If you have spent much time looking for information on Archetypes verses Freeforms, I'm sure you've seen post after post on the gimped nature of arches and how Cryptic is screwing players...blah, blah, blah. I can understand why some see arches as gimped because I have both freeform (subscription) and archetype (free to play) accounts. Gimped or nerfed are those red button words that make passionate players foam at the mouth and starts flame wars in forums. In the case of Champions Online I think it is an issues with a perspective that has been jarred out of alignment. The issue really isn't that archetypes are gimped but that the freeform is insanely overpowered. OP is the cry you usually hear when one class dominates in pvp especially after a patch *cough* wow but here it's in most aspects of the game. Does that make archetypes bad? No but we'll get into that in just a minute.
How can I claim freeform to be OP you may ask? Well, I created a Gadgeteer/Power Armor character that performed as a tank, healer and dps. Not just one type of dps but ranged AOE, melee AOE and single target. I blew through a ton of content including both adventures with little trouble from most bosses and large groups. It was sick. I had a front row seat for just how broken freeform can be. I guess if anything this is a case where you get what you pay for. Cryptic does treat their paying customers very well with veteran perks, 400 cash shop points a month and the ability to make an insanely powerful toons. Lol. I felt like I was being catered too unlike other MMO's that acted like you should feel grateful to them for allowing you to play their AAA title. So you can see why someone coming from a sub might view the free to play as gimped.
What does this mean for arches? It means Cryptic actually balanced these builds to where they play well as a group. My god-like Gadgeteer was awesome for me but it irked the friends and players I was partying with to no end. What fun is it to act as the entire party while in a party? The archetypes are strong especially when teamed up with other arches or with balanced freeform. It becomes a game instead of easy mode whack a mole. There are some powerful archetypes don't get me wrong as my Glacier buddies were right in there with me kicking butt and taking names so you have strong choices for solo play. You don't have to have a full party with arches either. Small party play with duo or trio setups work just fine. Again there are archetypes that hold up well in pvp too just not every archetype. Read up on your arche or better yet level them to 12 to get a feel for how they play and what they are best suited for. One thing I do love about archetypes is that they are defined and it doesn't take long to determine their fit for you as a player. Freeform allows you the freedom to make a class fit you verses you having to fit the play style of the arche. That isn't a bad thing btw as that's how most MMO's operate. No matter how much I wanted or how hard I tried my WOW shaman could not tank past 30.
Now let's talk about the advantage of archetypes. What is that? Yes, they have some serious advantages. First off being that they are free to play, meaning Cryptic lets you experience ALL their content (minus the two small adventures) free of charge....not a penny...nadda...no dough required. They don't gate their content like LOTRO does or handicap your class to the point that you can't raid like EQ2X does. They give you a healthy bag and bank slot unlike Allods which gives you jack and then creates the quests to try and fill up your already cramped space (strong arm tactics). Tip: if you do want more in CO...start a super group with a couple buddies then divide up the bank space between you. Like other f2p they restrict your ability to use mail, start a super group (guild) and use zone chat BUT they lift that after 20 hours of gameplay or if you buy something from the store. Gasp! In the end Champions is one of the most generous free to play games you're going to find. The only deal here is that you get classes with defined roles verses freeform. Not a bad deal. The rest of the f2p experience is ala carte so you can pick and choose new arches, new travel abilities, and more costumes from their store if you so choose. What you don't get is underhanded game mechanics that do everything to get you to buy more stuff. You also don't get restricted access if you run out of dough or you're struggling to pay rent this month. F2P means so long as you have bandwidth then you got game. The second advantage of archetypes is if you are an indecisive person freeform can drive you nuts. Archetypes sit you in the drivers seat and you just go play. You know your role, you know your basic theme so make a toon and have fun. In freeform it's not uncommon to nab a cool power only to find out later it doesn't work with your build and now you have a huge selection of cool yet truly gimped abilities. Ever try using a heal with no presence? It's like spitting on a forest fire in hopes of putting it out. A lot of good that power did ya with that Might build.
Freeform gets some perks over free to play but you have to keep coughing up that $15 a month or else you lose access your toons. With free to play your toons will always be there waiting to be played. It's all about perspective and identifying what you are getting for your money. With Champions whether you are paying monthly or not, you know you are getting your money's worth in a hero, theme park MMO. Good hunting!