing ½ an inch with indexfinger and thumb) close to trying out Champions Online… incase of the latter, though:

    “I have never enjoyed being turned off of a game so much in my life.” ;) (AnZsDad)

  26. Samopsa says:

    I tried the trial weekend because of this LP series (looked like goofy fun) and really liked it, so thanks Shamus, for my first paid MMOG!

  27. Eidolon says:

    The next patch is supposed to set the xp reward on those citizen missions equal to the level of a normal mission, for what that’s worth.

    I still usually ignore them.

  28. Instinct says:

    The absolute worst part of the game for me is that even though my character can lift a freaking tank he still can’t knock out a purple gang street thug with one punch.

    I mean, really. What kind of steroids are those purple clad goons on anyway?!?!

  29. Jarenth, Yiddish speaking zombie bootleggers would be better villains than some guy who wears purple. just is inspiring, isn’t it.

  30. Shimmin says:

    Okay, I can see the quirks and terrible writing could get annoying, but still… based on this series, I would probably play CO if it was available as a normal game, for the entertainment value. The trouble is, I’ve got no interest in playing with complete strangers, minimal play time, and I don’t fancy paying monthly fees just to keep an account available for occasional play. I’d quite happily pay a one-off price for a standalone version, though, and possibly buy add-on content for it later.

  31. Psychoceramics says:

    That guy in the 2nd screenie… he wasn’t a random civilian! He was your sidekick, Bolt On Chest! How dare you ignore your trusty sidekick!

  32. Deadborder says:

    As a long-time fan of the Champions universe, I found the tone of the game to be a bit of an issue. The CU generally presents a mixture of Silver Age and modern sensiblilties, with a mixture of superhero improbibility and more relistic chracterisation and concequences. For the comics fan, Astro City would be a very, very apt comparison to the tone. Certainly its no place for the brooding, angst-ridden, emotionally crippled anti-heroes.

    However, at the same time, I feel that Cryptic failed to use this universe well; they decided to play everything for pure camp and dumb pop culture refernces. As a result, the game felt just plain silly at the best of times, and the few moments of a more serious nature felt jarringly out of place which rather undercut their effectivness.

    Hoever, in this respect, I felt that Cryptic’s use of Foxbat was actually quite effective; he’s meant to be all camp, all silly. The only problem is, he should stand out for it, not blend into the crowd.

    With that being said – loving your recaps; you seem to be getting more enjoyment out of the game then I ever did.

  33. Demecles says:

    So, they sent you down into the sewers to fight Prince?

  34. Waitiki says:

    Antoine Harrison really is the hero of the game. During the Halloween event I saw him tanking a tough mastervillain. Have you ever seen Defender or Kenetic do something like that?

  35. WJS says:

    Wow, the Purple Gang questline has changed totally, as has the character design for Kevin Poe. The Purple Gang is now the first quest chain after the tutorial, and will take you from level 6 to level 10. Poe now wears a hat, gasmask and purple leather trenchcoat, and has guns and darkness powers. He actually looks kind of badass now.

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