Just in case, I started to play when it turned into Free-to-Play. I don't have the experiences with anything before that time either. This is my self explanations and the whole experiences I got during the time I played this game. (Yes, over 5k hours)
When I started out, the game got recently into free-to-play. From me, it was great! I got into the game, got a hard time to choose my very first archetype (Free build for Free players) and the customization of my very first character, which I finally made a kinda "Lizardman fighter tank" looking for the Tank build (The Behemoth). Back in time, we had 2 primary stats for our character builds. When I played it out, Free Players, on PvP, could do at least to go Toe-to-toe with the subscribed players, which they are Freeform build (making their own powers,etc.) As for the crafting, I do remember the old system, where you needed to gather materials to craft your equipments. It was grindy, but in the end, it worthed it. And if you wanted to continue to do your researches for the crafting, you needed to go to a special location for each branch you wanted to do!
Maybe 1 year later, I went to the lifetime myself, thinking to support the game, like many others too! Then... they started to make one the mistakes I still am not happy with it: The Patch that it changed the whole system: The Champions Online ON ALERT. I was quite neutral with the stuff that it changed that we needed 3 Primary stats, but it was more focused to try to create some "balances" beyond superpower builds. The problem is, that system greatly degenerated about how it was. Instead of you need to focus on two stats and that you needed a teammate to help you out (MMO everyone! not MSO (Massive Singleplayer Online)), they did clearly put that everyone can solo MOSTLY ALL the contents without any other players (Except Therakiel Temple and I don't count the alerts, see below). So yes, a full team instance can be soloes without any problems now!
Where is the MMO feeling in that?
As written in my brackets. We got the Constant farming with the Alerts. The Alerts are instances that they constantly change after a set of time, doing some rotations in fact. The idea at first was quite innovative at first, but it was simply mind grinding them for getting free XP and leveling faster, most of the time. Otherwise, you can do those for gaining Money or Mods (new crafting system). But since most people do Experiences alerts mostly, mainly none does the two others. There is also another type of alert which you do gain another type of ressources that it is called Questionites. It is used for buying stuff in the store for free!
How cool is that! But here's the catchy thing: There is also a Questionite / Zen exchange which you can get Zen (currency from Perfect World by using real money into virtual money) by exchanging your questionites. But the Zen currency are coming from OTHER PLAYERS! So if you want Zen by exchanging your questionites, you should check what the other players has to offer to you IF they want to exchange it. I mean, the Lifetimers get Zen for free each month, so they can do that in the game freely without any problems. If we take another game from Cryptic Studio, for example Neverwinter, there is no such thing in the game! So you can't get Zen for free except if you want to pay on your own with your money from your wallet.
Anyway, I could return another disaprovement if we look toward the Crafting system, right now. Since we changed into 3 primary stats, the old items are not good anymore, so we needed to make our gear to be changed. The materials we used before are now useless. We need to get a Certain mod which it will improve our stats. As simple as that You can do that under 1 specific place. Do you remember when I said that you needed to go to another place to continue your crafting? Those places are no more around. There was a hole with some lights going out near a Prison in the City where you could enter to get into a specific crafting lab. Now you can't! They removed it. I was not happy when I noticed this. Heck, we were able to enter in a library before. But instead of re-opening the library, they made a Door, standing out of nowhere, front of that door, to let us go to a place of an ancient crafting instance: THAT HOLE near the prison, completly at the opposite of the city!
Then we have the famous PvP. The game never been too balance, I must say. The reality is that the PvP is really dead. I don't mean those who enjoys the Duels and such. I am rather more focused the PvP instance, where you do gain Points to get PvP gears too, along with PvP costumes! No one enters in those instances anymore. No one cares about those PvP. Mostly everyone prefer hitting each others in a duel, which it doesn't gives any pvp points. Since the duels are there, 1 vs 1, the Dev made a Team duel during one of the updates, no one wants to do that anyway. So what's the point if the players don't care anymore?
Seriously, I could add much more with my disapointment of the game of its state (My list would go on and such, no kidding), right now, but if I could make a favor for Cryptic Studio, I would say this one:
"Please, remake the game fully. This game is on the verge of being dropped down into the abyss. If you want to see it shiny, I would suggest to make a new one and maybe, just maybe, listen to the players to those who have a idea to fix all the problems from it. You are too focused on trying to get this game as a money sink. Do like you did for the character editor: Get Creative, dammit!"
I know this isn't much, but to those who read my review, I supported the game fully. But I do feel, since a while, that this game really need a kick in the butt to get up, once again.