Shamus Plays

Shamus Plays: Champions Online, Part 4



If you remember from our previous thrill-packed episode, some generic bug aliens had invaded Earth and then I pressed the buttons to make them stop attacking us. Then I pressed another button to make our huge gun shoot a superhero at the alien mothership. Now I’m at the celebration where everyone is congratulating me on my superheroic button-pushing skills. I’ve saved the city, and must therefore leave before someone asks me to help clean up.

I am offered a choice: I can go to “the Southwest Desert” or “Canada.” Both places are in peril, and need someone to un-imperil them. From the hints everyone is dropping, it sounds like they hope it will be me. The young and sexy Witchcraft invites me to the desert, and the freakishly goofy-looking Ravenspeaker invites me to Canada.


Is this a trick question?

Sigh, I’m sorry Ravenspeaker, but I’m an American superhero through and through. I can’t travel to distant lands while my own shores are in danger. Good luck with whatever you’ve got going there in whatever country you’re from, but my people need me. Off to the hot babe! I mean the South West! Of AMERICA!

How the game works right now is that once you’re done [taking credit for] saving the city, you move on to one of the two available crisis zones, which act as secondary tutorial zones. The alien attack teaches you the basics, and the second area teaches stuff like crafting, teaming, and multi-stage missions. The two crisis zones play very differently, but teach basically the same concepts and cover character levels 6 through 10. At the end of the crisis is a boss fight, after which the gameworld will be open to explore freely.

It’s worth trying one crisis zone with your first character and the other with the second to see which one you prefer.

I arrive in Burning Sands, a broken land of scorched desert rocks and serpentine canyons. A land where a military base is under attack from irradiated monsters and vile mutants. A place awash in poisonous radioactive energy. Grotesque mutations pour out of the hills, assaulting the base and terrorizing the science staff.


Woah! Hang on a second here, tiny-jaw. Radiation? Like, nuclear radiation? Like the kind you can’t see but which scrambles your DNA and gives you cancer? I am not crazy about this whole radiation business.

Bullets? I laugh at them. Missiles? Not a problem. Assorted death beams? Naught but a nuisance to a mighty hero like me. But radiation? Ew. You see, someday really I hope to meet my soulmate. Let’s call her Star On Bosom. We’ll marry and have little starlings and starlets of our own. And it is my fond hope as both a superhero and a father they will all have the correct number of heads. So I’m not keen on this whole “fighting to save an irradiated base” idea. Can’t we just write it off and build another someplace else? I would imagine one godforsaken canyon is about as good as another. The desert is pretty big, you know.

And speaking of bosoms, where the heck is Witchcraft? This is supposedly her territory, but she isn’t anywhere to be found. I thought she… you know… wanted me. To help.

And just between you and me, there is something about this place that’s even more awful than mutated offspring, which is a needlessly aggravating layout. The base here was built by an idiot sadist. Here in Project Greenskin* there is a loading screen between the quest givers and the things they need me to punch. It’s just a couple of seconds, but it’s really, really annoying. I click on an elevator, and a little “please wait” progress bar fills up. If some low-level slob of a mutant elbows me, the process stops and I have to fight him. Once I get through the elevator, there’s a needless hike past twenty useless NPCs to get to the one I have to talk to, then a hike back to the elevator, progress bar, loading screen, etc. One of the perks of being a superhero is that you don’t normally have to waste time waiting for and riding in elevators.

* Yes, they actually named this place “Project Greenskin.” That’s like naming a base “Alien Snack Headquarters” and then being surprised when aliens show up and start eating people.


Look, Bobby, would it be too much trouble for you to stand at the OTHER end of this hallway? I’m going to have to come talk to you pretty often, and it would save me a fair step. And no offense, but it doesn’t look like you’re particularly busy at this end. Actually, nevermind. You know what? I’m sorry Project Greenskin, I’d like to help. I really would. But this? This isn’t working for me.

Now that I’m thinking about it some more, I’ve always wanted to travel to exotic faraway lands and learn about distant peoples and their proud cultures. Why should America get all the attention? You guys are so self-centered! Let’s get out there and see the world!

So, off to Canada? I guess? Let’s see what Ravenspeaker was on about.

Ravenspeaker is a Native American-themed hero. Like many such heroes, his powers seem to be mumbo-jumbo about visions, a dash of spirit guides, an embarrassing costume, and a good dose of plot exposition. Anyway, he’s the go-to guy for stuff happening in Canada.

If you hate yourself and want to envy illiterate people, just read Ravenspeaker’s Bio, which is a shining example of Mighty Whitey in action.

Ravenspeaker explains that Canada is beset by… bad weather. It’s snowing a lot. Apparently an angry demon is using ancient magic (Is there any other kind? When was the last time anyone was harassed by brand-spanking new cutting-edge magic?) that is making it snow. Like, more than usual, I guess. I dunno. I’ve never been here before. If they told me it was like this year-round I wouldn’t know if they were pulling my leg or not.

Anyway. Snow. What a cunning plan. A demon has decided to unleash his fury and get Canada’s snow all cold. This ranks right up there with attacking Florida by making it really muggy in August, or inflicting dire traffic congestion on L.A. You’d think that step one of bedeviling a land would be in choosing a target that will notice. If this demon had any sense he’d be snowing on people who don’t have parkas, plowing equipment, and hot cocoa.

As an added bonus, Ravenspeaker is the only hero who didn’t have a 50-foot holographic statue of himself back in the Hall of Ego in Champions Headquarters. Sure, he might be dressed like a musclebound transvestite showgirl, but at least he doesn’t suffer from the need to make a glowing 50-foot projection of himself. I’d rather be working for someone who isn’t a complete rampaging egomaniac anyway.

As I fly in during the opening cutscene, I’m treated to a 50 foot astral projection of Ravenspeaker.


This just made my list of top ten images I didn’t need to show to my eyeballs.

Ravenspeaker shouts, “THIS IS NO ORDINARY STORM.”

You know, when I’m treated to a fifty foot projection of a guy in his underpants and a bird mask, my first thought isn’t, “Oh wow, this is unusual weather, isn’t it?” In fact, I really wouldn’t have noticed the weather if you hadn’t brought it up. And is it COMPLETELY necessary for us to take the up-angle on this projection?

As I step off the Chopper I’m greeted by a man waving his arms who tells me, “THIS IS NO ORDINARY STORM!”

Geeze. I didn’t even bring it up, okay? Everyone is so defensive about the weather around here.


“No! Honest! The weather is usually not like this at all! Canada is a wonderful place to visit! It’s usually five or six degrees above zero this early in August!”

Hm. So… what am I supposed to do about it? I punch stuff, and blizzards are not punch-able. I mean, I’ll give it a go if there’s XP in it, but I hope you guys have a Plan B.

Oh, also there are zombies attacking. You can barely get anyone to shut up about the weather to tell you about it, but they’ve got a zombie problem.

I have arrived at Force Station Steelhead, the local good-guy headquarters. Judging by the weather in Millennium City, it must be summer, but everything is frozen here. So this is all permafrost, I guess. Which makes me wonder what the base is here for. There aren’t any cities around. Are we guarding the snow?


The place uses pretty standard Canadian architecture: A walled-off compound of pod buildings with neon trim, built in the middle of a glacial wasteland. You know, standard stuff.

Well, first things first. I go to the powerhouse. The powerhouse is a self-contained complex where you can obtain and test out new powers when you level. You get there through a big gear-shaped teleporter / stargate.

On the way to the gate, I pass some civilians. The poor folks are caught outside without protection from the cold.


These poor, poor people. They don’t even have coats. I warn them that they should find someplace to get warm, and let them know that THIS IS NO ORDINARY STORM.

They’re injured and suffering, and the small number of medical people around can’t do anything but stare listlessly into space as their charges die of shock, exposure, or hypothermia. Even worse is that they’re sitting ducks out here and easy prey for the invading zombies. Even if they don’t succumb to the cold or their injuries, they’ll most likely end up chewed to death by the shambling undead. It’s a tragic and bleak scene of human suffering and drives home the terrible cost of this storm. If only there was someplace these people could go for shelter.

Anyway, I wish them luck and walk through the nearby gate to enter the toasty warm and perfectly safe power house where all the other superheroes are hanging out.


Man, is it roomy in here, or what? It’s like, I bet I could fit about twenty or thirty dying frostbitten civilians in this room alone! Just imagine what you could do with all this space. We should set up a disco!

I talk to the trainer and get hooked up with my travel power, which is flight. Because wearing a cape and walking is like hitchhiking while dressed as an airline pilot. Nobody would think to ask you why you aren’t flying if you weren’t wearing that. I also gain access to a new superpower I like to call, “Punching, only more so.”

Now, back outside to the storm. I need to make it stop snowing and zombie-ing all over this place.


Ah, the gift of flight. NOW I’m a superhero. I don’t care what your powers are, if you have to take a bus, you’re not super.

The fierce wind and snow of this storm yanked a couple of aircraft out of the sky. Which is odd, since we’re in the middle of this godforsaken wilderness and there isn’t an airport or city anywhere on the map. Anyway, I head on out to the frozen lake and find survivors who are being threatened by ice demons.


The airplane crash. Considering the plane was ripped to shreds and the people thrown into the snow and then covered by debris, it’s kind of surprising to see people survived. Almost as surprising as seeing a parked ambulance (like the one to the left of the crash) in a land where there are no populated areas. Or hospitals. Or roads.

Well, it’s been a long session, and it’s time to wrap things up for this week. But at least I’ve accomplished… Hm.

Say, what did I accomplish this time around?

Oh right:


I abandoned my homeland and got the ability to fly. Yeah! If only there was a city around here so that people could look up and see me doing it. I don’t think polar bears will be awed by this.

I’m awesome. I love flying.


(SAFETY WARNING: That link to “Mighty Whitey” a couple of pages back is a link to TV Tropes. Be careful not to click on it if you don’t have the time to spare. )

About the author