The last month and a half I have been casually playing Champions Online, instead of WoW... When I first tried it I was unsure if I would play the game past the first month's subscription with the game.
It first tempted me over Halloween, when they had their first content patch and seasonal event. Blood Moon. I never got to see the actual content, because I was stuck on the tutorial zone... which was in itself very active and lively. An alien race was invading Mellenium City, and all around you explosions were happening, people were fighting and trading deaths on the front lines, alien spawn eggs were popping out of the ground and so forth.
I had trouble with one of the first quests, because it involved learning this "Block" command... being trained on WoW and CoX, you just tap a button and it's suppose to work. Not so in this case, which brings me to the first feature... Champions Online is very much an action oriented MMORPG. Every hero has a block option which needs to be held down to work... it is often the only way to survive big animation attacks from enemy mobs. But as I explored more, powers had several different functions depending on how you control them.
Many powers have an option for charging the power for a bigger effect. Some have combo effects when you tap it multiple times, some powers even have healing effects and damaging effects depending on who the target it.
The second feature I found to love, after playing with the game some... and which took my head some time to wrap around is the power sets. Unlike many games, the character creator bombards you with several options for starting powers... including a custom build that lets you mix and match. However each power set seems rather limited with how many choices you get... that is until you realize that every power set is open to you from the start. The only real penalty is that you wont unlock all your main power tiers early... each power teir requires X number of powers from your main set or X+2 general powers. That means anything is possible for character creation... you wanna mix fire and ice? Go for it... Super Strength with lazer eye beams? Why not!?
The third most interesting part, which has many new players confused is the open class system... in essence there is no power sets that are required for tanking or damage or even support... While it is true there are only limited healing sets, a support character doesn't always heal. Each power set has crowd control properties, and holding a mob in place so it goes down faster can sometimes be just as good as healing.
Every player has 4 builds to choose from, they generically alter the stats of your character to preform better at a specific job. Guardians are the standard unmodified base. Protectors have enhanced HP, Higher energy regeneration when blocking, but lower attack power for tanks. Avengers can crank out the damage with higher damage output, but lower HP. Sentential are the support role, with increased effect to heals, holds, and debuffs, and increased energy... but lower HP and Damage output.
You can change the roles every 45 seconds, but just slapping on the role doesn't make you an instant tank, support, or DPS monster. That is where the custom power sets come in handy... you need to choose powers that compliment the role you wish to play. But you can have just about anything... not always inline with traditional roles. You could have a firecaster be a tank, a fast pace ninja who can dodge anything, a mighty robot in power armor. The other half is equipment. Fortunately equipment is only about 45% of your overall stats, making it important, but not the be all and end all. Your powers have primary buffs that help their effectiveness, but every stat is important in it's own way... a super strong hero can still gain huge benifet from intelligence to lower the energy costs of his attacks. Presence helps healers primarily, but fire hurling DPS machines get some threat reduction from presence as well.
So that is a brief primer on Champions Online... I suggest giving the game a try if you're after a more action oriented casual game... involving super powered beings... with a bit of freedom, both in character creation, powers, and roles.