Okay I know I'm not supposed to talk about this yet, but it's near enough to open beta that I feel I can safely talk about the game without giving anything important away -- or at the very least I think I'm safe from being sued.. (Please don't sue me..)
I have been in the Champions Online closed beta pretty much since day one and I can say without much hesitation that the game is not horrible. In fact I would go as far as to say its pretty good and appears to be getting better with each patch..
I certainly can say that as the beta has progressed the game has gotten Waaaaayy better and will very likely continue to do so for a good while yet.. And I can further say that it's good enough for me to actually purchase and play the game after release, but there are issues I hope get solved..
From day 1 when I started in the beta I had extremely high hopes. Extremely high.. Like.. Too high.. heh
I wanted Champions online to be exactly what Champions is; a "sky is the limit" paper and pencil role playing game where the player can create any kind of hero they want and effectively play within the realm of the GM's imagination.. If you as a player could imagine it, then you could do it! Booyah baby!
I pretty much had the same hopes for City of Heroes previously and of course was let down for many of the same reasons which I'll get to.. (Note; I liked City of Heroes and played it for a good long time but it never had the freedom and versatility that it had originally promised. )
Champions Online suffers from this exact same issue -- our expectations are too high. It's completely unrealistic to think that they could create a game where players could be ANYTHING.. I mean how do you even create the framework that can encompass a whole generation of players imaginations?! Powers, Abilities, Costumes.. etc You can't.. Period.. There's just no way..
This problem isn't really a problem, it's a matter of the player needing to lower their expectations a tad.. But they did call their game "Champions" online so of course that makes people hope for just such a thing..
So instead of trying they went the same route that they had used with City of Heroes, which is a good thing to be honest.
What they did was to limit everything down to a set or subset of powers that you can choose from when building your super hero. They do the same thing with costumes in that there are a finite number of elements you can choose from.
In City of Heroes you could spend days just playing with the character creator designing your hero.. Not powers or attributes, but just creating what your hero looks like. Multiply that by a factor of 4 and you have the new character creator. It's quite nice in that you can create just about anything. I had a lot of fun tooling around in the character generator and made all manner of silly to serious characters. The creator had some bugs of course, its still early in development, but it was still pretty neat.
The power sets right now seem somewhat limited.. I wish/want there to be way more powers.. I also was under the impression that we would have more control over what powers looked like.. I swear I read somewhere that you could have the same "blast" power that someone else had, but you could control what it graphically looks like or what color it was etc.. and that's not the case.. In some cases you can control where the power originates (hands, head, chest..etc) but that seems to be it..
Maybe later in the game you can control how powers appear but for now I don't see that ability..
The game play is sort of what you'd expect from "City of Heroes' 2" which is all Champions Online is. Its fun, but don't expect anything super awesome like..
My major complaint with the game at this point was a graphic setting that defaulted to on, and made the game look horrible.. They had "Depth of Field" turned on, which meant that the farther away from the camera an object/item/scene was, the blurier it was. It got so blurry during one scene it was hard to look at.. it actually made me a little ill.. I had to turn DOF off completely..
I'm not sure I fully appreciate the cell shading thing to be honest.. I understand why they went that way, and I believe in the long run it will stand the test of time better than a more "realistic" theme.. I just don't really like it yet.. I have the same issue with the stylistic graphics of World of Warcraft.. its just a personal opinion thing really..
All in all I think the game is good..
I very much recommend it.. and if you liked City of Heroes I think you'll really like Champions Online..